By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
Bill Good's head is like a giant lightbulb. No matter where he is or what he's doing, ideas flutter up to him like moths on a summer night. From time to time, he'll pluck one of these notions out of thin air, examine it and say, "Hmmm."
"I just get ideas," he says. "I don't know where they come from. But once I get them, I have to sit down and build a prototype to see if it works. It's like a puzzle. I have to see if it can be solved. It's an obsession."
Which brings us to his house, a white clapboard house on the industrial fringe of north Denver, in the Globeville neighborhood. He's lived here for a decade. Lived here, worked here and invented here. In the process, he's amassed a mountain of stuff. Spare tires. Fiberglass insulation. Scrap lumber. Aluminum pipes. Motorcycle engines. Propane tanks. Weedwackers. A meat slicer. Two refrigerators. A hang glider. A canoe. And old cars -- fifty old cars.
To the city, this stuff mountain is an illegal eyesore. But to Bill, a 78-year-old retired book dealer, it's a storehouse of spare parts and used machinery, better than a dozen Pep Boys. Whenever his internal lightbulb flashes on, he simply walks out to his yard and finds the materials necessary to bring the idea to life. A handlebar for a Yamaha motorcycle? Beside the shed. A clutch for a '75 Plymouth Arrow? In the box by the fence. A seat for a girl's purple Huffy bicycle? By the tractor trailer filled with aluminum wheels.
Bill has spent a decade acquiring this inventory, a decade scouting classified ads, garage sales and salvage yards. Half of the time, even he doesn't know why he'll return home with, say, an eyeglass-fitting apparatus. He'll stare at it for a while, rip out some gizmo, and then, inspired, shuffle toward his garage in pursuit of his grandest invention yet: a perfect Dodge Colt. His dream is to build the ultimate midget racing car (a souped-up version of a compact car). Every item in his yard -- every box of alternators, every stack of mufflers, every gutted motorcycle -- is part of this grand goal.
"It's all about racing," Bill says. "All of it."
But it's all about to end. According to Denver zoning codes, Bill Good is running a junkyard. And where he lives, this type of junkyard is not allowed. So the city told Bill to clean up his yard or face a $999 fine, thirty days in jail, or worse.
Bill's reply: "No."
Zoning inspectors have issued him tickets, fined him $750, impounded fifteen of his cars and hauled him all the way to the state Supreme Court (where he lost), and still Bill says no. Even now, as the city contemplates cleaning his yard for him and sending him the tab, Bill stands defiantly -- before a toilet seat, a pile of racing slicks and a Colt with a megaphone exhaust system -- and proclaims: "The Constitution says we are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That's what I'm trying to do."
Long before the Colts, the house on Clarkson Street and the battles with city hall, Bill Good was "The Baron." This was just after World War II, when Bill returned from the South Pacific and found himself zipping around the dirt tracks of the Mississippi Valley Racing Association in a midget car numbered 37.
"I drove every day, seven days a week," he recalls. "I was pretty good, too."
Before each race, he'd stand at the starting line in a tuxedo and carefully remove his top hat, jacket and white gloves. Then he'd put on his helmet, bow to the crowd and rip around the track.
"Oh, they hated me," Bill says. "I'd get up there and say, 'These local guys cannot compete against The Baron.' And the crowd would boo like you wouldn't believe. No one had ever done something like that before. It was all showbiz back then. Just like pro wrestling is now."
Since there's no place to sit at Bill's house -- not with his inventory of stuff -- we head to a nearby McDonald's to talk. Bill settles at a window table with an extra-large cup of coffee and a large cup of ice. He fishes out the ice with his fingers and crunches loudly.
"It was great fun," he says. Crunch, crunch, crunch. "But what I really want to talk about is the corruption at the city."
In fact, that's all he wants to talk about. "It's unbelievable, these guys," he says.
And he wants to talk about it very loudly.
"It's their deal to destroy me!"
If it weren't for these diatribes, Bill might seem to be just another mild-mannered grandpa -- one with milky blue eyes, receding white hair, tan windbreaker and dark slacks -- visiting the restaurant for a Tuesday-afternoon snack. But these diatribes quickly blow his cover.
"The city doesn't want me to comply," he shouts. "They want to punish me!"
An elderly woman looks up from her McNuggets.
Bill pops another ice cube in his mouth.