The short background of a peculiar bicycle

Published 10:32 am Wednesday, June 10, 2015

“The marriage has been good.”

“But the wedding was a disaster.”

The woman went on to relate what went wrong at her wedding. She laughed until she snorted. She recalled the wrong turn fondly. Other than gaining a husband, it was the most memorable part of the wedding.

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Perfection lacks memories.

I remember when I stood five feet toe tall.

Yes, I was a toe over five feet.

I had no bicycle. I wanted a bicycle. I needed a bicycle. I nagged my father.

He told me that our farm had a rule. It was that if your name began with an A, you shouldn’t ask for anything.

I gave up my subtle campaign aimed at obtaining a bicycle in which I’d asked for one every 5 minutes. You can’t saw sawdust.

It would have been nice to have had a bike. I could have ridden it to town for baseball practice. It would have solved my TV problem. We had an ancient TV that didn’t work. It hadn’t worked for a long time, perhaps forever. If I’d had a bike, I’d have been able to ride it to a neighbor’s place and watch their TV. Not having a bike wasn’t the only problem with that plan. The neighbor boy, the designated channel changer, was one of those kids who liked to get right next to the screen when he watched TV. His mother told him that he was going to ruin his eyes, but her warnings fell upon deaf ears. My problem as a guest viewer in that household was that their TV had a 14-inch screen and their son had a 24-inch head.

My father visited another neighbor. The man had no family. He raised venetian blinds instead of kids. Dad visited because the man had something for sale. A bicycle.

My father bought it.

When Dad told me of his purchase, I trembled with excitement as I’d never trembled with excitement before even during my prime trembling with excitement years.

Dad had overpaid. If he’d paid more than a nickel, he’d overpaid.

It was the thought that counted, I’d supposed.

The bicycle had no handlebars. Where handlebars should have been, there was a truck’s steering wheel. In the cartoon bubble over my head, I pictured a trucker heading his big rig down the highway, steering it with bicycle handlebars while he wondered what had happened to his steering wheel.

There was little paint remaining on the bicycle. It was too big to be called a bike. It had enough rust that my mother took me to Doc Olds to get a tetanus shot before I could ride it.

It had no kickstand. That was OK. A kickstand was a useless accouterment. Boys had no need for one. We jumped off bicycles while they were still moving, secure in the knowledge that, sooner or later, they’d hit something and stop.

I couldn’t ask my father to return it. It was this bicycle or nothing. It was my piece of the American dream.

It was too big for me. I could hit only one pedal at a time. There were no handbrakes. It was difficult to stop as well as steer.

Each time I attempted to ride the bicycle, I heard circus music.

I’d give the bicycle a push, hop on and head it down our drive. It was all downhill from house to mailbox. Like water, hicks on bicycles run downhill.

I lacked that easy confidence that comes with wealth or accomplishment. I thought about the worst things that could happen. Once I eliminated the impossible and unlikely, I thought my path was clear.

That’s when it happened.

I tried to brake. I tried to steer. I couldn’t remember if I was supposed to turn into or out of a skid.

I yelled, but the barbed wire fence refused to jump out of the way.

I discovered pain receptors that I never knew I had.

They say that once you learn how to ride a bicycle, you never forget. Or maybe it’s once you fall off a bicycle, you never forget falling off a bicycle.

I don’t ride a bicycle as much as I once did.

I miss riding one until I remember hitting that barbed wire.

That’s why we remember things that we’d hoped we’d forget.

It’s a way of holding on to life.


Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.