Back then, when I was growing up, we didn’t have all the many forms of entertainment that are available now. Hard as it is to believe, we didn’t have television. My media entertainment came from my Hopalong Cassidy radio. The only pictures available were those my mind created as the radio drama was broadcast.
We didn’t even have skateboards. We didn’t have in-line skates. We did have roller skates, the kind where you twisted a gear to make them clamp properly onto you shoes. Goodness knows, we didn’t have adequate transportation. We actually had to walk to school if we lived within two miles of the school. (By the way, it was uphill, both ways.)
But we did have bicycles. Every kid in my age group had a bike. I was lucky. I had a Schwinn, a classic. It was red. It had tremendous appeal, what with the space between the bars connecting the seat area to the front steering mechanism being wrapped with an attractive metal plate. The graphics on that coverage were tremendous. My poor brother, seven years younger than I, alas, only had a Huffy Convertible, a children’s bike with rear training wheels and foot steps. Bless his heart.
So, bikes were a status symbol. One washed one’s bike. One checked the tire pressure on one’s bike. When feeling exuberant one purchased plastic streamers that could be fastened to the rubber grips on the steering bar handles that would flutter in the wind.
We went everywhere on those bikes. Back then there was no other way to get to everywhere other than our bikes, unless one wanted to walk, which would be somewhat of a comedown.
So, I had this great bike. I mean, I had a Schwinn. How I got a Schwinn I do not know. Mother and Daddy did not have that much money. But, nevertheless, I had a Schwinn. It looked good.
Back then, humans were very much the same as they are now. Today, if someone is able to purchase a top-of-the-line American made automobile, it won’t be six months until they begin thinking of purchasing a BMW. It was that way with my Schwinn. It was a great bike. It was sleek and red. I loved riding it, but I wanted something more.
My mother didn’t give birth to stupid kids. I knew I was not going to get any bike better than my Schwinn. But, like I say, my mother did not give birth to stupid kids. So …
I sat on the front porch one day looking down at my red, sleek, Schwinn resting on its kick stand in the driveway. Suddenly, I had an idea. If I was never going to get anything better that the Schwinn, I could at least make the Schwinn better.
I headed into the house. The first stop was to the laundry room. I confiscated four of my mother’s clothes pens. Then there was a dash into my parent’s bedroom. I knew my Daddy had a deck of cards in his sock drawer. (Actually, I knew where Mother and Daddy hid everything. But that’s another story.) Quickly, I thumbed through the deck and extracted four aces. Then I dashed outside.
I affixed the four aces, two on each side of the Schwinn's rear wheel. This was accomplished by affixing one end of each card to the fender brace with the closes pens. The other side of the card stuck out in the space between the rear tire spokes. Mounting the bike I headed out the driveway. Sure enough, the spokes stroking the cards produced this sound that, to my young ears, sounded like a powerful machine.
Up and down the street I pedaled, with the roaring sound of activated aces accompanying my journey.
Bobby Garner, my next-door neighbor must have heard the pulsating sound of my card-enhanced Schwinn. He pedaled out of his driveway on his broken down bike. I don’t remember the model of Bobby Garner’s bike. Why would I? It was a piece of trash. It certainly wasn’t a Schwinn. And it certainly wasn't producing a mighty sound as was mine.
He commented on my bike’s addition. I told him "Thanks," and I thought it was neat. And then he said, “Want to race to the end of the street?”
“Want to race to the end of the street?” Bobby Garner was a fool. I was on a Schwinn that was playing card enhanced. “Sure,” I said. And we both took off.
It was an even race for about half the distance to the end of the street. At that point Bobby Garner passed me like I was standing still. I didn’t understand it. I was crushed. I know that at the end of the street, when I got off the bike, it didn’t seem as red as it was at the other end of the street. I bent down and removed the cards and the clothes pens from the bike. It was a lot quieter riding home.
There’s a lesson here: Making a lot of noise is no guarantee you’ll win the race.