i had turned 4 the last thanksgiving, so i wasn't very old when we met. who would've thought that our meeting would have such an impact on my life? now i look back over the last 35 years of my life and realize that day was a major turning point in my life -- i was in love. not just a crush and not just puppy love, but real love. unconditional love, given w/ the knowledge that i might get hurt at some time, but that didn't matter.
i wanted to ride the bike so bad, but kirk wouldn't let me. it was his motorcycle, and he wasn't about to share it. he said it was too big for such a baby, but he always said that when he didn't want to share. i liked to ride w/ him, but he didn't have time for that very often. i didn't like for him to know how bad i wanted to ride because i didn't want him to tease me. he had something i didn't and he could do something i couldn't. that was bad enough without him teasing me about it.
i thought if i could just ride by myself then i wouldn't have to wait on him. i would have my own freedom. i could come and go as i pleased. ride when and where i wanted. i would be big. independent. not a baby anymore. i knew how to start it, how to shift gears, how to speed up, how to steer, and how to stop. i knew i could do it. i had been watching just what to do, and i knew how.
it was too big for me, but dad would've said, "that's no hill for a climber." that meant that if i wanted to do something bad enough, there was probably a way to figure out how i could do it. that's what he always said when he figured out a way to fix a problem. well, my problem was that the bike was too big; i couldn't get on. well, i could get on and reach the foot pegs, but i couldn't put the kickstand up and get moving. i was pretty sure i could kick start it, too, from standing on the foot pegs.
i had been watching the bike for several days, trying to figure out how i could ride it by myself. this particular day i found the inspiration that i needed. it was parked close to the back porch. not right next to it, but close enough to it to make me realize that if i was standing on the porch, i could get on the bike by myself. ta-dah! this climber had reached the summit.
i waited until after dinner to try out my idea. mom would rest a bit after cleaning up from dinner. she made me lie down w/ her, but if i kept still, i could sneak out as soon as she dozed off. my brother said she did it on purpose and that she wasn't really asleep, but just wanted some peace and quiet. whatever. i didn't care. i just liked having some freedom.
kirk was in the field on the tractor, mom was resting, gary was loading grain, and dad was working in the shed. everyone was accounted for and i was ready for my adventure. i pushed the bike over to the porch and leaned it up against the porch so i didn't have to put the kick stand down. i climbed up the 3 steps and then on the bike.
i just sat there for a bit, getting the feel of it. trust me, it felt good. i tried to kick start it easy, because i didn't want to tip over. that didn't work, so i had to keep jumping up and down on it a little harder each time, balancing more to the porch side. it finally started and i was ready to pull away. i had my left foot resting on top of the gas tank until i was away from the porch since the bike was resting against the concrete.
i put the bike in gear and pulled slowly away from the porch. i was going. on my own. riding the bike on my own. i shifted gears, gave it some more gas and crept out in the driveway. our drive was u-shaped w/ a huge area at about ten o'clock on the u-shape where the equipment was parked and the fuel tanks were. i had a huge open area to ride in since there was nothing parked there this day.
a few seconds later, i realized that i didn't know how to turn. i mean, i knew how kirk did it, but i didn't know how to do it. i was afraid to lean because i didn't want to tip over. i knew that i couldn't turn the handle bars too much or i would fall over the other way. i didn't want to land in the rocks because that would hurt something fierce. especially on my knees! i decided to just try to turn the handlebars just a little and see if i could turn that way. it worked, and i started making a huge, curving turn in the drive.
i rode around for a long time in the lane. probably not, really, but it felt like it. i was having such fun and i was so excited that i could ride by myself. now i could ride whenever i wanted and i wouldn't have to wait on someone else to take me. i was imagining how wonderful that would be and just couldn't wait to tell dad that i could ride the bike by myself. then i realized that i would have to tell dad that i had already ridden the bike, and he was not going to be happy about that.
i decided that i had probably better put the bike back before i got caught. no sense borrowing trouble! i turned another wide, banking turn toward the house and realized i had another problem. i couldn't stop. i knew how to stop, and i could get the bike to come to a stop. then i didn't know what to do because i couldn't reach the ground and i would tip over. i knew i couldn't ride the bike back up to the porch and get off the way i got on, so i was really in trouble now.
i was on a moving motorcycle w/ no way to stop it and get off without having an accident. i kept riding around the lane, trying to figure out what to do. suddenly this wasn't so much fun anymore. i figured i had 2 choices -- i could lay it down and then be in trouble or i could yell for help and then be in trouble. either way, i was still in trouble. the difference was whether i was hurt or not. i didn't figure there was any way out without being hurt or in trouble. of the two, i would rather be in trouble than hurt, so i guess my choice was made.
i rode closer to the shed and then started yelling for dad at the top of my lungs. "dad! dad! help me! dad! da-a-a-a-a-d! he-e-e-e-elp me! dad!" i yelled on and on. i didn't know where in the shed he was working, and i didn't know if he could hear me over the motorcycle, but i was still trying. i thought i would just keep riding and yelling until somebody came running to see what was the matter w/ me.
