Life & Times

In the end, near death bike experience was worth it

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You know, I’m gettin’ kind of worried. I haven’t seen a kid on a bike in I don’t know how long.

Don’t kids ride bikes anymore?

All I ever see ridin’ bicycles now-a-days are grownups. And what’s with those outfits they wear? I mean they look like giant multicolored bugs ridin’ around.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I think those women bicyclers look pretty good in those things, but the men? Give me a break. They look like they’re wearin’ Superman britches, and I haven’t seen a lot of them lookin’ like Superman. And who designed those helmets?

I know they are probably designed to be aerodynamic, but man they’re ugly.

Back when I was a kid we rode bikes all the time. Heck, it was the only mode of transportation we knew besides walkin’.

We didn’t have mommas that would take us anywhere we wanted to go. Oh no.

Now-a-days all a kid has to do is whine a little and momma or daddy cranks up the car and they haul them to who knows where. If I had asked my momma to drive me somewhere, why she would have slapped me upside the head, and told me to go outside and play. Plus, we didn’t really want out mommas knowin’ where we were goin’ in the first place.

“Hey Momma!” I can hear myself sayin’. “Can you drive me down to Cope’s Country Store, so I can get one of those old men that hang around down there to buy me some Bull of the Woods chewin’ tobacco?” or “Hey Momma! Can you drive me and Greg Hunt to Lake Shangri La, so we can see if there’s any more girls skinny dippin’?”

Do you know how long my short little life would have been? That’s why we rode bicycles.

Now the bicycles back when I was a kid weren’t these little bitty bikes they have for kids now-a-days. Oh they had little bikes, but no boy in his right mind would want to be seen on one.

The bikes we had were huge framed, behemoths that weighed at least 400 pounds. The tires were wider than most motorcycle tires and if they ran over you, you had tire tracks imbedded into your hide for at least three years.

They also had a bar that ran from the seat up to the bottom of the handlebars, and if you accidently hit a bump and slid of off the seat and hit it, well, you could audition for the Vienna Boy’s Choir.

Our bikes didn’t have brakes on the handlebars, either. They had coaster brakes. When you got to where you were goin’, all you had to do was step back on those pedals and you were gonna stop.

We used to race down the old black-topped road we lived on and at the end of the road, we’d stomp back on those pedals and see how long a skid mark we could leave. And it made the greatest sound, too. “ERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

I remember one time when we were racin’ down that road, my cousin Royce rode up on his bike. Now Royce was my cousin Coy’s older brother and his sole purpose in life was to beat the crud out of Coy and me. Greg, Little Rusty and Wee Whoa, didn’t have to worry about Royce, because they weren’t family.

Now, Royce had a bike that was the envy of any kid back then. It was a Schwinn. That was the Cadillac of bikes back then. It was big and had white sidewalls and a genuine leather seat. Man, it was beautiful.

You didn’t touch Royce’s bike. Not if you wanted to see your next birthday anyway. Man, I wanted to ride that bike so bad I could taste it.

Well, when he rode up, I figured either Coy or I, or both of us, was gonna get pummeled, but we didn’t.

“What are you idgits doin’?” Royce asked.

“Racin’,” we all said in unison.

“Ha!” he laughed. “I’ll bet that’s the slowest race in the world.”

Now, you had to be careful how you talked to Royce, because you didn’t want to get too “smart” with him or, well, you know. Then I got a great idea.

“Hey Royce,” I said. “You want to race me?”

“Ha! What’s the use? I could beat you any day of the week.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I guess you could. I mean, if I had a bike like yours I could beat anybody, too.”

“The bike ain’t got nothin’ to do with it,” he said. “It’s all in the rider.”

“You mean you could beat me if you were ridin’ my bike and I was ridin’ yours?”

“Any day of the week,” he smiled.

“I doubt it,” I said, almost pushin’ the limit. Royce’s eyes narrowed.

“OK, smart boy. Let’s see what you’ve got. Here, you take my bike, and I’ll take that old junker of yours, and I’ll show you who the king is.”

I smiled to myself. “Like takin’ candy from a baby,” I thought.

Well, we switched bikes and rode back up to the top of the road. Man, you talk about a nice bike. It was so smooth it hardly felt like I was pedalin’. Royce, on the other hand, was sweatin’ like a kid sittin’ outside the principal’s office.

