Despite living in a small town, there was a lot of ground to cover if the only means of transportation were your feet. Gueydan had only two main roads running through it with two segregated schools on one end where poor folks like my family lived and the "upper class" folks living on the other end of town. Our houses on McMurtry Street were only a few blocks away from the library where my oldest sister worked during the summer.
Usually I didn't mind walking all the way from our house to the library and back. It give me a few moments of freedom away from my home life, but it also gave me a chance to fill my head with dreams of faraway places and worlds where my life had more meaning. But my favorite time going to the library was when my mother used to tell me to walk my sister's bike to her so she could ride it back at the end of her shift.
I was only about eight or nine at the time but thought I had the perfect plan for being able to teach myself how to ride that bike. You see, Carol was the only one who had a bike. Mother thought I would hurt myself trying to get on it so she forbid me to ride it over to the library. So I walked it...that is until I thought I was out of sight of the house...and then I would hop on and wobble my way down the road several blocks until the library came into view. Then I would hop off and walk it the rest of the way.
Day after day I rode the bike that summer, never realizing my mother was actually watching me from the safety of our front porch, until I became quite proficient at handling it without running into the parked cars along the way. Oh the thrill of those clandestine rides, summer sun warm on my cheek and the wind lifting the ends of my hair like little bird wings as I soared down the street toward my daily destination.
I truly thought this would be my only chance to travel by any other means than my own two feet, so imagine my surprise when Janet and I received two bright blue bicycles from Santa Claus that Christmas. We could hardly contain our excitement and Mother let us ride it in front of the house on Christmas Day but told us we were never allowed to ride it when she wasn't around. A simple enough rule to follow...that is if you didn't count the temptation for two eager children full of the need to test the speed of their new bikes.
Later that day my parents had to make a run to the grocery store and wouldn't be back for about an hour. Just enough time for two girls to hatch up a plan to ride our bikes some more without Mother's knowledge we were breaking her number one rule. There was a narrow gravel road that ran for several blocks behind our house and we thought it would be safe to ride our bikes there for just a few minutes. There would still be plenty of time to return the bikes to the garage before Daddy and Mother returned home.
Everything started out fine and we rode side by side until we suddenly came upon a car parked in front of us. We were going too fast to stop in time but there was just enough room for us to pass on each side...me going to the left and Janet to the right...and we would continue down the road once we got past the car. Or so we thought.
Imagine our horror when we miscalculated the distance between our front tires and with a sickening crunch, crashed into each other just as we cleared the car in our path. Tumbling to the ground, we sat for a moment in stunned silence and almost too afraid to check for any damage. Knowing we couldn't just sit there forever, we got up to inspect our brand new bikes and discovered both front tires were badly bent.
It's moments like those that make a kid want to run away from home and never look back. We KNEW this was a beating offense should our mother discover our misdeed and yet we desperately tried to think of a way to conceal it from her without any luck. Unfortunately this is where I have to leave my story an open ended tale as I honestly don't remember what happened next other than I remember having to walk our brand new bikes back home because they were too damaged to be ridden. Maybe Janet can help my memory out and let us all know if we ended up not being able to sit down for a week or if, by some miracle we managed to keep Mother from finding out. All I know is by the time the dust settled from our foolish accident, there was only enough good parts left of those two bikes for ONE bike for the two of us to ride...