This story is loosely based on the show, Sons of Anarchy and is a prequel to where the show starts. It tells of the beginning of the club and how they met. In this, the opening chapter, JT and Piney make the decision to start it and the first members are chosen. In reference to the First 9 and the original chapter, I called them the Redwood Nine.
Chapter 1 E Pluribus Unum
The last tour of Vietnam ended in 1967 and the army was behind them, but JT Teller and Piermont 'Piney' Winston wanted to get even further away. Coming back to the California they left over three years earlier, they became disheartened by the rejection of them, like others, as veterans, as heroes, as those who bravely and proudly served their country for two tours. They were shunned, almost despised in some cases, leaving them blackened by a country that took what life they had and destroyed it, leaving many bitter and resentful of their nation. With little to go on, some turned to crime, some to booze and drugs, while others strove to make a life for themselves, despite the adversity against them. It was their country too and they wanted a part of it, a part they would live in, under their own rules. Rules based on an anarchistic way of life, were ones that favoured them, ones they felt compelled to follow, if they wanted to find a place of their own to exist.
John Thomas Teller was a free spirit at twenty eight years old. He'd gone by his initials since he was ten, when his dad started calling him that. He was never one to be tied down and held in one place too long, so he yearned for his freedom and independence. Since he left Charming High School, he never found much use for the education they taught him, but they did teach him how to learn and teach himself. He became an avid reader of material that appealed to him, rather than what was considered appropriate by his teachers. JT became a self-taught man, but one with insight and intellect. Even during moments of downtime between missions, he would invariably be found reading two, sometimes three books and papers at a time. He had a thirst for knowledge, so long as it had a purpose to him. To say JT was a passionate man, was an understatement.
Piermont Winston was JT's best friend since public school, when at the age of ten, he stepped in to back up an eight year old JT, who was fighting against three of the local bullies. Together, the classmates turned the beat down JT was getting, into a lesson that stayed with the bullies ever more. Piney had been kept back twice, making him a couple of years older than JT, but his friend soon helped him with school and passing grades. It wasn't until high school, when Piermont shot up in height and size, dwarfing his friend and other classmates, that JT gave him his nickname, Piney, in reference to his similar growth to the huge redwood pines that grew around them. Piney hated school and only went because JT was there and there was nothing much to do otherwise. By grade nine, he felt they had taught him all he needed to know and by grade eleven, Piney spent more time skipping classes, than going to them. He had no problem with people calling him a big, dumb oaf, as long as they didn't mind getting a beat down for it.
Trouble was always walking behind them and it wasn't hard for it to quicken its pace and join them. Having worn out his welcome in Charming, he stayed in Lodi with JT before and after the war, hitch-hiking in and visiting with his mother and younger brother, while his father was at work. JT and his mother had left Charming when he was seventeen and moved to Lodi, when his father died in a work accident and she couldn't afford to stay there on her own. They moved in with her widowed sister, Nancy and her son, Henry, who JT had no time for, related, or not.
When he was old enough and could afford it, he found his own place, leaving the misery of living with two grieving widows and a momma's boy. Eventually, Piney joined him when his dad tossed him out and they struggled to make ends meet, until Piney started working at the grocery store packing bags for people and returning carts. He was almost happy, when they let him stock shelves, for ten cents an hour more. Today wasn't a day for sitting around idle, it was about friends getting together and without knowing it, changing the course of their lives and local history. This day in August 1968, was the beginning of a birth. A birth that would spawn many sons to be born.
Driving around in a boosted '65 Chev Impala, the pair shared a six pack of beer and a pack of cigarettes, using up a portion of their combined money. The car was almost new and they checked out the power features of it, including the horsepower. Listening to the local radio station, Jimi Hendrix was playing Foxy Lady and it was being well received in the car. JT turned up the volume and Piney's hands started keeping the beat on the dash, then the glowing cigarette ash dropped on the carpet.
"Hey, you dropped the heater, man."
Piney looked at him and shrugged his huge shoulders.
JT looked at him and then burst out laughing. Piney pulled open the tab on another beer and passed it to JT, then opened another beer for himself. They clinked cans together and swallowed back a large gulp each, then set the cans on the glove box tray and went back to drumming along to the song with their hands.
