The Gallatin News
One thing about the newspaper business, you just never know who is going to walk in the front door on any given day or who is going to be on the other end of any given phone call. Sometimes you really get surprised.
Such was the case a few weeks back when I shared a phone conversation with Wink Rager. She was calling to ask permission to reprint a Celebrate Sumner County column about the ROMEO club in Hendersonville in a newsletter for Wings Around Nashville, a chapter of Gold Wing Road Riders Association. It didn’t take long for me to find out that Wink was a hoot. I thought maybe she used to ride, or still rode with her husband, but that wasn’t the case. I was talking with a 75-year-old lady who still rides her own motorcycle because she ‘loves the curves’ of the road.
Turns out, she taught others how to ride motorcycles, she taught five-year-olds for 39 years, she flew airplanes and she used to ride an elephant in the circus. I knew that I had to meet this lady and find out more about her.
So we spent a little time recently visiting on her back porch/office overlooking Old Hickory Lake. That’s command central for her property management job during the good weather months and where she works on her Sudoku puzzles and plans her next piece of embrodiery.
Raised in Kansas and Virginia, Wink moved to Nashville to attend George Peabody College for Teachers. While living in Nashville, she met a young man named Bob Rager in church but she moved to Miami, Fla. to take a teaching job immediately after graduation. After 15 years, she returned to Nashville and married Bob. She finished her teaching career with a 24 year stint at Falls-Hamilton Elementary School in Nashville. Altogether, she taught kindergarten children for 39 years. She said she enjoyed the process of teaching children while they thought they were playing.
Wink became a pilot, as she said, ‘when you could rent an airplane with a full tank of gas for $7 an hour, plus $2 more if an instructor flew with you.’ That was 1968. Bob had is pilot’s license as well and the two would rent a plane and take to the skies as the mood hit them. She flew until she was 65 years old.
Bob was a member of the Shriner motorcycle team. Not long after he got his Harley Davidson motorcycle, Wink learned about motorcycle-riding classes at Nashville Tech and she signed up at the youthful age of 55. Before long, she discovered the enjoyment of riding with others and has been riding with a pack ever since. The teacher in her came out and she ended up teaching others how to ride motorcycles for 12 years. We spent a few minutes discussing the finer points of counter-steering, where you push on the right handlebar when going through a right curve and visa-versa for left curves. Well, Wink talked and I listened as she described that ‘it’s a feeling you don’t get anywhere else.’
Five years ago, she went to a craft show in Gallatin and bought a house. That’s right. Long story short, she was delivering some of her embroidery work to a lady and, once Wink found out the house was going to be sold, she decided it was the place for her and Bob. Turns out, the house used to belong to the parents of County Music legend Barbara Mandrell.
The Ragers have been adopted by three cats and they support adopting pets from shelters, showing off Misty, a husky adopted from The Hairy Moose in Hendersonville. She shares the message of spaying and neutering to all she meets.
One of her goals in life is to ‘catch ‘em being good,’ a personal philosophy she learned while teaching kindergarten class. She goes out of her way to tell people, and their bosses, whenever someone goes the extra step to provide good service.
Bob, it turns out, has a unique story to tell about his service in the National Guard during the Vietnam War but that will have to wait to another day.
Before I left, she asked me if I knew the secret to being ‘wild and adventuresome at 75?’ I didn’t, of course, ‘cause I’m not 75. Her answer? You have to have your faith, a special spouse, go see your chiropractor once a month, see your massage therapist once a week and have to have a dog or cat because they will keep you honest and active and happy because they are so funny. Wink says you need all five things for a happy life. And if Wink says it’s so, it’s so.
See you next week.
Bob, Misty and Wink Rager
Photo by Randy Cline