Boy were we ever happy, my brother, Tom and I . Dad (Santa Claus) had given us new bikes for Christmas. The brand name on them was something like Western Flyer and they were fancy with an enclosed straddle bar and headlight (but we couldn't afford batteries). They also had a double-knee action spring above the front wheel. The tires were the balloon kind with white walls. The bikes had a glorious red paint job. Years later, Pee Wee Herman had nothing on us.
It wasn't long before we put the new bikes to the test, riding them around the neighborhood and taking a few longer trips to Brazil and once to Center Point. Reelsville was part of our neighborhood because we lived on the Clay and Putnam county line.
Our neighbor and friend, Gene Hassler, had a new English bike with narrow tires and a three-speed gear shift which gave him an advantage over us in speed.
When all three of us got together, the race was on during the day and sometimes at night. This brings us up to the big bike wreck.
Gene and I were 12 and Tom was 14 at the time. We were very familiar with all the gravel roads in our area. U.S. 40 was our only pavement.
We had neighbors who were nice, friendly people who lived about a mile north of U.S. 40 on the Putnam County side of the line. Their driveway was about 300 yards long and mostly dirt. The LaFollettes invited us to play Canasta with them on several occasions. They also had popcorn for us.
One dark night after a visit to the LaFollettes, out of their lane we came with no lights on, very slowly on our bikes. But after reaching the county line road, we could tell where the tracks were on the gravel road because the gravel was heaped up in the middle of the road.
We had just started down the long hill, which went almost the entire mile toward U.S. 40, when the race began.
Gene and Tom took both car tracks so I knew I couldn't get around them and they were moving out fast. The only way to pass them was to take my half out of the middle of the road. They weren't going to leave me behind. So, I dove for the middle and was really standing hard on those pedals and the rocks began to fly. Just as I got right between them, my handle bars touched theirs on both sides. Then came a genuine NASCAR kind of wipeout.
All three of us, bikes and all, landed in a 5-foot ditch filled with briars, sticks, bushes and gravel. We all had scratches and bruises, but that wasn't the worst part. The other two were red hot mad and yelled some very unfriendly words to me in high-pitched voices.
I found my bike and got away from them as fast as I could in the dark.
I remember pushing my bike home so it must have been broken, or maybe it was me that broken.
Anyway, I stayed clear of my good friends for a few days until things settled down.
The moral is: It's all right to get ahead in life but don't push your luck by taking the wrong lane, especially on a gravel road.
Dick Hull is a lifelong resident of Clay County.