The story of a boy, a girl and a bicycle
By Bill Shepard
There is nothing unusual about the characters in this story. Boys and girls are as common as the air we breathe and the water we drink. All have been around almost since the beginning of time. Bicycles haven’t been around quite that long, but they, too, are as common as the wheel. I recall the first balloon tire bicycle that I ever saw. I had seen a few of the older types that had the small rim and tubeless tire, but I had never seen the one I am about to tell you about. I doubt if someone would drive down the same street today in a new Rolls-Royce that he or she would get the attention that those boys with the shiny red and white balloon tire bike got on that day long ago. The time was, to my best recollection about 1931, give or take a year or two. The proud owners of those bikes were the Anderson brothers who lived on a small farm and dairy near the mill village where I grew up as a boy. The day’s work being ended on the farm, the boys mounted their new bikes and rode to the village to show them off. Needless to say, they were the envy of all those who gathered to see for the first time, these new and shiny red and white bikes with the balloon tire. As far as I knew, no one on the village had ever seen such a bike before. Nor were they likely to take off to town to purchase one. These boys had an advantage that those of us on the village did not have. Besides having a small farm, their dad owned and operated a small dairy that furnished milk to the stores as well as to the villagers who could afford to purchase it. The boys were the main workers of the operation and earned money that afforded them luxuries that other did not have. But this story is not supposed to be about the Anderson boys and their bicycles, but about another boy, a girl, and his bicycle. The day came when I became the proud owner of a bike just like the ones I have mentioned above. I had never expected, on that day that I stood in awe of those bicycles, that one day I would own one, too. I would never have allowed myself to dream such a dream. But it did happen a year or so later, and in an unusual way. A young man decided to sell his bike and offered it to me for a small payment down and 50 cents a week payments until I had paid $18. Since I was employed at a small store in the village on weekends, my Dad agreed that if I would make the payments, I could purchase the bike. I will never forget the excitement of that decision. My earnings amounted to 75 cents for a Friday afternoon and all day Saturday work period. I could afford the 50 cents payment and the responsibility was all mine. I would be the envy of every boy on the village. The Friday night before I was to get the bike on Saturday was the longest I have ever spent. Sleep would not come! I imagined everything possible would happen, even death, to prevent my owning that bicycle. I was afraid to go to sleep for fear that I would not wake up. It was just too good to happen, so I thought. But it did and the next day I took possession of the beautiful red and white balloon tire bicycle. No peacock was ever more proud as I, when I coasted down the narrow dirt street on my new possession. Now, the year was 1935. I was a 15-year-old looking forward to my 16th year. That was sort of a milestone for a young boy on the village. At 16, he would be eligible for a job at the big cotton mill. There had been a time when one could go to the mill and work at 14. I was proud to ride to school with my new bicycle, not because I was too lazy to walk nor preferred riding instead of walking. Mainly it was because I wanted as many people as possible to see my new bike. There was not another like it on the village. There were a few other bikes, but none to compare with mine. I parked my bike at a designated place near the school. Then when the dismissal bell rang, I would hurry outside, mount my bike and speed away toward home. Now it is time to tell about the girl in this story. For some reason that I can’t remember and its not important anyway, I was late getting away from school on this particular day. The children had formed in their usual little groups and were on their way home. By the time I caught up with them, they were already a good distance from school. I approached a rather large group of young girls who were showing signs of happiness and school was out. I knew all of them by name, but today there were two, maybe three, extra ones in the group that I had not seen before. As I neared the group, a girl I knew well, whose name was Frances, called out to me, “Bill, have you met the new preacher’s daughter?” Of course, I had not met the new preacher’s daughter, nor for that matter I had not heard there was a new preacher at the small church in the village. Really, I did not attend church regularly, only when something special was taking place. Then I saw her! I think she was embarrassed at her friend’s outburst to me about her. By now, I was alongside of the crowd and my eyes fell on the most angelic face that I had ever seen. If there is indeed such a thing as love at first sight, then it happened that day and at that moment. “Want a ride?” I asked, and sped on past before there could be an answer. It was an answer that never came anyway. I later described her as “the girl with the angel’s face,” and the description fit well. It would be a long wait before I would ever get close enough to see the real beauty in her eyes, and the rose color of her cheeks. But I had seen enough to know that I wanted her to be my girl, my sweetheart, and someday my wife. The story of our courtship, what there was of it, and how we finally became partners for life is a long one. Bits of it have been shared here and there, but there is too much to include here. After all, this is the story of a boy, a girl and a red bicycle.