at the start of my third yelling circle, dad came running out of the shed, stripping out of his welding gear on the run. equipment, gloves, and helmet tossed here and there as he ran toward me. i was afraid to get too close to him because i didn't want to hit him, but i needed to get close enough to him that he could grab me. he was running to catch up to me and i was trying to watch him and watch where i was going. as i got more excited, i was giving the bike more gas on the right hand grip. i must have been pulling harder on the right, too, as i was steering away from dad all the time. i was still circling in the "holding pattern" i had been riding in while i tried to figure out how to get out of this mess.
he was yelling instructions to me, but i couldn't hear him because i was yelling for help and the bike motor was noisy. i knew he was talking real loud, though, because his face was red and he opened his mouth really big when he was talking. that was a sure sign that whatever was being said was being said loud. he kept running after me, on the outside of the circle i was turning, for almost a hundred yards. i was getting scared now because i couldn't get the bike to quit turning and i really wanted off of it. when i turned to look at dad, my right hand slipped on the handle bar and i lost my grip for a second. i didn't lose control (as if i had control to begin with!), but it did slow me down a little bit.
that break in speed was enough for dad to grab hold of me and pull me off of the bike. which went a few feet further on its own and then laid over on its side in the rocks. the motor was still running and the wheels were still turning, but it was laying in the rocks. i knew that i would've ended up in the rocks w/ it if dad hadn't run out there and caught me. that didn't bother me, really. those things happen after all.
dad gave me a hug, checked me over to make sure i wasn't hurt, then gave me a shake. as if my brain must have not been working properly before this stupidity and a good shake would give it the jump start that it needed. a pull-me-back-to-reality-shake. a what-the-hell-were-you-thinking shake. a no-more-nonsense shake, a don't-scare-me-like-that-again shake. finally, i got "the talkin' to" where dad let me know he wasn't happy w/ this business. that was usually the worst, though, because i didn't want dad to be disappointed in me.
i told him how much i wanted to ride that bike, and i could really ride that bike on my own. it was only the stopping part that was the problem. it wasn't even the stopping part, really. but the getting off after it was stopped part that was the problem. my feet just wouldn't reach the ground. i was strong enough. i was smart enough. i was brave enough. i just wasn't tall enough. it just wasn't fair!
i had the fever now. i had ridden the bike on my own, and i wanted to do it again. the problem was that i was still too short. i hadn't grown enough in the last 3 days to make a difference. i fussed at dad because i wanted to ride the bike and couldn't. i really wanted to cry about it because i was just that sad, but only babies cried about things. that's what kirk said, anyway. so i didn't cry, but i tried every other tactic i could think of -- i begged, i pleaded, i bargained, i promised, i fussed, i griped, i guilted, i pouted, i told grandma. i couldn't focus on anything else other than getting back on that bike.
dad knew that he would have to do something or i would try it again. of course, he could just order me not to do it, but he probably knew that wouldn't work. i'm sure he could see that i was determined to get back on that bike. kirk was mad at me for riding his bike without asking him. really i think he was just mad that i did ride it. if i had asked, he would've told me "no!", so that wouldn't have done any good.
i wanted to ride that bike. problem was, i couldn't find the bike now. just to make sure i wasn't trying to ride it again, dad and kirk kept it hidden. that way, dad didn't have to worry about me getting on it when no one was around to come rescue me. bad thing is that i probably would've done just that. i had done it once and knew i could ride it; i would try it again. it wouldn't have taken me long to figure out that laying it down in the grass wouldn't hurt that bad.
over the next few days, dad was working on building a wooden rack in the shop. i didn't know what it was, and i wasn't going to ask him. i was mad at him for not letting me ride the bike. no doubt i was probably mad at myself some, too, for not being able to make him do what i wanted. but i understood that i needed to have a way to get off of it, though.
well, dad solved that problem for me. he built a little ride-thru landing for me. a wooden design that looked like a box about a foot thick w/ a trough right down the middle of it, w/ the idea that i could ride the bike in the trough-like part and put my feet on the sides that were built up. i could also leave the bike propped up there for the next time i wanted to ride. dad put "jill's landing" right out next to the loading dock at the shed. if the bike was in the shed, i was strong enough to push it to the landing to get on.
that wasn't the worst emergency that i've had on a bike and i'm sure it won't be the last. that day gave me the burning desire to ride bikes and that feeling has never gone away. i love the feeling of freedom, the peace, the solitude, the serenity. it's so rejuvenating to my soul. there are days when i can just go outside, stand facing the wind, and take a deep breath to remind me of how much i enjoy the sun on my face and the wind blowing through my hair as i ride through the countryside. unfortunately, i've had to give part of that up as i now wear a helmet, but the ride is still well worth it.