Bicycles. I've been thinking about bicycles. My first was a Columbia. For the life of me I cannot remember when I got it. Thinking back all I can remember is being on it, riding. Since I don't remember picking it out I have to believe it was a Christmas present. Or maybe a birthday present. Riding that sturdy two wheeler was a thrill. For a kid it was the first taste of freedom. We never donned a helmet. We never begged for Spandex outer wear. Nor pegs for trouser cuffs. Heck no. We simply ran outside, hopped into the saddle and pedalled away, leaving the house and parents far behind.
The traffic was never so heavy then as now. When a car was coming up behind us we'd cross over into the oncoming lane which was usually free of traffic. Our leisurely rides were a constant sway form one side of the road to the other. Occasionally a horn would blast behind us abruptly if we were daydreaming. As kids daydreams were the activities of the day which on occasion we would be shaken from by a horn blast. If startled too much we would tumble down into a ditch with our bikes on top of us while the car sailed past. "Ding dang the daddratted dim witted dish dickering dope! Kid here!" I'd yell with a few unchild like additions learned from the odd moment my dad would smack his finger with a hammer.
Trips to the ditch were not a frequent occurence but they did happen. Our longest trip for a few years was from home to school. The school was close enough that riding the bus was not necessary. Our B.C. days, before cycling, we hoofed it to the school yard with satchels on our backs. When we got bikes the time of that trip was sliced in half. Of course even that time could be cut when pushing those pedals round became a race.
There was a space at the side of the school yard on the far side of the tennis court that had a line of iron racks we could slide the front wheel into holding our rides upright. We'd come flying through the back gate pumping our legs hard into the pedals. The brakes were hit, the back wheel would slide into the turn and the front wheel would glide into the slot as we balanced on one pedal. A hop and a turn faced us in the direction of the school building, usually as the bell would ring. We marched obediently toward the front door entering into another day of classes and recess and classes.
The bell at the end of the day was a release. The doors flew open and kids scrambled out into the afternoon sun. With my army surplus book laden satchel bouncing on my back I'd run for my trusty steel steed waiting faithfully in the bike rack. I'd slip it from its metal bars, back it up and around, left foot on the pedal pushing off with my right and over the seat and plunk down my bottom. The pedals would be going round as fast as my legs could push. The wheels would answer by kicking a spray of rocks behind me. Off we'd go, my Columbia and me, taking flight through the schoolyard gate and beyond into the world of imagination. I was Jesse James leaning forward on my stallion looking back over my shoulder at the posse on my trail. Leaning to the left my steed would follow and zip into the turn with a loud of dust taking me up the slight incline to the trail ahead. They were close but not for long. Standing on the pedals I gave a sudden burst of speed putting my entire body into the pedal action. Up and over the hill and leaning right the wheels sang as they took the corner.
I was safe behind the stand of trees. With the cover of foliage my escape was complete. Looking back the posse was stopped at the bottom of the hill looking this way and that. Once again Ole Betsy had saved my bacon. I was free to ride the plains. The plains being Riverland Terrace and all the quiet streets it harbored.
A kid on a bike. What was more free than being a kid on a bike in the 50's? Nothing. I can think of nothing. It was grand with playing cards clipped to the frame whirring in the spin of wheel spokes, we would motor off in search of adventure.