Al Batt: Rock, paper, scissors and rust on two wheels

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Humans are always bucking a headwind.

Al Batt

We teeter precariously on the edge of the world. We not only don’t know things, we don’t know most things. Our talents lie in suspecting things.

There are three kinds of people: those who can count and those who can’t. Most of us can count to three on our fingers. I find the rule of three is important in my life. A list of three things is easy to remember. A group of three sticks in our heads as flypaper ribbon does to a tall man’s ear. Do you want examples? Here you go. The Three Stooges. Snap, Crackle and Pop. Bacon, lettuce and tomato. I don’t think I need to add more.

I was a barefoot boy with cheeks of tan whistling merrily down the road of life while  trying to be thankful for what I had. But I wanted a bicycle. I’d see Schwann, J. C. Higgins and Huffy bikes displayed in store windows as bait and asked my father nearly every day (I gave him his birthday and Father’s Day off) if it was the day I’d be receiving two-wheeled manna from heaven. To be successful, I needed a wishbone, backbone and funny bone.

One day, my father decided I was ready to spread my wings with wheels. I’m not sure why, I think it had to do with me pulling a sword named Excalibur out of a stone. We jumped into the Pontiac and I was surprised we didn’t head to town. Dad drove to a neighbor’s farm instead. Carl Johnson had piles of things in his farmyard. One pile was of bicycles with various injuries and behavioral problems. My father picked one from the top. He and Carl dickered over the price before agreeing to the ridiculous sum of $1.25. The price of rust was at a record low. As the bike was loaded into the trunk and tied in place with twine, I couldn’t help but notice the bike had an automobile steering wheel in place of handlebars. It may not have been a whizbang, but it was way better than the bicycle I didn’t have.

Back home, I freed the cargo from the trunk and climbed aboard the bicycle. I discovered the seat had been made from recycled razor blades. Wearing a pained expression the Mayo Clinic had never seen, I headed downhill from the top of our driveway. Location, location, location. I quickly learned that the bike was too big for me. I could reach one pedal at a time with my foot, so locomotion wasn’t a problem, but I couldn’t hit both pedals at once to brake the beast. The steering wheel made it easy to dump the bike. Blood, sweat and tears. I acquired road rash, but that wasn’t the worst. I went off the road into a barbed-wire fence. Flag on the play! Unnecessary roughness. I tried to give up, but I couldn’t. I was determined to make it to the end of that driveway.

A shamrock is a young three-leaved sprig, used as a symbol of Ireland. Saint Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint, used it as a metaphor for the Christian Holy Trinity. The name shamrock means “young clover” or “little clover.” In Ireland, the plants associated with the name shamrock are the suckling clover (Trifolium dubium) and the white clover (Trifolium repens). Both clovers are native to Europe but are found throughout the world today. Their genus name, Trifolium, means “having three leaves.” We call it white clover or Dutch clover. I digress, but that’s the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

A friend is fond of saying, “Try and try again. Then give up. No use in making a complete fool of yourself.”

Henry James said, “Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.”

An elder’s three rules were: never miss an opportunity to put your feet up, never hurry past a bathroom door and be comfortable being uncomfortable.

The process of rock, paper, scissors decided I needed to be comfortable being uncomfortable and that helped me make it to the end of the driveway. I came, I saw, I conquered.

The bad news was I had no chance to stop, look and listen at the driveway’s end. The bicycle shot across the road and hit the ditch. The good news was that I missed hitting the mailbox.

Game, set, match.

I picked a shamrock from my teeth.

Al Batt’s columns appear in the Tribune every Wednesday.