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WOSTER: Always next year for a Sturgis Rally tat

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opinion Mitchell, 57301
The Daily Republic
(605) 996-5020 customer support
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

Wow. Another Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is coming to an end, and again this year I failed to sneak out and get the tattoo I've been promising myself for ages.

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The rally officially started last Monday. The official end is tomorrow, Sunday, but if it's like most of the rallies I covered in my years as a newspaper reporter, the crowd has been easing since maybe sometime Wednesday or Thursday. (Easing is a relative term in the context of an event that maybe draws 350,000 to 500,000 people to a pretty small geographical area of western South Dakota).

A guy can score some good bargains on T-shirts and other Sturgis 2014 merchandise today and tomorrow, for sure. Some of the inventories will keep; others are probably dated before the last line of bikers leave the town and get out on the highway for home. It's also easier to walk the sidewalks of the main drag late in the week — and, again, easier is relative. It's still crowded, just not quite so. There's time to pause and study the bikes parked in the middle of the street without being an obstruction to an endless parade of black leather and spandex.

A few tattoo and piercing artists still are working, I'm sure. And that brings me to my tattoo. I'm too old to be decorating my body, I understand that. Age and life have given it about all the decorations it needs. I could get a tattoo of a surgical incision, complete with stitches, but actual surgeons gave me three or four of those. The rest of the decorations are mostly lines and wrinkles, but they are interestingly patterned, if I do say so myself.

The tattoo thing started years ago when our older son surprised his family with a circular Grateful Dead tattoo on his upper arm. I've never been big on tats, but this one didn't look half bad.

I was thinking that when Nancy said she'd been considering a tattoo on her ankle. You live with someone forever, and they still have the capacity to surprise you. That's one of the beautiful aspects of a long relationship, I suppose.

The kids were surprised by their mother's statement, but they adjusted quickly. I figured if they were good with that notion, they wouldn't mind if I jumped into the game.

"I've been thinking of having a shamrock tattooed over my heart,'' I said.

The kids, and their mom, stared.

"You know, for my McManus heritage,'' I said. Not much reaction. "And like the old Boston Celtics' emblem? The one that isn't a leprechaun? A leprechaun would be gaudy, and I think it might take way too much time with the needle for my taste.''

The way I remember it, we ended the conversation with the kids pledging to pay for tattoos for their mother and me. We just had to go get the work done.

That was, as I said, many years ago. Nancy and I haven't found the opportunity to collect on the pledge. We want to get our tattoos, you understand. We just haven't been able to find the time. Sure, we could get one in Pierre, or Sioux Falls or probably dozens of other communities. But one of my stipulations when we first talked was that if we got inked, it would be in Sturgis, during Rally Week.

During my reporting years, I used some of my time on the Sturgis streets to consider the various artists. I wanted to find someone talented, but I was also interested in gentle — not for myself so much as for Nancy.

I usually watched how the artist handled the first-timers. You see someone go into a tattoo parlor already covered in ink, you figure that person can stand just about anything. I wanted to see how the pink-cheeked farm girl and the fresh-faced college boy responded as the needle began to fashion a daffodil or butterfly.

One year, I settled on a woman called "Jackhammer Judy.'' Nancy was a little put off by the name. So it wasn't that year. Not this year, either.

Unlike with the old Brooklyn Dodgers, though, there really is always next year.

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