"I am digging this guy's music, man. Listen to that guitar playing."
"No shit, Piney, he's got a sound all his own."
Music was another of the things that had changed over the years since boot camp. Songs began speaking to them and getting them to think, instead of being mildly amused by it. The sound was theirs, it was their generation's contribution to the history of man and music. They felt defined by it, inspired by it, to be able to separate themselves from the mainstream of society. Rebellion of society's rules, was what they desired. Things were only wrong, if they thought they were wrong, not because a small segment of humanity decided this was the best thing for everybody and made a rule about it.
Stealing a car was second nature to both of them. When you couldn't afford to own one, stealing one for the night, was the next best thing. Walking through the parking lot on the way to the store to buy beer, that Saturday morning, it was shear luck to find the dark, blue Impala with the doors open and the keys still in the ignition. The way they looked at it, the owner must have wanted it stolen for the insurance and they were doing him a favour. Either way, the tank was almost full, the radio was cranked up and four six packs sat on the floor at Piney's boots. They stopped at the first phone booth and called their friend, Lenny and told him the news. In five minutes, an impromptu party was happening and the day was shaping up. Hopefully, it would see many of the old unit together and sharing good times again.
Kettleman Lane out of Lodi was clear of traffic, almost as if everyone had decided to stay off it and let the pair enjoy the ride alone. They turned off Kettleman Lane and made a left onto North Hwy. 88, JT flooring the gas and burning rubber around the corner, both of them impressed with the performance. The carefree day became one of concern not long later, as the temperature gauge began climbing into the critical zone. They were miles outside of Charming, so JT decided on trying for the first service station, or pull over, as the red light blazed at him, telling him he didn't have long or he'd kill the engine. With nothing but fields in sight and a knock starting in the engine, he opted for pulling over and checking it out.
"Fucking Chevys, Why the hell can't GM put a decent thermostat in these things? Look at what we put those five tons through, back in basic. Temperature was way hotter than this, man and those fuckers never overheated. Bastards at GM, can suck my dick."
"Maybe it needs a few beers too, JT."
"Like I'd waste good beer for this piece of shit. If anything, Piney, we should just drink all the fucking beer and piss in the radiator."
"Now you're talking, my friend."
Piney drained the half can he had and opened another, taking another giant gulp of it, as JT pulled over onto the soft shoulder. He slammed the side of his fist against the dash, then his palms off the steering wheel.
"Temper, temper, JT. How did we know the owner has overheating problems?"
"That's the problem with this country, Piney. Nobody takes care of anything, anymore. It's all going to shit and no one cares."
Piney shook his head and laughed, pushing JT out of the car with his boot and onto the ground, as he was getting out.
"Lighten up, John. It's a new car, a lovely day, we got beers and smokes and Lenny has some girls he says are good to go and he scored some grass. Seems to me, this is minor."
JT looked at Piney, shaking his head, as he dusted himself off, Piney got out after him and put his arm over his shoulders, as they went around to the front of the car, then JT felt for the latch and opened the hood. He raised it up and they looked at the engine, trying to see the source of the problem. Waving away the steam, he saw the cause and cursed some more.
"See what I mean? A fucking, new car and the fan belt is gone. Doesn't have more than fifteen thousand on it and it's shot. It's all shit, man, I'm telling you. Give me a fifty Merc and I'd be happy as pig in shit, Piney. There's a car that will last. It's a fucking tank."
"I would have thought you'd had enough of tanks by now? I know I have. You know what I do miss from there, JT?"
"The grass, man. That has got to be the best shit growing. I could do as many tours as they asked me to, as long as I got to sit around and shotgun that shit all day. Too bad the little gooks don't know how to make a decent tequila like the wetbacks. I'd be in heaven. Get me a couple of those little 'Nam honeys and I'd be all set. One can roll a joint and pour me a glass and the other can suck on my big dick."
JT laughed uproariously, slapping his leg several times.
"Doesn't take much to make you happy, does it, Piney?"
"Not really, I'm a simple man, with simple tastes."
"Nothing wrong with your tastes, Piney. Nothing at all. So, what the fuck are we going to do about this piece of shit?"
