It was pink. It was designed for a girl. But dagnabbit, it was mine. All mine.
My parents had very little money back I was growing up here in Franklin County. As I sometimes tell my comedy audiences, we were so poor we couldn’t afford neighbors. We were so poor our bologna didn’t even have a second name.
Then came along 1976 and the tenth anniversary of my birth. I’d already begun driving old green Datsun pickup truck around our property, but my father was planning to surprise his eldest son with a couple wheels of his own for a “double-digit” birthday.
Some of you remember Green’s Pharmacy in Ferrum. It was the sort of small-town store that reminded me of Oleson’s Mercantile on “Little House on the Prairie.” Or Godsey’s General Merchandise Store on “The Waltons.” It had a little bit of everything: Tools. Groceries. Toys. Household items. Lawn mowers. Hard candy. Soda pop.
And yes, even bicycles.
But on September 6 of 1976, the day before my 10th birthday, Green’s Pharmacy didn’t have a single boy’s bike in stock. Just a pink bicycle with a flowery banana seat and tassels hanging from the ends of the hi-rise handlebars. But apparently Hugh Green made a deal with my cash-strapped father, because pretty soon a new bike was being loaded into the back of our family’s white Ambassador station wagon.
The following afternoon, after Bus 94 returned the Stiles kids from Ferrum Elementary School and I’d walked down our mile-long driveway, my dad took me out to the shed.
The chicken shed behind our house, that is.
Somewhere there's an old Polaroid snapshot of me standing near a small cherry tree in our backyard, wearing black and white striped slacks with bell bottoms. And wearing a dark blue t-shirt emblazoned with the word LOVE in colorful plastic lettering on the front, with a smile on my face that mirrored the word on my t-shirt. With my brand-spankin’-new bicycle, shining in the sun on an afternoon with clear skies.
I didn’t even notice the feminine color of my gift. Or the flowery banana seat. Or the tassels flowing from the ends of the hi-rise handlebars. Or the fact the bike had no bar running from the seat to the handle bar—a feature originally designed to allow a girl wearing a dress to get on her ride without exposing her undergarments.
Nearly two score and three years after that memorable event, my once-shiny pink bike can still be seen in the weeds behind that old chicken shed—a falling-down shed that’s holding up much better than my shiny bicycle of foregone years.
In fact, the only pink left on that old bike frame is a small spot on the front of the steering column—where the tassels are gone but a rusty metal bar still runs all the way from the hi-rise handlebars back to the ripped-up-banana seat . . .
. . . so a girl in years past could easily mount the bike without revealing her bloomers.
(Jeff Stiles is a retired insurance agent who remains active performing standup comedy and writing. He and Mindy recently moved to Ferrum.)