Friday, March 16, 2012
On the Bikes of Boyhood ...
You didn't want your bike to look new, not in the 1950s in Enid, Oklahoma. Not in my hometown! Kids with new bikes were, well, you know ...
(I still have a Schwinn, damnit! Enid habits die hard.)
Also, you didn't put a lot of flashy junk on your bike. No lights, no colorful plastic streamers coming out of the handlebars, definitely no horns or bells or whistles. Basic bike, that's it. Your bike was a tool, a weapon--not a toy!
And just to prove how "basic" we were, most of us removed our kickstands. No (sane) Enid boy used a kickstand. A bike had only two positions: up and rolling and under your butt; on the ground. That's it. Anyone who used the bike rack at school was, well, you know ... Lots of us removed the chain guard, too--and the front fender.
I remember the look on my dad's face when he saw lying on the lawn my brand-new red Schwinn, sans kickstand, sans chain guard, sans fender ... sans everything.
We always got our new bikes (uh, Schwinns) at Ernie's--Ernie Williamson, whose ads on KCRC radio were wild: He called himself "The Mad Merchant of Market Street." But I knew him as the father of Shirley Williamson, whom I loved fiercely until she beat me--easily--in a footrace down the church sidewalk one Sunday after services. Then I wasn't so sure if it was really love, you know? (We kept in touch, now and then, till she went to Colorado College, and I have no idea what happened to her.) Shirley taught me something, very early, about the relative skills of men and women. I've had countless reminder lessons ever since.
And now ... look at that picture of my bike, my Schwinn! Kickstand. Chain guard. Front fender. Lights. BELL!
I can see my Enid self sneering ... then, after school, kicking my ass.