"If we intend on getting around in it all day and back to Lodi, I suggest we be nice guys and buy the fucker a new fan belt."
"Yeah, we owe him that much, I guess. So, where do we buy one? Maybe your underwear are big enough to wrap around the pulleys?"
Piney's even temperament and sardonic wit always took John out of a mood and brought him back to an even keel. If anyone could poke fun at him and live, John could, but it was never degrading or demoralizing. Respect was their bond. They started thinking of the idea of the owner seeing it and then laughed.
"See the fucker's face when he looks under the hood and sees my gotchies wrapped around, fucking skid marks and all."
That got them laughing harder to the point they had to catch their breaths, clapping each other on the shoulder.
They started to look at where they were, when the sound of a rumbling V twin could be heard coming up from behind them. They looked past the hood and saw the speck of light blue getting closer. Without even flagging the rider down, they could hear the engine gearing down as it approached. The Harley Davidson came to a stop ahead of them and the rider killed the engine, flicking the kickstand out. He slid his goggles onto his army helmet and dismounted. The two could see he was around their fathers age, mid fifties or so, but a look that said he walked a different road than them. He walked back to JT and Piney at the front of the car, smiling, his hand out as he approached.
"Hey boys, bit of trouble?"
"Yeah, busted fan belt."
JT shook hands with him.
"Hi Jake, JT and this is Piney."
"Hey JT, Piney."
Jake shook hands with Piney and walked up to the car, looking it over, admiring it more than inspecting. Jake looked at the beers in their hands and quickly looked them over.
"I have a wrecker to tow you, but I have a feeling you're not interested in spending that kind of money. I got a belt at the shop, I can go get one and bring it back. You boys okay with putting it on?"
Jake looked at them, as they went back to his bike.
"I'll need a wrench or two. Half inch and nine sixteenths outta do it."
"I'll bring you a couple that should fit."
They walked back, when JT realized something. Jake was just putting his helmet on, when JT ran up to him.
"Hey Jake, don't you want some money or something first?"
"I trust you boys, besides, where are you going?"
"Yeah, guess you got a point there. Hey Jake, thanks, man."
Jake smiled and shook JT's extended hand, then stood up on the kick start and worked it to the prime spot, then kicked down hard, firing the '49 Panhead FL Hydra Glide up. JT and Piney stared at the bike, as Jake rode off, shifting up through the gears.
"That's what I want, Piney."
"A bike. The hell with cars, man. Think of it. Open road, wind in your face, twin pistons pumping away like that. Fucking freedom, man. Fucking freedom."
"Bugs in your face, rainstorms, Highway Patrol chases, pushing the fucking things."
"Come on, Piney, think about it. Remember in 'Nam, riding around on the same bikes. You loved it, man."
Piney leaned back on the hood and lit up another cigarette.
"Yeah, it was fun. I did have a great time every time we went out. My dad still has his old Indian in the backyard, I'd love to get that going again."
"Yeah, that's sweet. He hasn't ridden it in centuries, so he might sell it to you."
"Sell it? Shit, man. I'm hoping he gives it to me."
"Yeah, we'll see how that works out. Let's see if you two can be in the same room together, let alone talk about buying his bike. I'm going to ask Jake if he knows of any old bikes I can get for cheap and fix up."
"You're really into riding, aren't you?"
"Yeah. You know what I was thinking?"
JT pushed his dark hair back from his face, as he watched the Harley disappearing down the road, the throaty rumble fading with it. He turned to Piney with a revelation in his eyes.
"A club, man. A motorcycle club, like the Angels over in Oakland, except no crime and shit, just ride and be like brothers again, like back in 'Nam. Every guy we know can ride. We should do it, Piney."
Piney could see and hear JT's enthusiasm in his words.
"Brothers, I like that. Only time I ever felt like I had any real family, was when we were together. I knew my ass was covered and looked out for the guys like they were my kin. What should we call it?"
JT thought, but came up with nothing off the top of his head. He took the pack of cigarettes out of Piney's denim jacket pocket and lit one up with his army issue Zippo.
"I got something, just not sure what yet, but we gotta get a club started, man. Maybe like, the Redwood Riders. Nah, too hokey, sounds like some faggot cowboys. Something that says who we are, that's what we need."
