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Women Ride Too: Grace Butcher PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 17 April 2008
 

Women Ride, Too: Grace Butcher
by Bobsie Betjemann

      “My mother used to race motorcycles and my mother rode old BMW’s all over the place.” I heard those words at a birthday party for our granddaughter from another adult at the party. What an introduction to a person I had never met made by her son, Dan, whom I had just met. “What’s her name?”, I asked”. And “Grace Butcher” came the reply. 

      Now, I looked long and hard at Grace Butcher’s son and realized that this man was not that young. Grace Butcher must be, like me, a “vintage” person. I asked Dan for more information and was told that Grace had been deeply involved in  motorcycling, motorcycle camping and touring both here and in Europe, as well as in motorcycle racing. 

      I wanted to know more about this interesting lady. 

      Dan added: “I now have her 900cc BMW, because she can not maneuver it around on foot due to a back injury.”  Dan went on to say that Grace used to test ride motorcycles for “Rider Magazine”.  But most interestingly Dan added that Grace was visiting New Hampshire from Ohio as we spoke!  We invited Grace, Dan, and his family  to dinner that very evening. Why not!

      During my many years of riding vintage BMW’s, I have enjoyed the bikes and the riding, and I have also enjoyed the many eclectic people that I have met through the sport, both male and female. These folks are out there living and doing interesting things with their lives irrespective of their ages. 

      Grace came to dinner with her son and his young family. Grace appeared to be somewhere between 50 and 60 years of age. Her slim and fit body, long brown hair and eyes that met mine, said that I wanted to know more about this lady. And thankfully, Grace told me more. She had written for Rider Magazine from 1979-1985. She had appeared on TV and radio, receiving awards from the national Endowment for the Arts and the Ohio Arts Council. Grace had written for Runner’s World, and Reader’s Digest. She competed nationally and internationally in track events since 1949. Like many of us who grew up after the Second World War, Grace wanted to do everything and everything well. She certainly had a long list of endeavors. She was also interested in Midget Racing, poetry writing, teaching college level English, riding horses and much more. She started riding motorcycles behind a man, two up,” but for only one month.” Grace soon bought a motorcycle of her own. In about 1975, Grace evolved, as many of us women do, to a low center of gravity and very stable  BMW. She owned and rode her 900cc BMW  R90/6 for 20 years. She also raced Suzukis and Yamahas.

      Grace has now passed her 70th birthday and keeps her mind, body and soul balanced with teaching creative writing to adults at college level, running, swimming, writing and publishing poetry and visiting her children and grandchildren. As previously noted, her 900cc resides now in her son’s garage and has been restored by him to near new condition.

      I was honored to have met Grace Butcher. We live far away from each other so a close relationship is not really possible. However, she is like so many woman from this era that have raised children, had a career, taken care of themselves, had adventures, given to the arts, and still, at the age of 70, looks forward each day to heading out onto the road with an open spirit. Motorcycling I believe helps me put fear of the future into perspective and reminds me to overcome inertia and to live very fully in the present. 

      Grace certainly got me up off of the couch. 

      Grace has agreed to share some of her poetry with us.


WHERE THE POEMS COME FROM NOW THAT I RIDE A MOTORCYCLE

They don’t come from the sun
so much any more-
or not from the glint of sun on chrome.

And not so much
from the dark roads
as from the unrolling
of the roads with a sound
like wind.

And sometimes now from
the way the quiet stars blow back behind me
and I have no thought at all
till later.

I notice how everything is changing;
nothing comes from where it used to.
I make decisions at crossroads
I have never seen before.
so does the wind.

The directions we are heading
have not yet even been named.

From: Before I Go Out on the Road, Cleveland State University Poetry Center 1979, 1992 

 BEFORE I GO OUT ON THE ROAD

The road comes closer.
It wanders through early summer
towards me. It is images.
It has faces and moods.
The road is a little afraid of me.

The road also complains: it is sometimes
too hot or too cold. It is slippery.
It has accidents sometimes
whether it wants to or not.
I tell it I will do what I can.

At night I lie down on the earth,
balancing on mountain tops or
curving to fit the valleys.
In the daytime I follow rivers.
I am more patient than the road.

All the roads will come to me
sooner or later. They worry about
where they are going and how it will be
along the way. I tell them all
the same thing: I’ll do what I can.

From: Before I Go Out on the Road, Cleveland State University Poetry Center 1979, 1992 
 
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