I thank milady Cibelle and Techsan for their patience, proof reading, editing skills and of course encouragement. An earlier version of this story is posted elsewhere under an alternative by-line "The Wanderer"
The first time I ever saw Rocky, I think was just after I had turned seventeen.
At the end of the road we lived in, there was an old house with an even older blacksmith's workshop in the front of the garden facing the through road, that was at that time known as the By Pass locally, because it ... well by passed the centre of our town. The old house was known as 'The Forge', but it had been many years since anybody had actually worked in the blacksmith shop. Or "The Smithy" as the decrepit old sign said.
Old Mr Walker, who'd lived there ever since I could remember, had passed away that Christmas time and for quite a few months afterwards the old house lay deserted.
Then, one Saturday morning I think it was, the whole street was woken up at an unearthly hour by the roar of a powerful motorcycle. I looked out of my bedroom window to see who had disturbed the tranquillity and saw that the offending machine was parked outside of the Forge House. Someone dressed all in leathers was sitting astride the motorcycle, apparently studying the old house intently.
I was fascinated. We didn't live in the part of town where you expected to see "ton-up boys" as my dad called them or "filthy rockers" as my elder sister always referred to them, very often. Slowly the guy removed his crash helmet and then got off of the motorcycle. Then he went over to the house and let himself in with a key. It was obvious he was meant to be there.
I hurriedly got dressed and dashed downstairs, to tell the family that someone was in the Forge house. I needn't have hurried. When I arrived in our lounge, it was immediately apparent that they had all heard the motorcycle arrive. Actually, my dad was already on the telephone to a neighbour, saying things like, "We don't want that type living around here."
My mother informed me that the word had gone around, that Mr Walker had left the house and workshop to his grandson, who was reputed to be a member of one of the local motorcycle gangs. From the look of him I'd got, I would have said, that was most probably true.
Over the next couple of weeks skips (dumpsters) appeared in the garden of the forge, it was obvious that the house was being cleared out. There were one or two motorcycles outside of the place most of the time, but I didn't actually see anyone working, as that must have been done whilst I was at college. Only on the weekends did I see anyone around and everyone I did see were always dressed in leather gear.
The local rumour mill got to work and word went around that the house was being converted into a clubhouse for the gang. Very quickly a protest committee was formed and petitions got up. But nothing really happened. I did hear some vague threats to burn the place down, but I'm sure that was all hot air.
I think the greatest achievement of that committee was to complain about the noise of the motorcycles coming and going, either early in the morning or late at night. And even then I think they had trouble finding a couple of people with the guts to actually go over there and complain. From what I heard, the delegation that eventually went to the Smithy, were completely taken aback by the politeness of their reception. After that day, the motorcycles didn't come down the road at weird hours anymore; they apparently went around the long way, along the town by-pass instead.
It was funny really, although dad made it plain he didn't like the ton-up boys being there; he did say that when they were riding their bikes along our road, they were driving with a lot more care than some of the motorists did, who regularly used our road as a rat-run short cut to get to the by-pass.
Actually, one morning I was walking down to the bus stop on my way to college, when I saw Rocky and his friend stop a car that they must have considered was going too fast. As I passed near, I heard Rocky telling the driver to drive more carefully as there were young children living in the street who were usually walking to school at that time of day. Then I heard Rocky say, "You knock one of those little tykes down and I'll break your effing neck."
I don't think I ever saw that car use our road again. Not surprising really; Rocky, who really wasn't all that tall, had the appearance of being very muscular.
As the months passed, work started on the outside of the house and then on the old Smithy building itself. One weekend all of the overgrown flowerbeds in the garden were dug up and new turf laid to replace it. At dinner that evening, my dad suggested that was so they could park all the motorbikes on the grass. But mother surprised us all.
"No, I don't think so, dear. Stuart isn't much for gardening; he just wants to run the lawn mower around once a week."
My dad - well, all of us really - were completely taken aback that mother even knew that the guy's real name was Stuart. But mother went on to explain that Sylvia Richards who lives a couple of doors up the road, had a puncture in her car a few days previous. She had no idea what to do about it and had asked some of the neighbours for help. Unfortunately the only people who had been at home were other housewives, none of whom had any idea about how to go about changing the wheel.
A little group of them were standing by the car, discussing which garage to call out to change the wheel, when Stuart and his friend came over and changed it for Sylvia almost before anyone could say anything. Then they had refused the payment that Sylvia had offered them.
Mother said Stuart - as she took to calling him - was very polite, friendly and helpful. From that day on, mother would never stand for any nonsense being said about Rocky or his friends, who mother from that day forward referred to as "the boys". Mum and dad were to have a good few set-to's over that in the following few years.
My mother was the only person I know who called Rocky by his given name, Stuart. Just about everyone else came to know him as Rocky. Not that Rocky had much to say really; in the following months, I was to find out he was a man of very few words.
It was some weeks later that I came home late from college one Friday evening to find a police car parked outside our house. When I went inside, I could hear quite a few of our neighbours talking in our lounge. Some of their voices were raised; mainly I think those of my mother, Sylvia and a couple of the other stay-at-home mums.
When I enquired what was going on, I discovered that Rocky had sent letters to every house in the road informing every household of and inviting everyone to a house warming party he was holding on that Saturday evening. I've got to admit I have never heard as much rubbish talked, as I heard that night. It was going to be an orgy. There were going to be drugs there and even that, whilst everyone was at the party enjoying themselves, all their houses were going to be burgled.
It was when someone said that, that the policeman perked-up and said that not only had the local crime rate gone down, since the bikers had been about, but petty vandalism had decreased in the local area as well.
Someone said something about them not shitting on their own doorstep. But the policeman was quick to say that he didn't think the bikers had any connection with local burglaries or vandalism. He thought that just by being around the area, the boys had scared most of the more unsavoury characters out of the vicinity. Even the local school had reported that the trouble they'd been experiencing with suspected drug dealers hanging near their premises had ended.
Then another person pointed out that less traffic was using the road as a short cut lately and those that did appeared to be driving more carefully. I was pretty sure I knew the reason why that had happened. But they didn't want to listen to someone who they considered a child. Shortly after, that meeting broke up in complete disarray.
Rocky's housewarming party did go ahead on the Saturday night as planned. There were a lot of motorcycles and cars parked in the road that evening. But I don't think the party was any noisier than many of those some of our other neighbours had held in the past. Actually I think it was a lot quieter than some.
To father's disgust and annoyance, Mother, Sylvia and a couple of the other neighbours went over to the party, just for a little while. I think it was more to show the flag than anything else, they didn't expect to be very welcome guests of a lot of youngsters, as they put it. They came back saying everybody who had been there had been very pleasant to them and that the house had been really nicely modernised. I would have loved to have been allowed to go along as well that evening, but my father wouldn't hear of it.
Unfortunately for dad, Rocky's new interior décor in Forge House had given my mother some ideas for some changes she decided needed being made to our own house. Dad wasn't too pleased about that, as I think it was to cost him a good few thousand pounds over the following few months, before mother was completely satisfied with the result.
Things quietened down quite quickly after the party. My father's, and some of the other neighbours', fears about the Smithy or Forge house becoming a gang clubhouse proved completely false. Rocky lived there on his own, although there were very often some of his friends visiting.
.... There is more of this story ...