His real last name was Italian but everyone knew him by the name “Wild Bill.” After his first stroke his manner of speaking changed from slightly Yankee to “Pirate” ending most sentences with an “Aja” and due to his prodigious lifetime smoking habit and alcohol consumption his gravelly voice, fading tattoos, and constant bandana hat seemed to paint an appropriate picture of the man as a pirate. We had become friends but Bill never made it easy with his many sordid habits that few would ever find appropriate in polite company.
Wild Bill had at one time owned, but now worked at the biker bar named after him. I shared the street where our factory is located with the house Bill lived in and the only time we ever spoke, in ten or more years, was when I passed by his house on my way to one of our other buildings, and then only if he happened to be sitting on his porch with one of his bar girls.
Bill had taken up with one these fallen Angels and she had stolen funds belonging to the Outlaws MC and took off for parts unknown. The owners blamed Bill; fired him and kicked him out of his house moving all its contents out to the curb.
Bill approached me and asked if he could move his belongings across the street to my empty lot just until he could make other arrangements. I grudgingly acquiesced.
It wasn’t long until Bill had set up shop under a big water oak. It was the dead of winter but I’d ride into work and there would be bill in his underwear and wife beater tee sitting in his Barco-Lounger flanked by two huge stacks of his favorite beer, looking like end tables: Budweiser feng shui!
It wasn’t long (about three weeks) before the neighbors started to complain, and I was afraid he was going to freeze to death, so I suggested he move into a vacant shot gun house on the opposite side of the plant; I would charge him no rent and he could act as an ersatz watchman. There was at least a roof and a fireplace and nothing more; he might now survive. I really didn’t have any place to bury him. To my astonishment an army of bikers helped him fix the place up, bring him clean clothes, steal water from the city and he even talked my wife into letting him run a power cord out to “run his radio” pretty soon he had lights and a fan in summer. He was a good cook and would invite me over when he grilled out on his porch which his friends. He began to make money fixing up and hand painting bicycles with parts we supplied him. Check out his work in the accompanying photo.
I had no idea of the high esteem in which the biker community held him; to some he was a living legend. Apparently he’d seen a young boy fall overboard, on a friend’s boat, and he managed to pull him to safety and save his life. When he died years later, never moving of course, the festivities at Wild Bill’s honoring his life was reminiscent of a medieval renfest! He was rich in friends and to this day people still talk about the exploits of Wild Bill. His bar is still there featuring cold beer and half clad women and some fine people I’d never have known existed without knowing Wild Bill.