This motorcycle means – and symbolizes – a lot to Niles Harris of Deadwood. The bike was given to him in 2006 by Big Kenny Alphin and John Rich of Big & Rich. He was the inspiration for their hit song "8th of November."
Niles met Big & Rich in 2002, while the aspiring country duo was performing in Deadwood. "I met 'em that night at the Buffalo Bar, and we got along pretty well. I took them out to some abandoned gold mines in the Black Hills a few days later, and they enjoyed it," Niles said. "While we were hanging out, I gave them this story of a battle I was in in Vietnam."
Just 19, Niles was assigned to the Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade. On November 5, 1965, he and his fellow soldiers of C Company landed in Vietnam's War Zone D near Bien Hoa. Three days later, on the 8th of November, B and C Companies found themselves in a fierce battle with 1,200 Viet Cong soldiers equipped with machine guns, claymores and sniper rifles.
At the end of the battle, 48 Americans and more than 400 Viet Cong were dead. Many more U.S. soldiers were wounded, including Niles. His right leg, from knee to hip, was hit by machine gun fire.
That story inspired Big & Rich to write a song about that long-ago jungle battle. And to thank Niles for sharing his story, they gave him this customized "8th of November" chopper, built by Big Rick Hoffman of Logic Motors in Salem, Ohio.
Big Kenny and John handpicked every painted design on the bike to pay tribute to the November 8th battle. The chart at left explains the symbolism behind each painted detail on the bike.
Both Harris and Big & Rich emphasize that the song is a tribute to all Vietnam veterans, not just those who fought on the 8th of November. "I didn't do anything but stop a bullet," Niles said. "Tens of thousands of other soldiers have done the same thing, and many didn't come back."