bonar crump

bonar crump
husband - father - reader - runner - picker - grinner - lover - sinner

Thursday, December 29, 2016


I was on trash duty wandering the parking lot carrying a 50 gallon black trash bag and picking up litter off the ground. Trash duty is cool because it gives you the opportunity to wander about casually watching everyone. Generally speaking, homeless folks get pretty suspicious when someone is watching them. My guess is that they’re more comfortable with being ignored than being watched.

I was watching because I needed to offer to take trash when folks were finished with their plate and utensils. It might seem irresponsible to most of us, but when you’re constantly hauling everything you own in a backpack, cart, or box the last thing you want to do is carry around trash you don’t need. Hence, a lot of our homeless folks simply drop their trash to the ground and keep moving.

It’s all about movement. When you live on the streets, constant daytime movement is the key to staying out of trouble. Sit stationery and people begin to notice you. Then they begin to suspiciously resent your presence. And, eventually, they complain that you’re a public nuisance. No one wants to see the homeless. Hence, when being watched homeless folks get twitchy.

It was Easter Sunday and I was downtown with my family at the ANC (Austin New Church) cookout. It was my first year to attend. My wife was working the food line doling out chips to go with the burgers. My daughter was standing at the prep table squirting ketchup on people’s hamburger buns as they came by. For whatever strange reason, this felt like EXACTLY how my family should be spending Easter together. We’re weird like that.

One of my closest friends, Brandon Hatmaker (Vice President of our MC), was lead pastor of ANC.  He was wandering around chatting with people in line that day. Another friend, Tray Pruet (Treasurer of our MC), was working his way in and out of the crowd keeping an eye on the large “machine” that is an ANC Cookout. Dozens of our wives and kids are mixed into the crowd serving, laughing, chatting, and humbly offering a bit of friendliness to a bunch of folks lined up in the parking lot across from the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless.

I learned that food we serve at the cookouts isn’t all that important. Food is not hard to come by for the homeless in Austin. This cookout is about providing an opportunity for us to embrace our humanity. These are people deserving of dignity and care just like the rest of us. They are deserving because they are us and we are them.

At the core, we’re all in this together. If we intend to do more than PRETEND our social structure doesn’t need repair, we have to realize that US versus THEM doesn’t work. It’s got to be WE. That’s what I’ve learned the cookouts are about. It’s about understanding how to look at people diversely different and say, “You are not the enemy. WE are in this together.”

So, I was on trash duty.

I’d been cruising the parking lot for over an hour when I looked up to see a homeless guy standing about 50 yards away. I recognize this guy. Without hesitation, I began to walk directly at this person stepping around a few people in the process. As I come to within 10 yards, the guy notices me coming his way with a purpose. He’s reading my body language and uncertain of my intent. I see the guy shift his stance and set his pivot foot as I’m within 5 yards, so I stopped. I looked the guy straight in the eye and said, “Ricky, it’s me, Bonar.” He blinks twice and looks at me really hard before saying, “Bonar Lee Crump, what the hell are you doing here?”

Ricky is my first cousin on my dad’s side of the family. My earliest memories of Ricky were being pulled behind his dad’s boat on inner tubes and later honing our waterskiing skills together. My later memories of Ricky were of visitations in state juvenile facilities. Later still, years would go by without seeing him at family reunions. He seemed to spend all of his time in jail. Ricky never fit in. I don’t think anyone ever knew what to do with him. I don’t think anyone ever knew how to coach him, parent him, mentor him, or live with him. I refuse to pretend to understand the boy that he was—the man that he became—or the man that was standing in front of me that day. To offer some form of explanation of his life would do nothing more than strip the man of his dignity and suggest that he’d failed somehow. I’ve been treated that way at times in my life, and I try not to author any such prejudice on others if at all possible.  In truth, we’d all failed HIM as much as anything.

Once he recognized me, I stuck out my hand. When we shook, I pulled him in for a half shake/hug. I was genuinely excited to see Rick. The last time I’d laid eyes on him he was in a wheelchair. I seem to recall that he’d been living under a bridge in Waxahachie when he was attacked by someone with a tire iron. Ricky earned two broken ankles from that encounter.