Now, the oil-topped road we lived on wasn’t but about 300 yards long and it dead ended at the edge of the woods. Not far from where it dead ended there was an old rusted barbed wire fence and on the other side of that was a creek with a two board bridge. The creek wasn’t but about three feet wide and about the same depth. It really was more of a ditch than a creek, except when it rained.

We didn’t know how old the board bridge was, but it hadn’t been used in a long, long time, because just on the other side of the bridge was the thickest woods you’ve ever seen.

Anywho, up at the top of the road, I was waitin’ for Royce.

“Man,” Royce said when he got to the top of the road. “This is a piece of junk.”

“Do you want to declare me the winner?” I asked.

“Ha!” he said. “Not on your life.”

“You start us, Coy,” Royce said.

“Not on your life,” said Coy. “If you lose you’ll blame me and beat me up.”

“I’m gonna beat you up anyway.” said Royce, “so you might as well do somethin’ useful.”

Coy thought about it, and figured Royce was right.

“OK,” said Coy. “On three.”

Now, let me stop here and tell you what “on three” means. It doesn’t mean you start right after you yell three. It means you go as soon as the first “T” in three leaves the starters lips. We all knew this. Royce didn’t know this.

“OK,” Coy started. “Get ready. One! Two! Three!”

I was a good two bike lengths ahead before Royce started.

“Cheater!” I heard him yell, but I didn’t slow up. I knew if I slowed up I was gonna get beat. Heck, I was gonna get beat anyway, but I was ridin’ Royce’s bike, so that made it all worthwhile.

Remember I told y’all that all of our bikes had coaster brakes? Well, Royce’s didn’t. His had handlebar brakes, and although I had seen those little levers on the bars, I thought they were decorations. Well, I was goin’ to leave the longest skid mark in the world, so I decided to stop earlier than normal to give the mark plenty of room. I was still ahead of Royce and I stomped back on the brakes. My feet went to spinnin’ backwards on that bike faster than the eye could see.

“AAAAHHHHHHHH!” I screamed. “NO BRAKES!”

Royce was right behind me and he yelled, “GRAB THE HANDLEBAR BRAKES!”

Handlebar brakes? What the heck was he talkin’ about?

It was then that I noticed that the end of the road was gettin’ closer by the second. It looked like I was in a tunnel and everything beside me was goin’ slow but everything in front of me was movin’ at the speed of light.

Greg, Little Rusty, Wee Whoa, and his dog Bones were all on the side of the road at the bottom to watch the finish.

As I passed them, they were movin’ in slow motion. I heard Greg yell and even his words were in slow motion. “GRAB----THE----HANDLEBAR---- LEVERS,” he said.

Levers? I looked down and saw the levers. I really don’t know how I saw them, because the skin on my face from the speed was slidin’ back to the back of my head and I was lookin’ between two little bitty slits.

Just as I hit and went through the old barbed wire fence, I grabbed the levers and squeezed. Unfortunately, I had already left the oil-topped road and was in the dirt.

Both tires had stopped turnin’, but I was still travelin’ at a high rate of speed. I was leavin’ a wake of dirt that any water skier would have been proud of. Up ahead I saw the two board bridge. If I could just hit one of those boards with the bike’s tires maybe it would cause enough friction to slow me down enough so I could at least jump free without dismemberin’ myself. I aimed at the board on the left.

I hit right between both of them. The front tire went down into the creek and hit the bank on the other side. The back tire decided to go airborne and over the top of me it went. I decided to plow my face into the dirt, and when I decide to do somethin’, I do it right.

By the time the others got to me, I was pullin’ a plug of dirt as long as a soda straw out of my left nostril. My ears were full of dirt, too, but I could still make out Royce’s voice.

“MY BIKE!” he yelled. “I’M GONNA KILL YOU?”

I flipped my eyelids up with my fingers and a couple of nice sized clods of dirt fell out. I blinked a couple of time and although it was a little gritty, I could see pretty well. The next thing I knew I was bein’ picked up by the front of my T-shirt.

“Hi Royce,” I said. He was shakin’ like a Chihuahua eatin’ coffee beans.

“I’m gonna kill you,” he said through gritted teeth.

“I know,” I said. “But, I got to ride your bike, and do you know what the best part is?”

“What?” he growled.

“I won.” I can’t tell you what happened after that, but I think he killed me.

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