"Yeah, we gotta do something, JT. We ain't doing nothing special and we're doing it for way too long."
JT looked at Piney and smiled, then gave him a friendly punch on the arm. They sat back against the grille, relaxing and enjoying the warm, summer weather. JT went back and turned the key to accessory, turning up the radio. The Count Five was playing Psychotic Reaction, getting the two friends to start rocking their heads in time with the beat.
"Wish we had a joint, Piney."
"Well, if we did something, instead of nothing, we might have some money for dope."
JT looked at Piney, the attitude one of annoyance, over an all too familiar subject.
"So, what do you want to do to make money? Go work at the mill? The docks? Pump gas?"
"You know I don't, but we gotta do something, JT."
"Yeah, I know, Piney, I just hate the idea of busting my ass for some asshole, fifty hours a week and take sweet fuck all home for it."
Piney looked at his boots, as he dropped his smoke and crushed it, thinking what he would like to do, to be gainfully employed at some point. The distant rumbling got their attention and they looked far off down the road, seeing the powder blue dot coming closer. JT announced his coming.
"Alright. Let's hope Jake's a good, old boy and knows his fan belts."
"Won't that suck a horse dick, if he comes back with the wrong one."
"Old fuck will just have to go back and get the right one then, won't he?"
Jake cut across the road to their side and stopped, but left the engine running in neutral. He got off and reached inside his worn, denim jacket and pulled out a new fan belt. JT took it and did a test fit for size.
"Looks like the one, Jake."
Jake pulled two wrenches from his pocket and handed them to Piney, who checked for fit on the nuts and bolts.
"Thanks a million, Jake. Right ones."
"You boys come and see me down at the garage when you're done, alright?"
Piney turned back to him and raised the wrenches.
"As soon as we get her running. What's your garage called?"
"Jake's Auto Repair. You'll see my bike out front, can't miss it."
"We'll see you soon then, Jake."
Piney and JT waved at Jake, as he climbed back on and cracked the throttle a couple of times. With a quick nod of his head at them, he turned the bike around and headed off to the shop. JT stood and listened to the bike, as it went through the gears and sped away, softly stroking the beard growing on his chin.
"That is such a sweet sound, isn't it, Piney?"
"Sure is. Nothing but the sound of power and lots of it."
"I can imagine five, ten, shit, twenty bikes all going down the road together, that rumble coming from each one. Fucking awesome, Piney."
Piney looked down the road at the blue speck, listening to the fading thumping of the air, trying to picture what JT described to him. He turned to his friend and looked at him, smiling to himself, as he saw JT looking far off into the ether at what could be. He loved that his friend was so passionate about life and could imagine things in his mind, then make that imagination a reality. JT sucked in school like he did, but he picked up enough to know how to dream and dream big.
They got to work loosening the bolts holding the alternator and moved it, so the new belt would fit around all the pulleys. Piney pulled back on the alternator, pulling the belt tight, then JT tightened the bolts and checked the tension. He checked the radiator cap for heat and then unscrewed it. He checked how much fluid they lost and it was minimal, so he closed it again.
"That ought to do it. Let me start it and see how she runs."
JT went around and reached in to the dashboard and turned the key, bringing the engine to life. Piney looked at the belt closely, to make sure it ran in the grooves of the pulleys correctly.
"That's a good belt, JT. Even the knock is gone."
"Great Piney. Close the hood and let's go see Jake and square up."
Piney closed the hood with one hand and both of them climbed in, closing the doors and smiling. JT revved the engine, looking back down the road and put the Impala in low gear. He floored the gas pedal, the tire spinning through the gravel and then screeching loudly for over one hundred feet on the pavement, as the 396 V8 churned out horsepower, to leave a rubber signature behind. JT kept his foot planted firmly, letting the big block engine wind out. He heard the high-pitched revving and slid the shifter into drive and felt the car surge forward, quickly approaching one hundred miles an hour.
The pair thrust their hands out the windows and pumped the air, hollering loudly against the rushing wind, as they hit the three digit number. Piney spotted the speed sign up ahead and pointed it out to JT, who slowed the car down to the regulation driving speed of fifty for the area.