The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

December 23, 2012

A sunk ride rises: Motorcycle lost to lake in 1956 resurfaces

Sure, it’s rusted, the seat’s a goner and the gas tank bears gaping holes.

But to Ron Miller, it’s a beauty. Never mind that it’s been sitting on a lake bottom the past 56 years. This motorcycle has a tale it wants told.

“I have a feeling the bike is talking to me, and it’s telling me to go out and tell the story,” Miller said.

The 1938 German motorcycle was exhumed from its watery grave Nov. 29 when a commercial fisherman hauled in his net and there it was.

The fisherman, Jeff Riedemann, said he’s netted a lot of debris in his time — boats, motors, antlers, a buffalo skull — but this catch of the day trumped all else.

“There it was. We couldn’t believe it.”

Moreover, for being on a lake bottom more than half a century it was still in relatively good condition. The cylinder was dry and there was air in the tires.

It was dredged from Big Swan Lake in Dassel, where 15-year-old Dean Allie dunked it while joyriding on frail ice on a December day in 1956.

His father had just bought it for him, and the shame of drowning his ride was tempered by the fact that he didn’t perish also.

The leather jacket he was wearing, cinched snugly at the waist, had filled with air, serving as a life preserver until he was aided by nearby anglers.

Allie, now 71, still lives in the Dassel area, and when the bike was brought to him his eyes welled with tears, Riedemann said.

The incident made for big local news in ’56, and efforts the next summer to drag the lake for the bike failed. Even scuba divers couldn’t find it.

Allie was going to keep the bike for posterity until Riedemann and business partner Ken Seemann introduced him to Miller.

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