My little brother, a deputy sheriff in Lander, Wyoming, took me way back into the deserted mountains of Wyoming to look for wild horses. After many hours of searching we found just two. Surviving in these dusty, windy, barren hills, the horses are unkempt, and their mane and tails are twice the length of a tame horse. Yet the moment you see them, a feeling comes over you that they are the most beautiful things you have ever seen. There is beauty in the element of freedom that is unequalled. Wild and free is not something you see, its something you feel. And the moment these skittishly wild horses see us, they are off and running, wanting nothing to do with us and all that loss of freedom represents.
As they are running away, their mane and tail flow in the wind behind them. The horses stop a few times to look back, but keep moving until we are a dot on their horizon. We just dont want to take our eyes off of them. We are captivated completely by their wild and free nature. That is what it was like to watch Samantha Morgan in action.
In England, if you get the chance to meet the queen, it is customary to drop to one knee to pay your respect. We have no queen in America, but there was a woman I found so remarkable that she warranted that kind of respect. In the world of motorcycles and bad asses, Sam Morgan was the queen. So, long live the memory of the queen!
Sam was just a skinny little thing; her riding style was fast and furious. As she would whip up and down the wall, she would kick her back wheel right up into the thin cable that separated your face from her bike. Her long ash blonde hair would fly through the wind as she snatched dollar bills from your outreached hands. All the while, her infectious smile shares with you how much she loved what she was doing. Sam loved to ride. She was born to ride. Every time I watched her was a privilege.
If that paragraph sounds familiar it is because I wrote it just over a year ago, when I wrote the story of Sam crashing on the wall. Just after that accident, Sam called me from her bed where she was recuperating from having smashed her teeth, broken her right wrist, left shoulder, and a couple of ribs. Her back, leg and knee were bruised and sore. When I asked her how many accidents she had in her career, she didnt know the total. From ground up, she had broken her ankles, foot bones, tib and fib, pelvis, numerous ribs, and her backthe latter three times, all in different places. Shed blown out a knee, broken wrist and shoulders, and smashed her face, temple and head several times. Maybe it would have been easier to ask what hadnt been hurt? To that, she replied with excitement that shed never hurt either elbow!
We talked about many things that day, and we even talked about death. I was about to leave the country to attempt climbing Mount Everest, and Sam and I both agreed that it wouldnt be so bad going out doing what you love to do. OK, maybe old age in your sleep would be a more peaceful way, but she explained that at the speed she is traveling, she probably wouldnt even know what hit her. We talked about living your truth, so that when your time was up, there would be no regrets. Sam didnt die riding the wall, but she did die living life to its fullest. She said she would rather die living, than live dying, and that is exactly what she did. She passed away in her Loxahatchee, Florida, home on April 24th. How she died doesnt really matter. (As of this writing, the cause is still being determined.) It was how she lived that touched us all.
In Nepal, when a person dies, the body of the dead is burned, and the remains become a part of the river. Sometimes from built up gases, a body will actually move, sit up, or its head will shoot off during the burning process. I was told that they actually perceive this as the spirit rapidly ascending into heaven, which is a special honor. I envision Sam flying through the pearly gates of heaven on an old Indian motorcycle with a smile on her face, and a crowd of old souls circling the gate with dollar bills just waiting for the finest entertainment to arrive! If anyone would have the special honor to rapidly shoot into heaven, it would be Sam.
In a world where class is often measured directly by your bank account, I must disagree. This dusty old biker chick would refer to herself as an old circus carnie. In my opinion, she had class to spare. Anyone who watched her give her acceptance speech upon being inducted into the Sturgis Motorcycle Hall of Fame could see that. Having gold in the bank and having a heart of gold are two very different things. Sams heart was made of gold. She was always humble and understated.
She was also fearless I mean truly fearless. People think I am a fearless woman and admire me for that quality. When Sam said to me, “Id like to teach you to ride the wall, would you be interested in learning,” I was standing inside the Wall of Death gazing up at its sides, every part of my body was saying ?maybe not today.” I admired Sams unbridled courage more than any other person I have ever met, man or woman. She was a warrior in the truest sense of the word.
My entire life Ive had a quote on my refrigerator that says, “Warriorship is a continual journey. To be a warrior, is to learn to be genuine in every moment of your life.” Perhaps even more than her balls of steel, I admired Sam for her ability to try and live her truth. What a treasure on earth her inspiration has been. I know the image of her riding wild and running free will stay with anyone who was ever lucky enough to witness it.
If youd like to read more about Sams life and accomplishments, visit ThrillArena.com, or revisit my March 2007 column in the archives, Crash and Learn. If youd like to post your memories of Sam, you can so at the end of this column by posting it to the Readers Comments section.
Tributes to Samantha
Some of Sams closest friends contributed to this column dedicated to Sam by providing their thoughts on this amazing woman. Click here to read comments from Sara Liberte of Garage-Girls; Goth Girl and Sasha Mullins, co-stars of Discovery Channels “Motorcycle Women,” and Jay Allen, owner of the Broke Spoke Saloon.
To read more about Betsy, visit her Web site atBetsyHuelskamp.com.
7 thoughts on Backroads With Betsy: Run Wild, Run Free
My husband, Vince, and I are deeply saddened by the news of Sam. We spent a lot of time with Sam and her crew in Sturgis at the Broken Spoke and were so impressed with Sam and how humble and sweet she was. Everytime I pass by the Wall of Death at the bike events I always look for her. Our deepest sympathy goes out to her family and friends. She will truly be missed but, remembered always. May God bless her and her family!
Sorry for your personal loss. I am also sorry for the loss to the motorcycle community. A true pioneer. Samantha should and will be missed. Ride on.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, 'Wow, what a ride!' Sam is done riding and her Spirit rides on. Well done good and faithful servant.
So sorry to hear of your friend Samantha's passing. She certainly lead her life “her way” — something most of us probably envy from time to time.
We should all be so bold
And not wait till we are old
To LIVE the life we are given
As Sam was so driven
Wow, did I need this article. It's Wednesday after my Saturday crash on my motorcycle which busted my ankle in three places requiring things like metal plates, screws and possibly screwdrivers to put me back together. Now it's only June 25 and I'm sidelined for the summer, feeling sorry for myself, broken hearted because I don't know if I'll ever be brave enough to climb on my bike again.
Then I log on to WRN and read this story on Sam Morgan. What an inspiration! I read it with a few tears because I know I need to snap out of my doldrums and concentrate on getting well again. Who cares if I can't even walk, drive or ride for months on end – I'm still alive to dream and plan for that tomorrow in the future when I can. Thanks for the inspiration (and kick in the ass!)
This is such saddening news, I had the pleasure of meeting Samantha at Primer Nationals in 2006. She was the coolest lady I think I have ever (or ever will) meet. My friend and I both bowed down (ala Wayne's World style) telling her we were not worthy (she got a kick out of that). In that short amount of time I spoke with her, I saw in her the cool, fun easy going person that I hope more of us learn how to be and I aspire to be.
She will be greatly missed and never forgotten!