At the heart of the story is Boone Wilde, a forty-something man who has just found out he has a daughter he never knew about. As a young man Boone and his brother Kit did their best to live up to their name, this included being part of a motorcycle club called the Pilgrims. In this scene we meet Boone and Kit as restless young men who just bought their first Harley-Davidsons:
The following summer Kit moved into Marienstadt to live with his girlfriend, a checkout clerk at Bi-Lo. They rented a small house near the Walnut Street playground and set up housekeeping. Kit was a handsome man with thick, wavy hair growing down past his shoulders, and a reputation as one of the best motorcycle mechanics in the four county area. Once he was twenty-one he helped his father tend bar and Big Zack often quipped that, when it came to attracting customers—at least female customers, Kit was a better investment than a hi-tech jukebox and two new pool tables.
Boone was temporarily devastated when his high school girlfriend, Stella, took off to work as a migrant farmhand. He soon discover there was no shortage of young ladies willing to soothe his broken heart. He was far and away the largest Wilde and, since it seemed he could grow a beard overnight, he experimented with facial hair until he hit on a combination of long, jaw-skimming sideburns and a gunslinger-style mustache that gave him the air of a frontiersman like the one whose name he bore. He delivered kegs of beer by day and consoled himself with a variety of girlfriends by night. Though technically he continued to live at home, he spent most nights with one of them, often arriving home at dawn.
“You're shameless,” Emily hissed at him, poking her head out her bedroom door when she heard him sneaking up the stairs.
Boone grinned at her. “You don't know the half of it,” he said.
That summer Kit and Boone Wilde were the stars of Elk County. All the girls wanted to date them and all of the guys wanted to hang out with them. On more nights than not their Harleys—along with more and more motorcycles—could be found parked on Market Street where the air pulsed with music and laughter poured out of Marienstadt's three most notorious bars. The Snuff Box Tavern, the Ramble Inn, and Melvin's Place lined the short street. Young people worked their way up and down it—from one bar to the next until long past closing time. Those who had not made it into one of the watering holes before the doors were locked at two stood outside waiting for someone to leave so they could sneak in. If they were lucky, the bars kept serving after the doors were locked; if they were not, they moseyed down to Ned's Diner to inhale bucket-sized bowls of the world's hottest and worst chili until it was time to stagger home.
It was on a hot August night in Melvin's Place, when someone mentioned forming a motorcycle club. Kit and Boone, along with Lucius Wickett, Mike Ritter, and their girlfriends were packed into a circular booth near the end of the bar. Peeper Baumgratz, who was tending bar, bellowed, “Last call!”
“Yeah,” Kit said, “bring us a case of greenies.”
Peeper nodded and, within minutes, an ice cold case of beer appeared on their table.
“We have to do it,” Lucius said, reaching for a bottle. “Come on. Why not? Elk County can handle it.”
“I don't know,” Boone said. “Chief Sarginger isn't crazy about us as it is. He'll shit if his town has a motorcycle gang, too.”
“Not a gang,” Lucius said, “a club. We're respectable.” He grinned and guzzled beer. “We'll behave ourselves.”
“What do you think, Kit?” Mike asked.
“Huh?” Kit was turned sideways, his eyes glued to a television over the bar, oblivious to the girl who sat on his lap nibbling on his ear. Music blared from the jukebox drowning out the sound but Kit watched anyway.
“About a motorcycle club?” Mike said. “What do you think we should call ourselves?”
Kit's attention returned to the screen.
“What the hell are you watching that's so interesting?” Lucius said. “How can you follow it with all this noise?”
Boone looked up at the television then laughed. “He doesn't need to hear it. He's seen that movie so damn many times he has it memorized.”
“What is it?” Mike said.
“What movie is that?” Mike repeated.
“Best movie ever made.” Kit twisted the lid off another beer. “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. You can't tell me you never saw it.”
“Forget that,” Lucius said. “We need a name for our motorcycle club.”
Kit grinned and then, affecting a John Wayne drawl, said, “'You're a persistent cuss, pilgrim.'”
Boone groaned and said, “I knew it.”That was the night the Pilgrim Motorcycle Club was born.