"Don't judge a book by its cover." -- Proverb

Santa on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle? Correct me if I'm wrong, but Santa drives a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer, according to the original poem. Yes, I know Rudolph is often counted among the team, which would make nine.

Santa relies on the sleigh exclusively to deliver presents to children all around the world, even during the harshest weather conditions. At least that's what I've been told.

Motorcyclists, on the other hand, are often typecast as tough, burley guys dressed in Levi's and black leather jackets who cruise the streets in gangs and frequent smoke-filled bars on the outskirts of town. Remember Marlon Brando in the classic "The Wild One" that appeared on the silver screen back in '53?

Had I been wrong all these years to think Santa would never trade in his sleigh for a motorcycle to deliver toys to all the good girls and boys on Christmas Eve? There was only one way to settle that question, and that was to ask a "biker" directly.

Not knowing where to start, I contacted my longtime friend Catalina Wright at the Concord Senior Center whose son owns a motorcycle, and following additional leads, ended up talking to David Hudson, leader of Mt. Diablo HOGs, a motorcycle club based in Contra Costa County.

Hudson looked every bit the man in charge like I expected.

At 6 feet, 1 inch tall and 245 pounds, and sporting a mustache, who would likely want to challenge him?

Certainly not me if I wish to see my grandson graduate from high school!

Hudson became interested in riding motorcycles while in the military service in 1966, but gave it up for the welfare of his children until they became of age when he purchased his first Harley. He's been riding a Harley ever since.

Except for his size, Hudson proved to be nothing like the boss of a motorcycle club I'd imagined. From the outset I addressed him by his first name, and after getting to know him I likened him to a giant teddy bear with his magnetic and outgoing personality.

And he didn't mind my saying so.

Retired since 2008, Dave has been busy helping to run the club whose membership currently boasts more than 220 riders.

That's fine and dandy you might be thinking, but what's all that got to do with Santa riding a motorcycle?

To get to the point: The HOGs rallied in early December and made a couple of trips to local stores to purchase toys and other things for underprivileged kids in hospitals and living in orphanages in time for Christmas.

What's particularly noteworthy is they do it every year without fanfare and buy the presents with their own money. So who's to say Santa doesn't ride a Harley?

The HOGs charitable act doesn't stop at Christmas but is year-round, according to Dave. Among other things, they collect food for the Food Bank, visit with patients at the veteran's hospital, and actively support special causes such as muscular dystrophy.

During their most recent visit to the VA hospital, they entertained an 88-year-old former WAC patient, who passed away peacefully after receiving a long-awaited call from her son.

In case you're wondering, HOG is the acronym for Harley Owners Group, and is a national organization of both men and women whose occupational backgrounds include stock brokers, jewelers, carpenters, insurance agents, and just plain hardworking folks like you and me.

Although their backgrounds are varied, they all share three things in common: they are proud Harley owners, they enjoy the camaraderie of riding together, and they all have a desire to serve the community.

I once owned a doodle bug back in the '40s, but never got to the Harley stage. If I did, it's likely I'd be riding alongside Dave today.

If this article has helped in any way to take some of the edge off those of you who have reservations about seeing a cyclist in a black leather jacket pull up alongside you, thank Dave and the other 220 HOG members who do a lot of good for our community while enjoying their ride.

Eizo Kobayashi is a Concord resident and a member of the Concord Senior Citizens Club. Contact him at columns@bayareanewsgroup.com.