Monday, March 26, 2007

The First Bicycle

It was the late 30’s and war had broken out with Germany, that event would change the lives of everybody from that point on. Of course being a kid sometimes had its advantages, for the adults had to do all the worrying. Kids just did as they were told.

So after being evacuated out of the bombing zones, a new life was started in a new town. Life was pretty tough in the beginning with three families to a small house. Food and clothes were very scarce because of the rationing. There certainly was little money left over for anything other than necessities.

Rick was a scrawny kid of seven years going on eight, the eldest of three boys in the family. It wasn’t always easy because it seemed that with two younger brothers to keep an eye on, there wasn’t always enough time for any fun. As it was, he regarded himself as the man of the family even at that young age, for their father had died when they were mere babies. So with the advent of the times it was very hard in those days.

Anyway, not one to be deterred Rick had set his sights on a bike. Even at that young age he had a newspaper route. It didn’t pay a whole lot but after giving his wages to his mom to help out, she always gave him an allowance. All he had to do was save up whenever it was possible, it was a slow process but he knew eventually he would have enough.

Knowing that he could not afford a new bicycle yet, Rick had decided that the best way to go was to visit the local scrap yard. Equally as important to Rick though, nearby on his route, there was a bicycle shop that sold new bicycles. He had been in the store more than once, talking to the shopkeeper about how one day he would be buying one of those beautiful machines. The man would just smile and allowed Rick to browse around and sniff and touch the machines. Who knows, maybe one day the kid would have enough money to fulfill his dream. Anyway it was always nice to have such an enthusiastic potential customer. Besides, the paper always arrived on time and that pleased the storekeeper.

Near where Rick lived there was the scrap yard with all kinds of wonderful things in it. He had been there on a few occasions before taking a look around. Sometimes picking up anything that was of interest that he could maybe find a use for. The man who looked after the yard was used to him dropping by from time to time, so it was never a problem. It was amazing really just what kind of things one could find in there. For a kid it was a virtual treasure trove, for there was all kinds of household junk, old bikes, gas stoves, cupboards even some parts of cars and stuff. One time Rick had even found an old pair of roller skates that just needed a few new bearings, needless to say Rick had snapped up his find pretty fast. The scrap yard was where he had found the old wheels and axles, that he used to make his little wagon. He would use it sometimes to carry things home from the store for his mom so it was in constant use doing a variety of things. Besides having soapbox races with some of the other kids at times, he got lots of enjoyment from the wagon.

So all of this was his incentive to work at his project; for every day when doing his papers, he would take a look in the shop window at the bikes and wished. He could almost detect a new smell to the shiny bikes. For like most things that were new there always seemed to be that freshness odor about them, that made them seem almost delicious. The bikes with the sporty frames and new clean oiled chains riding over new gears. The pedals with their toe grips, so your feet wouldn’t slip off when you were pedaling. Brake cables that looked so resplendent along with the grips mounted on the drop handle bars. He just knew one day one of those beautiful machines would be his own.

So it was that one day not long after, Rick had enough money saved to go to the scrap yard. Entering the yard, he spoke to the man in charge and told him what he was looking for. He directed Rick to the area of the yard where there were all kinds of scrap bikes. Looking things over, it didn’t take Rick long to realize that one bike alone would not do the trick.

Rick started hunting through what was there. Finally he picked out three bikes that he figured he could strip down and use the parts to build one reasonable cycle. He then went to see the man again and struck a deal with him. I think the guy took pity on Rick and maybe was impressed at the way Rick had approached how he would achieve his goal. Having succeeded at the scrap yard, Rick went happily on his way home with half of his prizes in tow piled on his little wagon. It took two trips.

It was a couple of days later before Rick started to work on dismantling the scrap bikes. It sure was hard work at first, for a lot of the parts had started to rust over and some were no good at all. Piece by piece, the parts were taken off and assembled in a pile set to one side. Rick finally decided which frame he would use, then started to work at getting all the old finish and rust off it. That took a lot of painstaking work and not something that you would accomplish in a day. He then put it aside ready to be painted. It would sure look good with a nice shiny coat of red paint.
On checking the brake pads and housing mounts, he figured he could salvage a set that would do the job okay. He would have to buy new cables and pads. Fortunately the calipers were still pretty good.
Two or three of the wheels were in reasonable shape, with the exception of a couple of broken spokes that would need changing and new tires. All in all, things weren’t too bad, so Rick was quite happy with the results. Heck he even had a few spare parts over just in case anything went wrong later.

As it turned out, it was almost three more weeks before Rick was able to finally assemble his bike. The tires and cables had cost a bit more than he had figured they would be, so he had had to save a little more money.

Finally the great day came and Rick stood looking critically at the finished bike. It wasn’t brand new but it sure looked pretty good, so all excited he set off for a test drive. Gingerly, he took off down the street turning left past the stores and school, then carried on around the block of houses, finally arriving back home after a good workout of a couple of miles. All things considered, everything went okay for a first ride.
He just had a couple of minor adjustments to make to tighten up the chain, and one of the brakes slipped a bit, but an adjustment on the cable fixed that up fairly quickly. Finally, he had to lower the handlebars slightly.

There! Success!

He went to tell his mom, grinning from ear to ear for he was so pleased. Now all he had to save up for was a pair of new mudguards and the bike would really look something.

It sure was going to be a lot easier going to the paper shop to do his route, now that the bike was running okay. There would be no end to the things that he could do, using the bike. Of course, one of the first things he would do, was go to the bicycle store to show off his work to the storekeeper for he had told him about his project. The man had said he would like to see the bike when it was finished and Rick was proud of his achievement. Next he would call in at the scrap yard and show the man there what he had created out of the scrap bikes. Rick was looking forward with excitement to all the places he would be able to go to. Also, all the errands he could do for people to earn a little extra money.

Time to eat!



Margie said...

Hi Eric
I enjoyed this story very much!
Thanks for sharing it.
Hope all's well.
Ive been so busy....not much time for visiting!
Take care!


Eric Valentine said...

Margie, thank you so, much glad you enjoyed the story. I thought you had been busy.

Take it easy.