I lost it somewhere on my computer. Thought that I had saved it somewhere on my harddrive…but cannot find it. I can’t even remember if this was the livespace that I originally posted it on. With summer coming in these parts, it seemed a timely story to post…
I really have been thinking a lot about bicycling of late…what with the warmer weather arriving…and my bicycle collecting dust in the basement for months now. I never had my own bike until I was 15, and my oldest sister was working… she bought me a bright red ten-speed, that I rode everywhere! Heck, I saw most of the world on that bike (okay, okay, it was just he local world that I toured) (two mile radius of home) but I was pretty independent on that thing.
I have to laugh out loud at the thought…those skinny tires, on these backroads…and 32 years ago, Winfield township was pretty well known for its ‘washboard’ roads. Well, that was only the black topped roads. The dirt roads rarely had washboard issues, just severe dust issues come summer…but then the township truck would come by and spray oil on the road!
Yep, heard that right, my oh my, how times have changed. Now, spill a quart of oil and the DEP is wanting you to clean it up, put it in a drum marked "hazardous waste’ and pay to have it taken to a special landfill…
But time was when my siblings and I had one bicycle to share between the eight of us.
It was not your average bike with a bright primary color painted on…and sparkling chrome wheels, Oh my, no! My father had acquired it from some place other that the local Gaylord’s or GC Murphy’s store…
My dad was a busy guy, and rarely bothered with things such as toys for his kids; that was mom’s doing. Dad was a farmer, a spring maker, and was in charge of maintenance at the local college and seminary. As part of his duties at the seminary, he drove the priests and the brothers out to Harrisburg for government surplus’ auctions. Being non-profit–the Catholic seminary was allowed to purchase items, and they did quite frequently.
When he arrived home from one of his Harrisburg trips, without ado, he presented a bicycle to all eight of us! It was fantastic! The day nearly mirrored Christmas! We were so excited it was all that we could do to take waiting our turns. Oh! You should have seen it! My God! I can still see it… in that shade of army green!!!
There was never a finer or a prettier bicycle made…and had a soul said otherwise, i would surely have fought to defend our bike’s honor!
We had to take turns of course…and the truth of it was this: The older kids were big enough ( read, had long enough legs) to reach the peddles, but alas, the younger three of us were a might too short for this big boy… but there was a way!
In fact, there was a way to have three of us ride it at once. One (bigger kid) standing and peddling, one kid sitting on the seat behind them holding their waist, and one kid sitting on the handle bars (desperately trying to keep their feet above that front tire). It helped to have another kid give the bike a push to get it going (carrying such a load).
Imagine how that looked? And then include the other four kids running along after, waiting for the wreck!
Nah, not to pick people up and dust them off, but to grab the bike and take their turn while the victims with skinned knees and elbows cried and shouted indignities at having their bike taken…!
We had that bike for a few years, and it toiled ceaselessly. We rode it on the lane and up and down the pasture fields, and no doubt dreamed wondrous places that we gliding—while the wind blew in our faces.
Ah, that such a wonderful thing could last forever! But is was not to be. That poor old bike paid its dues, and finally reached the point that the brakes did not function and that coincided with the bike being capable of being peddled backwards..Oh yes! Our army green bike now had a reverse! We did not know how it had happened, but it was way neat!
And along came the reign of Evel Keneivel, did I spell that right? Not the point anyway, the point being, that my brothers were suddenly enamored of, and fantasizing about the stunt abilities of two wheeled vehicles…
It was a sunny spring day, and if I remember correctly, we were playing ball in front of the barn, the barn made an excellent backstop. We had one bat, and one ball that was a rock with black electrical tape (pilfered–yes, swiped) from my dad’s workshop, wrapped around it over and over again. It probably would have been cheaper to buy baseballs than black electrical tape!
My oldest brother, fueled by the televising of the latest evel Keneivel stunt, announced that he intended to ride our green bike down over the hill above the corn crib.
Let me describe that hill. It is steep. there was a ‘cow path’ there. Not anything that a person would consider a road. It was only used for planting and growing season access to the lower fields– to save driving in from above, over top of planted fields.
We begged him not to do it; older siblings who knew better, warned him not to do it! Ah, but he must have been about twelve that year…and bulletproof…
We watched him push the bike up that hill. Around rocks, and a wide bend…
I was standing on a huge stone that served as a step up into the corn crib…and just past me, at a nearly right angle turn, my three oldest sisters stood, watching…knowing…
They shouted one more warning as he stopped and turned the bike. He stood bedside it, just that moment, for the drama…the suspense to build.
I wondered, will he do it? Or will he chicken out?
My other two brothers, just a bit older than me a bit younger than him shouted encouragement…
He swung his leg up over the crossbar, and then he was on the seat, peddling…slowly…slowly…painfully slow it was to start…and then he got to the really steep part of the hill..and the peddling stopped as his feet were held out to the sides of the bike to clear the peddles that were spinning with an accelerating life of their own.
Oh, forgot to mention that? Not only did our bike have reverse, but the peddles also never ceased to move turn when you moved forward…always in gear, I reckon!
He was still smiling this silly sort of wild eyed grin…that i had NEVER seen before! And then he seemed to be moving too fast to avoid the rocks…he was airborne at times, as he cleared them, and then he was flying up off of the seat, and then nearly wiped out…and recovered just in…oh, oh my! How can he hang on to the handlebars? How does he land back on the seat after flying up like that? I don’t think he is going to…wow! way too fast!!! "SLOOOOOW DOOOOWN!!! YOOOOOOUUU ARE GONNA WREEEEEEEEECK!!! Holy crap! Then to everyone, by everyone at he bottom of that hill, ‘RUUUUUUUN!!"
We scattered to the four winds, running for our lives, unsure of just where that bike would stop!
He ran across some big bumpy rocks near the bottom, and he was flying! Nearly got the handlebars straightened again when
Right into the big rock step in front of the corn crib.
We all ran back to where he had stopped. The bike wheel was still spinning…kind of crooked, but still spinning…
And there was major damage. Irreparable damage…
My brother? I can’t remember if he got hurt or not? None of us cared!
It was the bike that was hurt!
The frame was bent, and the rusted black wheels were twisted in an unnatural way too…
And that day probably pointed my brother in the direction of being a farmer by profession, rather than a stunt cyclist!!!
…and just for the record…, when I got my ten speed, I would never have let my oldest brother ride it!