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Opinion: An homage to dignitaries

The Madera County Historical Society has selected Jon and Donna Barsotti as Old Timers Day King and Queen. As much as I cringe when people use the phrase “back in the day,” that is when I knew Jon Barsotti best.

Fred and I got together when I was 20 years old. One of our favorite things to do on date night was tear up the roadway on the back of his Harley Davidson Motorcycle. It is surprising how much better-looking men are while riding a hog.

So, in the 1970s near the corner of Cleveland and North D Street stood Roy’s Liquor. The store was typically run by Roy and Lula Barsotti’s children. On Friday and Saturday nights after a long week at work we’d hop on the Harley and get in the wind. Riding on a Harley is rather like the dragging main we did in high school; it was the journey that mattered, not the destination.

At some point in the evening, we would end up at Roy’s Liquor, usually on our way home. We’d buy a soda and hang out talking with Jon. It was a part of our routine and a lot more fun than it sounds.

I really wish I had the words to describe the sheer joy of riding on the back of a Harley. There were no mandatory helmet laws yet so none of our group bothered wearing brain buckets. The phrase “wind in your hair and bugs in your teeth” was a part of the allure!

I may have told this part of the story before but when I was a girl, my mother worked as an emergency room nurse at the old Madera County Hospital. Too often she would help the doctors treat victims of motorcycle accidents. She usually worked the swing shift, 3 to 11 p.m. When she returned home, she would wake my brothers up and tell them of the danger of motorcycles and how she never wanted to receive either one of them as a patient in the ER after an accident. As much of a liberated woman as my mother was, it never occurred to her to give her daughter the dangers of motorcycle lecture.

Neither of my brothers have ever owned a motorcycle and I have owned five or six.

The Barsotti family had three children. In addition to Jon, he had an older brother Chris and has a younger sister, Nella Milam. They took turns working at the family business. Both brothers loved and rode motorcycles.

When the film Easy Rider came out in 1969, Ben Walker, who owned the Madera Theater asked a couple of bikers to park their Harleys in the lobby of the theater. I remember seeing them parked there as I was in the eighth grade and an avid Madera Theater patron. The men shined all the chrome and cleaned off the motor oil and let the public ooh and ahh over their marvels of American made motorcycles.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, the bikes were owned by Chris Barsotti and Fred Nix.

I find it interesting the way life in our small town has a habit of turning back on itself with us crossing paths with the same people at different points in our lives. In a big anonymous city these connections are a lot less likely.

I may have also said in the past that my father-in-law, Gordon Nix, worked as a butcher at Frank’s Market, where my dad did our family’s grocery shopping. As many long-time Maderans know, the very best part of grocery shopping with our parents when we were kids was when the butcher on duty gave us a Noble’s hotdog to munch while our parents shopped. It is so hard to imagine that happening today. I don’t know if Gordon ever handed me a hotdog, but I’m sure he saw Frank or Butch Fernandez do it many times. Again, Madera’s life turned back on itself.

Steve Copland has been selected Grand Marshall for the parade. His insurance company Seabury, Copland and Anderson is a long-time Madera staple. It is all but impossible to live in Madera as long as I have, six decades without knowing of the agency. They may have been my parent’s insurance carriers I don’t remember.

Every year Steve and I attend the Madera County Cattlemen’s Association fall dinner. Held at the Coarsegold Community Center it is always a nice event with a terrific steak dinner prepared by the Fresno State Young Farmers and Ranchers. The last time it was held in Coarsegold I asked for a ride with Steve. While it is a nice drive-up State Route 41 to Coarsegold, the drive home in the dark is kind of scary.

There is nothing but headlights to illuminate the roadway. The next year after hitching a ride to Coarsegold with Steve, the MCCA held its fall dinner at the VFW Hall on Granada Drive. If they revert to the Coarsegold hall this year Steve can count on a call from me.

Long days and pleasant nights, have a blessed weekend.

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Readers may contact Tami Jo Nix by emailing or following @TamiJoNix on Twitter.


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