Riding my Bluey to school

Freddy Birchmore - El Cajon, CA

My first bike was a girl's bicycle, all bluey-white, and rusty until Daddy painted it some more. My sister Becky gave it to me when she got a big new one. It had a Indian-head badge and a big wire basket in front. For books and crackers and a army canteen. 

We couldn't afford trainer wheels like rich kids had but my Daddy held the back of the seat and pushed me so I could roll in a straight line across the lawn and into a bush without getting hurt. I rode my bicycle to school, but not at first. I walked to Kindergarten in mornings because I was four. Rollo always scared me when I walked by his house at the top of the hill. I had to make believe I was picking up a rock to throw. I liked to come home in Henry's mom's car some times, to stay away from Rollo after school. When I was five I could ride my bicycle and stop without using the hedge so I rode it to school for practice then rode there really in First Grade.

Rollo got even madder every time he saw my bicycle. I had to get off it when he came in the street. Then I had to get on it again and go fast. He got arrested and went to a nursing home but his littler cousin Rufus stayed and was bad like Rollo. I kept riding my Bluey to school. It used to take me a long time to walk to there, but with Bluey it took only a short time, and shorter when Rufus didn't come out to bother me, although he did most of the time. But when I got bigger I made him stop.

In second Grade I was almost seven, and I could carry my Pancho Gonzales racket to school. When I reached Rufus's territory, at the top of the hill above my house, I determined not to stop this time, but instead to bull my way through the kill zone, come heck or high water. Rufus began to chase me, snarling and snapping at my little feet as I churned Bluey's pedals as fast as I could.  As he caught my pants cuff in his teeth I pulled my Pancho out of the basket and waffled his nose with a backhand stroke. Rufus barked loud every time I rode by after that but he never ever tried to chase me on my bicycle ever again.

Bluey was littler than other boys bicycles, and it was a girl's. But nobody made fun of it at school because my dad was a Bicycle King. Daddy's bicycle was named Pegasus. He later sent Pegasus to the Smithsonian Museum to be with Bucephalus.

Most boys had Raleigh 3-speeds, with skinny tires. Bluey had little bitty wheels, but wide tires. I could splash puddles really good, and go through red mud and down through the woods and across the creek and even over some logs. I went in the pond once, to see if I could ride on the bottom like Aquaman, but I couldn't when it got deep.

Daddy used to take Mother, Becky and me bicycle riding to Whitehall, a big white house in the country that the Yankees didn't quite burn down. We rode in the highway and next to the train tracks but never got run over.  We would eat peanut butter crackers in the pasture and drink water out of our army canteens and fly kites. Once our dog Skippy rolled in a cow patty and once Becky stepped in a yellow jacket nest and I got shocked by an electric fence. I loved the adventures with my parents and Becky, and my sister Linda and brother Danny came along too as soon as they could be born.

When I was in Third Grade Santa finally brought me a new, full-grown cruiser with balloon tires, a rear fender rack and a headlamp and a squeeze horn. At first I couldn't sit on the seat and reach the pedals so I just rode everywhere standing up, with the seat sometimes poking my back. I finally grew a little bigger, and my world exploded, in a good way. It was as though I had been given wings. With this vehicle my range increased a hundredfold. I could now travel, on my own, anywhere within a 40-mile radius, including to school, the tennis courts, downtown, cross-country. I could carry heavy cargo, my BB gun  and even passengers (record was three). It was a one-speed, but I could hit 30mph on the level, and downhill potential seemed unlimited. The frame weight and fat tires gave a no-wobble stability that modern racers just cannot match.

Daddy was a devotee of one-speeds, having pedaled Bucephalus around the world in the late 30's, then all over the American continents on Pegasus soon thereafter. He and Mother had honeymooned on a tandem down to Central America and back, etc. He was still riding a one-speed when he passed away last year, at age 101. That's why he was a Bicycle King, and maybe that's why nobody ever messed with me and my first, girl's, bike.

I have owned several bicycles during my lifetime, including a heavy spring-shock antique beach cruiser, a classic Raleigh, a few trick bikes, and a sleek 1970 Campana Sport, which I still have. We never forget our Firsts, though, and I shall never forget my first bike, my faithful little old Bluey. I doubt that Ol Wafflenose Rufus will ever forget it either, from his perch in Doggy Heaven (or wherever bad dogs go).

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