Back when I was a child, it seemed as if my brothers and I lived on our bicycles. We rode them to school and back and all around the neighborhood. After we got home from school, our friends from down the street, Joe and Barbara, would ride their bikes over and we’d all take off like birds that had just been released from their cage.
On the next street over from ours, there was an area where we loved to go and ride. There was a pretty deep ditch there and we made it into a bicycle playground. We made trails in and out of that ditch where we played follow the leader on our bikes. We even placed some boards across the top of the ditch and we’d ride across them as fast as we could. We also took some boards and made jumps and we’d sail up, up into the air to see who could jump the highest. We even got so we’d jump up as free as birds and sail right across that wide ditch.
There was no way, though, that we told our parents about our biker’s paradise which we had built just one street over. Years later, however, when we were all sitting around talking, my brothers and I reminisced about how much fun we’d had jumping our bikes across that ditch. Mom said, “If I’d had any idea you kids were doing that, I wouldn’t have let you out of my sight.” It sounds like it was a good thing she didn’t know, because we would have really missed out on some good times if she had.
I guess it was a good thing that we never had a major accident while riding at the ditch. I think Mom was used to minor accidents like skinned knees, stubbed toes, and cuts and bruises — but something that required stitches might have taken some explaining that we didn’t want to have to do.
A bicycle accident that I do remember happened almost in front of our house. We were all racing along and our dog, Blackey, shot right across in front of my brother, Mike. Mike slammed on his brakes as quick as he could. He managed to slow enough so he barely hit Blackey, but couldn’t stop himself from shooting right over the handle bars. He hit the pavement on his hands and knees and then his face hit. I can assure you it was not a pretty sight. The pavement peeled the skin off his hands and knees and he also had a big gash right over his eye that was bleeding pretty badly.
Of course, one of us ran into the house to get Mom and she took one look and said he needed to go to the emergency room. He ended up with several stitches over his eye and had some really sore hands and knees for several days. I’m sure most of us have had skinned hands and knees at some time or the other in our lives. If you haven’t experienced that yourself, then you’ve probably led a very sheltered life and just didn’t realize it. I know I’ve had more than my share of skinned knees brought on by such activities as getting knocked off of second base while playing softball and getting thrown off of a horse when he backed into an electric fence. Fun, fun stuff!
By the time my family moved back to Richmond County from Lumberton, I felt like I had outgrown my little blue bicycle that I had ridden for so many miles. I can remember taking one of my brother’s bikes and pushing it over to a rock. I stepped up on the rock and then stepped off onto one of the pedals. Then I pushed the bike off as I swung my other leg over. I took off riding down the dirt road in front of the house but I had to sit on the metal bar instead of the seat to be able to reach the pedals. I was so, so proud of myself as I rode along, up high on that bike, looking down at the world below. I can assure you I really thought I was something.
I didn’t even have another bicycle of my own until years later. After we had been married for several years, my husband bought me a brand new ladies’ bike for my birthday. It was blue just like that little small bike I had gotten for Christmas when I was 6 years old. I found I still loved that feeling I got as I rode it along. There’s nothing like the feel of the wind in your hair as you speed along watching the world fly by. Over the years, however, I found I rode it less and less as my life got busier and busier. I still have that blue bicycle today but the frame has almost rusted away and the tires are flat and dry-cracked.
I can’t help but think about how wonderful it would be to go back in time and speed along again on my little blue bicycle, with the wind blowing through my hair and my brothers and my friends riding all around me. We’d all be trying to outrun the other and we’d be laughing and talking, without a care in the world!
Azalea R. Bolton is a resident of Richmond County, member of the Story Spinners of Laurinburg, member of the Richmond and Anson County Historical Societies, and co-author of the newly released book, “Just Passing Time Together.”