I drew back from the hug and said, “you made it out of that damn wheel chair, and I see you’ve got your pivot foot back.” He smirked and admitted he was about to square up and strike at me before he realized who I was.

I hung out with Ricky the rest of the afternoon. We talked a little about family. I tentatively asked where he was staying and if he needed any family members’ phone numbers. He asked about my family. I took him over for an introduction to my wife and daughter. Then I asked Brandon to take a photo of me and Rick. I’ll never forget the look on Brandon’s face when I introduced him to my cousin, Ricky Belk. We had big smiles and parted ways with a hug. I made sure he had my business card and cel number before leaving, but I knew he’d never call.

One year later, at the ANC Cookout I ran into Ricky again. Ever since then, I look for him whenever we go downtown. I’m always hoping to see him so that I can relay his whereabouts and general sense of well-being to other family members scattered across the state.

Ricky fits my limited understanding of what “chronically homeless” means. The dangers that come with living on the streets are more familiar to him than the “normalcy” most of us embrace. I would guess that he considers the folks he “camps” with as closer family than those of us that share his same DNA. Of course, I don’t know any of this for sure because when I see Ricky all we do is swap info about family and talk about where we’ve been fishing lately.

Ricky is a part of me. I am a part of Ricky. I do not pity him. He doesn’t covet my life. We are two men from different walks of life that can sit on the same curb and share a burger together. It really doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that. Sometimes I can tell he’s high. Sometimes I can smell the alcohol on his breath. Sometimes I can tell by his body language that he’s answering one of my questions with uncertainty and telling me what he thinks I want to hear. Sometimes I hand him whatever cash I have on me not knowing what he’ll spend it on. When I get to see Ricky we always smile, hug, talk, and walk over to my girls so that he can say hello and give them a hug.

I couldn’t wait to tell everyone we’d stumbled upon one another. I hope people feel that way about me sometimes. I hope that other people feel that way about Ricky from time to time. I hope that we can all stop occasionally and have a burger with someone that’s different. I hope that we can appreciate the diversity of our lives and experiences and GET the fact that sharing the burger might be all that’s necessary. You don’t have to justify who you are, and I don’t have to justify who I am. I think that’s the kind of thing that breaks down our US versus THEM dilemma.

But what do I know? I’m just the guy that picks up trash…

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Life Brothers

“Keep it simple. Love your brothers. That’s what makes a club work. Just love your brothers.”
~ Marshall Mitchell, Bandidos, Nomad Chapter, President

Believe me when I tell you that being a member of an MC is not easy. No matter how well you’ve vetted potential new members you will always wind up with a mixture of personalities that don’t see eye to eye. Bylaws, rules, protocol, and hierarchy are important, but eventually you wind up with a group of grown-ass people around the table arguing about direction, procedure, and function.

It’s supposed to be hard. Struggle is what makes it valuable. Anyone that thinks a group of men joining together to ride motorcycles and drink beer constitutes an MC doesn’t understand group dynamics. That kind of overgeneralization reeks of disinformation and a perspective of someone that’s never had to work with a committee, operate on a team, or spend time with other human beings for more than a couple hours at a time.

Your club is as diverse as your biological family. The idea is NOT to develop ideological clones. The point of the whole exercise is to teach one another how to love, honor, and respect this weird family they’ve been adopted into. (I can hear the cynics scoffing now, “yeah, right. All they want to do is rape, kill, and strike fear into the hearts of law-abiding citizens.”)

Although there are some within the MC Community that have nothing else going for them than their club, the vast majority of us do, in fact, have far more to lose than we have to gain by wearing a patch. Intellectually honest critical thinking should reveal that when you have smart, talented, sophisticated, law-abiding citizens wearing a patch who are more vested in defending this lifestyle than cowering to the cynical mindset of the misinformed, then there has to be something of importance to all of this MC business. There has to be something more than good times and foolishness to justify the love these folks have for one another. It’s more about suffering through the tough times with one another that makes the struggle worthwhile.

