Wednesday, August 1, 2012

In Memorium, Nearly Twenty Years Later

Let me tell you about a brother named Jingles. His given name was Mark McNeal, but nobody, not even his wife, called him Mark. He was Jingles.

He had served in Viet Nam on a helicopter crew. There’s a belief that if a bell is dedicated to someone, then every time you hear that bell, a piece of them is with you. He got the name from wearing a bell for every fellow crew member he’d lost in that war. There were thirteen of them. I’m sure he made quite a sound walking around with all those bells jingling and jangling, but sadly, by the time I’d met him, his walking days were over.

Jingles had previously ridden with the Viet Nam Vets MC, but had left over several philosophical disagreements. One of those was that his wife, who rode her own bike, wasn’t allowed to ride in the pack. Of course, that’s not the case with the Gypsies. He and his wife had joined Gypsy long before me, and were well known throughout the club by the time I came around.

Also, by the time I came around, Jingles had had a lot of serious medical trouble. Between Agent Orange and Diabetes, he just couldn’t catch a break. When I met him, he was riding a wheelchair, but had to be pushed because he couldn’t see anything more than shapes and lights.

A story to emphasize how attached he was to his road name: His wife told me about a time he was in the VA hospital for some sort of treatment or procedure or surgery. (Damn my memory, I can’t remember the specifics, but it’s been twenty years…). Anyway, while there, and not yet under sedation, he started having a flashback. He thought he’d been taken prisoner in Viet Nam, so he was fighting the medical people. Well, all the medical staff starts yelling, trying to calm him down. Funny thing about yelling at people: it doesn’t usually calm them. Also, they kept calling him “McNeal”, which of course is what he was called in the Army. Needless to say, this didn’t really help end the flashback. His wife stepped in and hollered “Jingles! Cut the shit!” At the name “Jingles”, he immediately relaxed, back in the present reality.

At the time I was prospecting, I was on a bit of a gin kick. Apparently, Jingles liked gin, too, but wasn’t supposed to drink. Once in a while, he’d lean over toward me and ask “Is Phyllis looking?” I’d say no, and he’d say “Quick! Hand me your bottle before she sees!” I knew it wasn’t good for him, but I figured how bad could one shot every once in a while be? Especially when he seemed to enjoy it so much.

He had been a Harley mechanic before he lost his sight. One of the members of the chapter I prospected for told me about rebuilding his bike in Jingles’ driveway. Even though he was already blind, Jingles told him step by step what to do, down to saying things like “now look to your left and take off that bolt”, even though he couldn’t see the bike being worked on. Once, he and I were sitting in our camp during the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre rally, when a bike I’d never seen pulled up. Jingles called it – Ironhead Sporty, and he called the year, only missing it by one.



Once Jingles had to stop riding, his wife mothballed her FXR and a special sidecar was built to attach to his FHL and she took over pilot duties. The back of the sidecar was a ramp on a hinge. You lowered it to roll the chair in or out, then it locked into the up position. There were clamps in the floor of the sidehack to lock the wheels in place in the sidecar.

Blind. Wheelchair bound. Dialysis every few hours. Most people would crawl into a hole of self pity and wallow there the rest of their lives. But Jingles made more runs and rallies in that wheelchair than most healthy people made on their healthy legs riding their comfy dressers. I remember showing up at a poker run in January and it was 29 degrees (I knew because I’d just passed a bank with a thermometer). Jingles and wife were there. He was in a leather jacket and chaps like the rest of us, with a blanket thrown over his legs. And yes – he made the entire poker run.

Jingles was well known and very respected throughout the biker community. When he passed, there were Gypsies who traveled all the way to San Antonio from Oklahoma and even New Mexico, to see him off. Many other clubs attended as well. There was even a write up in Easy Riders magazine about it. There were so many bikes, and so many cars behind the bikes in the procession, that after a second, graveside service was performed, his casket had already been lowered into the ground before all the cars were even parked.

I spent a lot of time with Jingles while I prospected. He taught me a lot about club life and motorcycles. By his example, more than anything he ever said or did, he taught me that you can have a good time even when everything around you tells you you can’t.


Rest In Peace, my brother, you are Gone But Never Forgotten.


  1. That was a beautiful story...I have someone very dear to me who is suffering much like this brave man you spoke of. I am hoping to print this out and getting him to read it so he can see that his life is not over yet!!!

  2. Glad you liked it. I hope Jingles' story can be an inspiration to your friend.

    Thanks for reading, and commenting.