First Bicycle

by kfrego

As children on a dirt road farm we didn’t have toys to ride. There was a very limited size of bicycles available. The bicycles were big, heavy, and tough. Many families with young children had too many priorities for their cash to spend money on things like bicycles. Many children received hand me down bicycles from older children or relatives. My birthday and my sister Sharon’s are only four days apart. We received our brand new bicycles at the same time as birthday presents. We were still pretty small and the bicycles were BIG. Sharon’s was a girls. Mine was a boys. We never anticipated receiving anything like brand new bicycles. They were a complete surprise.

Our house was elevated above the dirt road. It had several front steps to get to the floor level of the front porch. Our barn was on the opposite side of the dirt road about 100 feet down a gentle slope. We had no training wheels on our bikes. Mom and Dad would position the bicycles near the front porch where we could climb on. Once we were mounted they would gently push us off  (one at a time) down the sloping front yard and onto the gently sloping dirt road. We would hold our balance as long as possible before doing a semi-controlled crash into the brush along the road. Every evening after chores and supper the whole family went out front to watch us get launched and the subsequent crashes. We always got up, shook ourselves off, and pushed the heavy bicycle back to the porch for another trip. It was learn to ride or coast as far as possible, then crash. We learned to ride as a matter of survival for ourselves and the bicycles. It was a great adventure in our front yard.

We took our bicycles to our new home in Norfolk. There were lots of things to investigate within a fairly close distance to our house. We had the railroad roundhouse, a paper mill, and the Racquette river all in close proximity. On one excursion around the paper mill we found something interesting to look at. We jumped off our bicycles and left them laying on their sides. We were a long distance away when the brake lights flashed on a car near my bicycle. The noise of the mill made shouting a wasted effort. The car backed up and stopped on top of my bicycle. My friends bicycle didn’t get hit. When we got there the man had pulled ahead and was looking at what was left of the bicycle. He gave us a short reprimand, loaded my bicycle in his trunk, sent my friend home, and took me home.

Obviously, my dad wasn’t the least bit impressed. The man explained what happened and dad thanked him for getting me home with the bicycle. No whipping. Grounding didn’t exist in our household at that time. Apparently my parents felt the loss of my bicycle was punishment enough. Lesson learned.

The memory of receiving and learning to ride that new bike will last forever…….and the half mile ride home with it in the trunk was probably one of the longest trips this kid ever made.