When I lived in Tulsa, OK, a friend of mine talked me into running a 5K with him. I’d run a couple of 5K’s before, and I knew I could do it. Besides, I didn’t want to let this particular friend down. The fact that he was running any distance at all seemed like a miracle to me, and I felt like I’d be a dick if I declined the invite.

For all the years that I’d known Ed “Snowman” Snow, he’d weighed somewhere between 340 and 350 lbs. On a 5’10” frame, that ain’t good. I can remember seeing Ed take the fried skin off a Popeye’s chicken breast, roll it into a ball, and drag it through thick queso dip before shoving it down his gullet. Many a time over the years had I, and the rest of my college buddies, watched Ed eat while muttering  the oft repeated mantra, “Man eats like that…he gonna die!”

As it turned out, six months leading up to the 5K invite I hadn’t seen Ed. Rumor had it that he’d been trying to get healthier and lose some weight. When I first laid eyes on him after having heard this rumor several times I was stunned. I couldn’t believe that the Snowman could actually look like a “normal” human being instead of a crowd-sized beach ball. Ed had lost somewhere around 110 lbs. (of the eventual 190 he’d lose) when he asked me to run that race with him. How could I say no?

Also, Ed is a hard guy to say “no” to. He’s a career prosecutor and a Federal one at that. Ed knows how to change your mind and make you believe that it was all your idea in the first place. He’s like a fucking motivational ninja. If you don’t want to ever run a full marathon as long as you live…stay away from Ed Snow. I swear on a stack of Bibles that the Snowman can turn anyone into a lifelong exercising machine whether they want it or not. Then he’ll drink you under the table at the post-race event and talk you into a “recuperative run” the next morning followed by a brunch of Guinness and pasta. The man is insatiable, infuriating, diabolically egocentric, and oftentimes a complete dick. And I love him very much. But he’s a prick…know that.

That “one phone call” I made from the Waco jail after finally being placed under arrest started something like this:

Me: “Honey, I’m okay but I only have 5 minutes to talk. Do you have a pen and paper?”

Wife: “Yes. I love you very much. I’ve got you on speaker. Go.”

Me: “First thing, call Ed Snow…”

Wife: (Interrupts) “I’ve been talking to him and he’s on speaker right now on another phone. Jeremiah (blood brother) is right here with me.”

In April of 2005, my wife gave birth to our daughter. Then my wife died on the table. Then the doctors were able to revive her. Then my hero-for-the-rest-of-my-life, Dr. Yen My Tran, performed an emergency hysterectomy and saved Margaret’s life. Every day, for the next 7 days we remained in the hospital, Dr. Tran would come to check on us in the morning. The first three visits I would follow her out into the hall after her examination and she’d cry because she knew how close we’d come to losing Margaret. It was that close. It was “seeing a Dr. cry three days after she’s saved a life” close.

During the time when Margaret’s life was hanging in the balance, I got kicked out of the delivery room. I didn’t argue because I knew that I didn’t belong in there at that moment. I knew she was dying and I was only going to be in the way. But kissing her on the forehead knowing that it might be the last time we spoke to one another broke me. By god, I did it while telling her everything was fine and that I was going to the nursery to make sure Sidney was all cleaned up and ready to come hang out with her Mommy, but my heart was fully broken.

I’ve got a friend who is a Pediatric Cardiologist. We first met at Oklahoma Baptist University when we were finishing up our undergraduate work. Matt Kimberling has been best of friends with Ed Snow for decades. And like Ed, Matthew is insatiable, infuriating, diabolically egocentric, and oftentimes a complete dick. And I love him very much. But he’s a prick…know that.

As I was banished from the delivery room that day, I thought of only one person to call, Matt. I knew I wouldn’t be able to reach him by phone in the middle of the day on a Monday, so I called his wife, Mary (a very talented NICU nurse). The phone call started something like this:

Me: “Mary, I need Matt.”

Mary: “Okay. Can you tell me what’s going on?”

Me: “Margaret is dying. I need Matt.”

