Del Rio, Texas
On Saturdays, Daddy always comes home from the office at noon, and then we all eat dinner together. Of course, I can hardly sit still during those dinners because I know that Daddy will usually dream up some new adventure for all of us once we’re done eating. This time of year, our adventures are usually outside.
Last Saturday afternoon, he drove the car right up into the front yard, and we turned on the water hose to wash the whole thing. He says it’s good to get “double duty” out of the water if we’re gonna use it. So, the water first makes the car look clean and shiny, and then it goes on down into the grass and makes IT look green! Now THAT’s smart – and so FUN!
Today, though, I don’t think we’re gonna wash the car. I think we’re gonna to do somethin’ special.
Butch and Linda can both ride bikes, but I don’t know how yet. Butch isn’t too good, but he does ok it seems. Linda, though, just takes off and goes all the way around the block – or over to Cindy Moon’s house to play. Cindy lives on Main Street near Star Park.
Someday I’ll be big enough, and I hope that’s soon because in a few months I’ll be all the way in the first grade.
Dinner is so good as usual. Today we have tuna fish sandwiches with salty tater chips, AND we each have a little glass of ice cold COKE!
Now I can’t wait to see what adventure we’re about to enjoy. I hope it’s not pickin’ weeds or anything like that.
As I walk out of the garage into the front yard, Daddy is showing Butch something about how to skid the bike in the loose gravel at the edge of the street, and I sure wish I could do that. But I’m afraid of fallin’ down, and I can see that it takes some kind of magic that I don’t have to balance on those two skinny wheels. Oh well. Maybe someday.
Then, after Butch gets off the bike and heads to the water faucet to get a drink, it happens! Daddy looks over at me while he’s holding the bike with one hand and motions to me with his other hand.
“Billy. Come ‘ere! You can just sit on the bike and see how it feels. Come on…”
Has my heart ever, ever, ever beat this fast? I can’t believe it! He’s gonna actually let me sit on it!
So, I run across the grass, then across the sidewalk, then across the grass again – and right up to the really big bike. As promised, he picks me up and sits me right on the seat of the bike and shows me how to put my feet on the two pedals.
Of course, he’s just gonna let me sit on it, and I love that. I wonder how long he’ll hold me up here on this seat.
In just a minute, Mom comes out the front door and puts Sterling down in the grass. He walks good now, but she’ll definitely have to make sure that he doesn’t walk out into the street. He doesn’t listen to what anybody tells him, ya know. So, you have to really watch and be ready to grab him when he goes the wrong direction. I love his overalls with suspenders, but don’t tell anybody I said that – please!
What’s this? As I’m just beginning to watch Sterling walk around in circles, Daddy starts the bike movin’. I hear Mom say, “Hang on Billy!” and she sounds SO happy.
I just love our Saturday afternoon adventures!
Now he’s running beside me, and I hold on tight to the grips on the ends of the handle bar. We’re really going fast, and it’s so smooth. The air blowing in my face feels cool and fresh.
So, I ask Daddy a quick question, “Daddy, did Pappy teach you how to ride your bike?”, but there’s NO answer, and I don’t hear his footsteps anymore either!
Dang! He’s not with me anymore!
Heck! I’m RIDING, and it’s easy! I had no idea my adventure was going to be THIS fun!
But….. But…. But…. Here comes the other street, and I know from walking around past Fred and Martha Jean’s toward our old house that the cars on this street go really fast--and they DON’T stop. Not ever!
What am I gonna do?
How do I stop this thing?
Billy, Billy, Billy – what are you going to do?!
I hear Mom call my name, and this time she doesn’t sound so happy, but I can’t stop the bike. It just keeps on rollin’.
THERE! There’s the grass at Fred’s corner! Lean over! Fall down! NOW!
Which I do…
And it doesn’t hurt at all.
And I just rode a bike the first time! I felt the magic that Butch and Linda have. It’s right there in my legs and arms and hands. All you gotta do is just ride -----IF you got a dad like mine!
In no time at all, Daddy runs up, kneels down beside me and asks why I didn’t stop the bike before I got to the dangerous corner. So, I tell him, “You didn’t tell me HOW to stop it!!!”
“Oh! Well, look. Just push backwards on the pedal, either one. I had your right foot on the right pedal where all you had to do was push down, and the bike would have stopped wherever you wanted it to. Then you just lean over and put your foot down on the ground. See? Safe landing every time!”
“But, Billy. You did a great job. Did you feel it?”
“I did, Daddy, but I didn’t know you were gonna let me go like that!”
“Of course not. That was the point. I knew you were ready, and I just turned you loose so YOU would know!”
“Let’s do it again!”
- Present Day -
I experienced that “magic” several more times that afternoon, but I never again got so close to the dangerous intersection just south of our home. I just used the brake!
Within a few days, I was able to get the bike started by myself AND use the pedals to keep it rolling and rolling.
Then, just a few years later, my Ware relatives brought me my very own brand new red and white bike from San Antonio. Up until I got my driver’s license on my sixteenth birthday, I rode that bike all over Del Rio. I even broke one of its tubular welds twice, and I talked an airplane mechanic friend out at McMichael’s Flying Service into welding it back twice. Both times, I asked, “How much do I owe ya?” as Daddy had taught me, and both times he said, “Nothin’, Billy.”
I will never forget the experience of realizing that my dad’s able hands were no longer balancing me on the bike and that it was my OWN balance that was making it roll straight and true.
Watching my little brother get used to and dependent upon training wheels was another experience altogether. I had to wait extra YEARS for him to get over that “affliction” so that he could ride with me far and fast. I will never be convinced that training wheels are a good thing. They’re crippling, and I don’t know why my parents decided to put them on Sterling’s first bike. But, perhaps they were afraid that HE wouldn’t stop at the corner.
Oh, and by the way, about that new bike I got from my Ware family relatives: I was SO excited when I first got it! It was red and white and even had its own head light on the handle bars, and I rode it at least a gazillian miles over the years. However, it wasn’t until I rode my older brother’s bike that I realized that I was peddling “uphill” ALL the time.
My bike was apparently not a really good bike, and it was just plain HARD to peddle – all the time. But, since “hard” is relative, and it was the only bike I had, I didn’t know the difference. I just kept peddling. And guess what! Yep. That built up my leg muscles something fierce! That’s where I got my sprinting speed and my leg strength in general. I owe it all to a cheap red and white bicycle--and my desire to travel – to REALLY travel!
William Richard Meredith