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I'd Ride a Bicycle, But . . .

I was born in the south. I live in the south and will die in the south. This is only a small part of the memories I share.

My bicycle and I were once very close.

My bicycle and I were once very close.

This is the truth if I ever told it. The person who coined the phrase, "you never forget how to ride a bicycle, because when you get on one, it all comes back to you." Pardon my blunt response, HOGWASH! I said hogwash because I know better. And I am sure that a lot of you who are reading this adventure have experienced a bicycle wreck in some way of the other. Some wrecks can be funny upon being able to stand on two feet and then those are not so much as a wreck, but a simple case of stupidity mixed with high speed and the end-result is: bloodshed on the asphalt. Mine!

But things being equal, I still love to ride a bicycle. In my past 68 years, I've owned three. I will never forget the moment when my dad, rest his soul, went with him to our local Western Auto and talked with arguably the best salesman EVER! His name was Buster Mixon and knew his merchandise like the back of his hand. I witnessed this very thing. My dad was looking to buy a bicycle so I would have a pasttime, but Mixon advised that dad buy a good, used bike because when I began to learn how to ride, I, like everyone who has sat on a bicycle seat for the first time, wrecks. There is no way around this fact, but there are those rare folks who take it up like a duck takes on the water. I wasn't a duck.

$15.00 was a lot in 1962, But this is how much my dad gave for some no-name bicycle that came with standard equipment being the paint on the frame was flecked and there were no fenders. I loved that about my first bike. When I started to pedal the machine, I felt like a motorcycle biker (The late Marlon Brando, "The Wild Ones"), but in an instaant, I found out how the ground feels on my face. There was blood. But any first-time bicyclist will tell you that in that first wreck, you wipe away the blood and never confess it to your mom or dad. You learn going in how to take pain like a man.

I must have been a real man because of all the wrecks I had while I learned how to keep my bike in good balance. This is not an easy feat, friends. But in time, riding a bike was so much fun that I looked forward to those great after school hours when I would get off the school bus and head for my bicycle which I had hid to keep neighborhood hoods from stealing it. Truth be told, the thieves who would steal my bike had to be scraping the bottom of the barrel.

After an hour or so, I came into the house for supper and do homework. I found out another fact about real life: In my day in 1962, students in the second grade did very little homework. I was not about to rock the boat and demand that our teacher dole out more work that she assigned for us to learn during our eight-hour survival time. This was one time that keeping my mouth shut paid off.

Life was pretty sweet with my used bike in '62, but I sensed that my young life was going to change and very soon. My parents moved us to another home further inside the rural area of northwest Alabama, but I took my "buddy," my used bike with me. Which worked out fine because I had no friends in this desolate place.

My birthday was coming up and I tried not to hint about what I wanted for my special day. My heart was set on a brand-new, red bicycle with chrome fenders. Man! What guy my age would not give his right toe to own such a vehicle? Then the day came and lo and behold, there it was. I first thought that I was in a severe young guy's dream, but I was tasting the reality of owning the new bike that my parents had given me for my birthday.

I won't bore you with all of the details. The one detail I shall tell you. The day was Friday. I was out for the summer and that meant school vacation. What a great time to be alive in Marion County, Ala., My parents worked leaving me alone, but not to the extent of the film, "Home Alone." Fact is, I loved the solitude.

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Then on that particular Friday, I was fully bathed and dressed and decided to take my new bike for a spin on an asphalt highway that ran adjacent to our home. Now. My dad had told me that I wasn't to ride on the highway due to the traffic. That advice became dim as I took out on my bike feeling like the leader of a mean motorcycle gang leader. I went as far as to talk (to myself) about changing my name from Ken to Butcher. Then I realized that that new name would send-out a signal for all bullies to challenge my new-found manhood.

When I reached the top of the first hill, I let my wild side go full speed. For the next few seconds, I felt great. I felt freedom surge inside my veins. I was feeling great. In a split second, my life changed. Fool like, I let my left foot hang toward the highway and when my foot became hung, I went over the handlebars and then the bike went over me all during being thrown face-first on the hot asphalt. You do recall that I said that I was on summer vacation?

Long story short, my right shoulder was crushed and blood had dried on the surface. That night, I had to come clean with what happened. Amazingly, my parents were not angry. Only hurt at seeing my foolish accident. They took me to our family doctor and he gave me some sort of salve which cured the fever inside the huge cut and from there on . . .no more bike-riding in the highway or anywhere else.

At that early age, I grew quickly. I had become wise to the fact that riding a bike in a non-caring method is dangerous. Possibly fatal if God had not stepped in and kept the traffic to a minimum while I lay there in the highway. Did I feel foolish? Course.
I could tell you more reasons why I do not ride a bicycle today. Not many seniors at my age in my hometown are seen riding a bicycle. These folks are wise. They had rather walk around the walking track that our city built for activities such as walking.
The icing on the cake was in the fashion of a huge sign that stands in front of the track. "No roller skating." "No alcohol allowed." And the best one . . ."No bicycles allowed."

The last one spoke right at me.

Yes, I did smile a lot when my bicycle and I would hit the road.

Yes, I did smile a lot when my bicycle and I would hit the road.

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© 2022 Kenneth Avery

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