Friday, October 21, 2011

"My First Bike...and Freedom"

I was eleven years old when I got my first bike.  Getting that first bike is a seminal moment in a child's life.  It is every bit as special as your first car.  I had dreamed of having a bike for years.  I used to sit on the front porch of our house and watch other kids flying by on their bicycles.  My eyes followed them down the road until they were out of sight and I would wonder about what great adventures greeted them around the next turn.  Once in awhile a kid would come cruising by, a playing card clothes-pinned to a wheel spoke, and my lust for wheeled freedom was intense.

My bike came to me one Saturday morning as usual in childhood, when it is least expected.  My mother occasionally took us on Saturdays to a huge farm and food auction in Fresno where she would occasionally find cheap produce or second hand clothes at a bargain price.  My sister and brother and I loved to go with her.  As soon as we parked in a nearby cow pasture we could hear an auctioneer's machine gun like bellows, ratcheting up the prices by a quarter, two bits, a dollar!  We could smell the vendor's offerings; corn dogs and burgers and rat-tat-tating of the popcorn machine. 

After paying the dime admission fee, my mother would call out instructions and bewarings and arrange where to meet up if we were to become separated amidst the huge throngs.  But on this special morning I spied an old bike for sale at one of the seller booths.  It didn't look like much but it fell gracefully in to our price range so I immediately began cajoling and lobbying my mother to buy me the bike.  The seller wanted three dollars for it.  Of course, my mother found all kinds of reasons why we should not buy the bike; it didn't look safe, the tires were worn bald, the brakes were weak, and so on.  My mother, in a bid to shush me, said perhaps, if it was still available after we had finished our shopping, we would come back for a closer look.

I stuck closely to my mother that morning, volunteering to haul the onions and greens and potatoes, anything to win favor with the family banker.  Eventually we returned to the fellow selling the bike, and in the absence of any other takers, he sold us the bike for two dollars.  We loaded the bike into the trunk of the car and returned home and, from that moment until  supper time, I was in a totally new world.  A world where I rode my bike down alley ways and down streets that seemed foreign to me in this brave new world of mobility!

Upon rising on Sunday morning I ran immediately to the back porch to check on my bike.  The front tire looked a little flat.  I got out a bike pump and pumped up the tire and wiped it down, trying carefully to ignore the peeling paint and tarnished chrome.  Soon it was time to board the bus for Sunday School and my mother fought off all arguments for my staying home so I went reluctantly.  I'm afraid I learned nothing that morning in Sunday School.  Lost in visions of riding to far horizons I missed all of the moral lessons I might have been taught that Sunday morning.

Of course, like any kid, I lived to love and curse that bike.  I loved that first taste of freedom on the streets of my little town.  When the confines of youthful obedience got me down I could always "saddle up" and ride down the street to see how the rest of the world was spending their day.  I learned how to adjust the brakes, tighten a bolt and pour evaporated milk into an inner tube to seal a leak in an inner tube.  I learned to live with scrapes and cuts that is the life of a boy and a bike. 

Mostly, I learned that freedom, even in the first tentative steps, is a wonderful thing.  A bike gives you that first subtle taste of the world outside, and, as Martha says, "that is a good thing".  I have since travelled a million miles to and from far off corners of the world.  High flying jets have propelled me into foreign cultures that I could never have imagined.  Yet, I have never forgotten the thrill of adventure I experienced in those first daring forays around the corner on my first bike.


Darlene said...

Such a wonderful thing that first bicycle,,, ;)

John Friend said...

I remember that day at cherry auction when you got that bike. You rode it all the time until one day the frame broke and you parked it in the garage.One day I spyed the bike collecting dust in that old garage.I pulled it out and looked at the frame. I placed a stick inside the two halves of the hollow frame. I wrapped black tape around it and it felt as stong as new. I dusted off the old bike tightened the chain and fixed the flat tires. Then off to make new adventures just as my brother had when he first received this wonderful old bike.Mom said she never thought she would ever see that old bicycle on the road again but there it was carrying the second of two brothers on adventures that no one could ever duplicate. Love you brother

JustCommonSense said...

Hi brother. As soon as I read this I remembered that you did resurrect the old bike! Funny how images come back to you when reminded! Wasn't that our last and only bike? I don't remember ever having another one.

John said...

I recall getting another bike for Christmas in my 7th grade year of school. Mom had put the bike on layaway at Western Auto and paid a little on it every month until it was paid off. I had my tonsils re
Move just prior to christmas and was not able to ride that bike until I got well. After I did get to ride it I went everywhere on that bike. After I outgrew ridding bikes mom sold that bike to uncle bill for his girls. They rode that bike until it was wore out and uncle bill finally got rid of it. By the time I got that bicycle you were already in highschool and couldn't bee seen ridding a bicycle. Lol

JustCommonSense said...

Yeah, by the time I got to high school I was already thinking about cars. Lucky we lived in "The Alamo" (Wright Street) so didn't have far to walk to school. Would be a couple of years before I could motor a "Hudson Hornet" to school and park in the lot....then wonder if it would start after school.