Mary: “He’s in clinic today, but I’ll make sure they pull him out. He’s coming. Hold tight. He’s coming!”
Matt arrived in the waiting room still wearing his white coat and carrying credentials that would get us any information we needed. Matt did not leave my side until late that evening after Margaret was safely recuperating under the watchful eye of a post-op nurse for the night. He was able to go in and speak to her while I waited in the hall. He made me leave the hospital with him to get some food and a couple beers. He showed up the next morning with double shot espressos from the doctor’s lounge. Matt saw us through the whole thing without hesitation.

In college, I met David Breedlove. He would eventually be the best man at my wedding. Breedlove got me into more trouble, questionable situations, and ill-conceived shenanigans than SHOULD be possible for one man in a single lifetime. He went about it as if it were his job.

This is a guy that had never had a drink of alcohol until his wedding night. I shit you not. But this was also a guy that would drive his Jeep up the steps of the OBU Chapel and smoke the tires on the way up just for shits and giggles. Some would say he was brazenly recalcitrant. I say he was just fearless. Put the two of us together and you had a recipe for wanton hooliganism. And we skipped a lot of classes to go fishing and hunting and anything else we could think of to divert us from classroom attendance. However, Dave pulled off his undergraduate in 4 years. I crammed 4 years of schooling into 6 years. I think Dave won on that account.

Dave was friends with Matt Kimberling and Ed Snow before me. And like Ed and Matt, Dave is insatiable, infuriating, diabolically egocentric, and oftentimes a complete dick. And I love him very much. But he’s a prick…know that.

Dave Breedlove, Terry Walters, Tim Kimberling, Matthew Kimberling, and Ed Snow were my “club” before I had a “club.” All we needed were motorcycles and cuts and we’d have had our own MC.  We’ve all done work on one another’s houses, babysat one another’s kids, decorated Easter eggs with all of our families together, cooked together, drank together, lived together, and loved together.

The fact that I’ve always had friends that were loveable egotistical pricks (said with the utmost respect) gives you an indication of who I am and what is important to me. I want to belong. I want to contribute. I want to spend hot days in Tim’s backyard mixing concrete for fence posts. I want to help Terry haul and scatter mulch to prep his backyard for our group’s weekly weekend grillouts. I want to spend night after night helping Dave tear apart his kitchen and put it all back together before his wife and kids come back from time away with family. I want to run my first half-marathon with Ed because he’s somehow tricked me, once again, into believing that I can run a further distance than we did last time (damn you, Snow). I want to re-engineer Matt’s upstairs HVAC in a 130 degree attic so that it’ll work like it was meant to.

I wanted to serve these guys because I love them and their families and they love me and mine.

“Keep it simple. Love your brothers. That’s what makes a club work. Just love your brothers.”

I’ve been practicing at this “love your brothers” thing for a very long time and I’m not sure that I’m very good at it yet. It’s hard. It is a constant humbling, pride-swallowing, work-your-ass-off-for-free, pain-in-the-ass hike up a steep slope. It’s especially hard when you’re on a team with so many egotistical pricks. But I love every bit of it.

The husband, father, family member, and friend that I am is owed to this CLUB of men and their families I grew up with and to the CLUB of men and their families I am currently growing old with. I don’t deserve a single one of them. They are all smarter, more motivated, and more talented than I’ll ever be. Every one of them is an asshat and I love them very dearly. My loyalty knows no bounds when it comes to these men and women.

When they bleed, my family and I bleed. We are better together even though every one of us fuss and argue, have differing worldviews, and generally can’t agree on anything other than we are invested in one another’s longevity, success, health, and well-being. Other than that, we’re all a bunch of stubborn, brash, potty-mouthed brutes – and that’s just the wives.

“Keep it simple. Love your brothers. That’s what makes a club work. Just love your brothers.”

This is by far the best advice I’ve heard in a long time. Wisdom is like that. It cuts through the bullshit and brings us back to center. Hearing that advice from a 34-year veteran Bandido while sitting across from one another on steel bunks wearing matching orange outfits makes it that much better. And it makes for one hell of a story. That’s kind of the point to this kind of life, too – it’s about living a great story.