Courage at Twilight: A “New” Bicycle

Dad and his sister Louise and brother Bill had been telling their mother, Dora, that they wanted a bicycle for Christmas.  Other children in the neighborhood had bicycles, but Dad’s family did not have a bicycle, so they asked their mother for one.  Dora acquired an old bicycle for their Christmas, but she told them they could not ride it until they painted it, because she did not want anyone to know that it was used.  They rode it anyway that very Christmas day.  But later they did paint the bicycle from a small can of bright red paint.  The man at the paint store told them to stir and stir and stir the paint, which they did obediently for a long time.  With the children’s paint job, the bicycle still did not look new—but it certainly was red.  Soon after they started riding the bicycle, something punctured an innertube, and the tire went flat.  The children walked the bicycle to the service station and asked the attendant how to pump up a bike tire.  The man took the nozzle of the air compressor and showed them how to push it onto the stem of the inner tube that poked out from the rim.  But he neglected to tell them how long to pump the air.  When the man left, they put the compressor nozzle on the stem and simply held it there, air pumping all the while.  They held the nozzle in place until the tire suddenly exploded.  Dejected, they walked the bicycle home and told their mother that the tire blew up.  “What do you mean the tire blew up?” she barked.  Of course, she helped them find another tube for the tire.  Dad taught Bill how to ride the bicycle, but he did not think to teach Bill how to stop the bicycle.  Dad got Bill going down the inclined street, and Bill rode faster and faster on his right-angle approach to the busiest road in town: State Street.  “How do I stop?  How do I stop?!” Bill began hollering.  Fortunately, Bill rode into a fence and fell over, unhurt, instead of riding out into certain death on State Street.

(Pictured above, right to left: Dad, Louise, Bill, circa 1950.)

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