Playing Andy-Andy Over around the cob house during daytime and Moonlight-Starlight among the big trees on the front lawn after dark were highlights of summer for me until we got our ﬁrst bicycles. It was during the late 1940's. My dad and brother went to the Sioux City stockyards to watch a load of hogs being sold. The day livestock was sold meant there would be money for a few extras. My brother had raised his own pigs so he had a check all his own. He used it to buy a brand new balloon-tired Schwinn bike. But dad didn't forget about his four daughters at home so he spent money on two used bicycles for us. They were blue with tall skinny tires. He called them English bikes and he said he bought two because he got a good deal on them. The one for the big girls to share was a boy's bike and Margaret and I had a girl's bike.
Our bikes were much taller than the Schwinn but my brother considered his sturdy purchase sacred so we had to learn on the spindly-looking, skinny-tired bikes. Neither Margaret nor I had ever tried to ride a bike before that time. I spent hours riding up and down the lawn below the clothes line wires. If I thought I was losing balance, I would reach up and grab the wire rather than fall over. I assume that method of learning to ride was undertaken after our ﬁrst major injury-producing fall. There was no guard over the chain and when Margaret took a tumble, her leg got caught and ripped open. She didn't want the folks to know how bad it looked, afraid they would make her quit trying to ride until she got bigger. We wrapped a dish towel around the leg and hoped it would stop bleeding before it was time to go in for supper. The gash was huge. It wasn't long before it came to Mom's attention. She doctored it in her usual fashion, antiseptic, lots of gauze and white adhesive tape wrapped around and around. Margaret was not grounded but the incident led to a chain guard being put on the bike and a life-long scar on her leg.
Once we mastered the art of riding and the big girls were busy we used both blue bikes and spent most of our free time riding. Our longest ride was around the square section that included our farmland. It was a four-mile ride that took us, at the very least, an hour. We challenged ourselves to improve our time but always gave in to distractions. The distractions: stopping at friend, Lucille's, house; resting near a little wooden bridge; and exploring the ditches for asparagus or wild roses.
There was one day each summer that we willingly left the bikes sit idle. Every June the Fredonia Farmerettes, a 4-H club, went to a pond in a nearby town for a day of swimming. The ﬁrst time I was in the club the excitement created at the thought of a picnic at the New Deal Park and a day of playing in the shallow end of the pond was almost more than I could bear. I got sick to my stomach. It almost ended the day for me but mother relented and allowed me to go along at the last minute.
We didn't own swimming suits since we only needed them one day every summer. That was not a problem because at the pool's bath house you could rent them. It is hard to believe we did that, but it didn't seem strange at the time. We both loved the water but Margaret swallowed so much that she got sick. For me it was before the fact, for her it was after. In spite of both of us feeling less than top notch at some point that day, we loved our day at the pool.
These days, as one part of a retired couple, our summer recreation is made up of occasional rounds of golf, watching our grandsons' baseball games at either the Little League or the high school park. The hottest hours of the day we spend indoors playing cards with friends or my man watches St. Louis Cardinal games and Bonanza re-runs on television while I read, write or crochet in air-conditioned comfort. I can be lured back outdoors to go to a swimming pool for water aerobics.
I remember my earlier love of bike riding when my sons talk about their family bike rides. I toy with the idea of giving it a try again. But the golf cart sits alongside the bicycle in the basement garage. I don't own a bike helmet and I have everything I need to ride the golf cart. The biking urge dies as I climb into the cart.