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Zooming down hills in my memory

February 9, 2012

Whenever I need a little adrenalin rush, I just zoom downhill in some childhood memories… via a sled, bike, wagon or old truck.

On metal runner sleds, squinting into the white, gripping the steering bar, we’d fly, headfirst, through stinging snow, down the big hill at the horse farm. Sometimes we’d weave around three little maple trees or soar over a speed bump. Sometimes two or three kids piled on one sled and crashed and rolled. But we’d always trudge slowly back up the hill, head down, calf muscles straining, boots crunching, pulling the sled and puffing, and do it all over again.

On bikes, legs out straight, hair flying, clothes flying, we’d zoom down that same hill in the summer, praying we didn’t hit a rock.  We flew down the curving driveway that led from the black horse barn at the top of the hill to the horse loading area at the bottom.  Black wooden fences followed the driveway, and sometimes thoroughbreds grazed near the fence, ignoring us colts.

I owned the only flatbed wagon with a front steering bar and back brake bar that I’ve ever seen. It was forest green and had a removable pull handle and removable wooden sideboards. If riding single, I could kneel or sit on the wagon bed, grasping the steering bar, with one foot or hand poised on the brake bar on the back of the wagon bed. Then I would zoom down our sloped Culligan parking lot (across the street from the horse farm) and turn sharply to avoid running into the street. I could push back on the brake bar, which pushed the bottom of the bar into the back tires, as needed.  If riding two or more kids, the front rider steered and the back rider braked.

I book my bike apart by loosening the knob in front of the seat.

Oh, how I missed that sledding and biking hill and the parking lot slope when we sold the Culligan business and moved to the farm when I was 11. So one fine summer day I decided that my younger sister and I would ride my new bike down the steep hill behind the old barn in the far pasture. We pushed my green spider bike as far as we could along the cow path. Then, using the big knob for that very purpose (Mom always bought interesting products), I took my bike apart. Carrying the back section of the bike, and coaxing my sister to carry the front section, I led the expedition party up the steep hill. At the top, we rested and ate a snack, and I put the bike back together. Then I got on the seat, settled my sister over the back fender, surveyed the land to be conquered and plunged down the hill.   I fought for control as the bike bucked over the weeds and rutty ground. Partway down, I glanced back to see that my partner was sitting, stunned, near the top of the hill.

In an old dusty Dodge pickup, with my brother at the wheel, my brother and younger sister and I would haul the family trash to the county dump. To be truthful, mostly Bro did the hauling, and Sis and I went along to forage, ignoring all parental orders to the contrary. We strained forward going up each hill on the washboard gravel road, urging the truck to make it to the top. Then, grinning, Bro let ‘er rip down that hill and as far up the next one as physics would take us.  At the dump, we each staked out a smelly, fly-buzzed area to search for treasures. “Hey, look at this!” we yelled to one another. A doll with punk hair. A pretty bottle. An old shovel. It’s amazing what perfectly good stuff people throw away.

The internet-, air conditioned-, sanitized landfill- generation has no idea how exciting a rollicking ride to the dump was on a hot summer day when the farm chores back home were endless. Or how exhilarating a dangerous runner sled ride was. But I suppose they are storing up their own more or less legal, adrenalin-pumping ride memories. Come to think of it, their stories are probably already on YouTube.


P.S. This photo I found of a “spider bike” similar to mine called it a Western Flyer Hi-Lo bicycle.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Eve Wallinga permalink
    February 10, 2012 4:31 am

    I loved it! I can just see, Julie, you flying down that hill!

  2. Eve Wallinga permalink
    February 10, 2012 4:32 am

    Oops! “I can just see you, Julie, flying down that hill!”

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