Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"Just Like Riding A Bicycle"

First day of school, 1949

What I should have done for Ron's 70th Birthday was find an aviator cap to give him - one like he is wearing in this picture. Would I remember riding to school perched behind him on his bike without the visual image? I doubt it. What I do remember is teaching myself to ride his bicycle.

I wanted to be able to ride a bike just like my big brother but I couldn't even reach the pedals! So I took a bucket out to the road, upended it to stand on so I could get on his bike, then pushed off to coast down the little hill toward the other place. Did I tip over many times? Yes. (Luckily the road wasn't graveled then.) Did I learn to balance the bike eventually? Yes. So when I was tall enough to reach the pedals, I was ready to ride any time I could find his bike unused.

I wanted my own bike so badly. But that wouldn't happen until July 10, 1957 when we purchased Carol Vogel's bicycle. I had made a deal with Mom to clean out the brooder house and get it ready for the chicks that spring in exchange for a bike. I don't remember if we had already talked to Vogel's about buying Carol's and it just took three months to close the deal and get the bike. I just remember how happy I was to have wheels! And such nice ones on a pretty blue and white frame.

I started riding the bike everywhere - even down the lane to the pasture to get the cows. I felt so free being able to take off on that bike and go anywhere. Well, at least over to the neighbors. I had a special place to park my bike - leaning against the elm tree right outside the back door - ready to hop on for adventure in a minute's notice.

My multiple speed touring bike. Picture taken at "The Little House", 1981.

"The bicycle will accomplish more for women's sensible dress than all the reform movements that have ever been waged." (From Demerarest's Family Magazine, 1895 - Author unknown)

I didn't have another bike for another twenty years. We were living on the acreage outside Urbandale when I bought this bike at Montgomery Ward. I had already learned all about gears and the dangers of hand brakes from riding the bicycle Doug had purchased from a friend of mine. (Lois Campbell) I was riding his bike down to the corner east of "Our House" when I tried to brake to turn around and start back. By the time I remembered the brakes were on the handle bars, it was too late; I wiped out. You can still see the scars on my left elbow - no scars, just pain, in my left hip.

That bike was left behind when we moved back to Des Moines in '84. Eventually, I bought a used, brown, three-speed when we lived on 4th Street in West Des Moines. I think that one rusted after being in the flood of '93 and got put on the curb during clean-up week.

I always wondered what happened to my first bicycle. Then I found this picture (June, 1966) of my little brother and remembered - he made it into his "Bat Mobile". Or was it Bat Bike? Now I wonder what happened to it after that?

"The hardest part of raising a child is teaching them to ride bicycles. A shaky child on a bicycle for the first time needs both support and freedom. The realization that this is what the child will always need can hit hard. (Sloan Wilson)

I was talking about riding a bike with some of my grandchildren last week. They began lamenting how their mom had taught them to ride by putting them on a bike and pushing them down a hill. I told them that was the same way I had taught Doug to ride - by putting him on the new red bike he got for his sixth birthday and pushing him down a hill in MacRae Park near our apartment off SW 9th in Des Moines.

I think Kari pretty much taught herself to ride. Her first bike was a pretty green, just like her birthstone. I bought it used for her sixth birthday. Preston taught himself to ride her bike before he was six. But I think he still had to wait for his birthday before getting a bike - a citrusy lime green one if I remember right, also a used one. It was easier to find pre-owned bikes in the city. (Plus I couldn't afford new ones for them.)

Last year Bud & I each bought a new coaster bike. I have to admit I haven't ridden mine as much as I thought I would. It's quite a bit harder pedaling up those hills than it was 53 years ago. But this morning I got it out, ready to pump up the tires and go for a spin. There's nothing like riding a bike to make you feel young again.

"When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race." (H.G. Wells)

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