Seventy came much sooner than expected. It doesn’t seem that long ago a freckled-faced kid was pedaling his bike through sinking sand. When our country road was paved with gravel a good life got even better. Standing on the pedals became an option for speed rather than a necessity to stay upright.

But life in the fast lane can be tricky. When the road was dirt it took considerable effort to make the short trip to Joiner’s Store. With a hard surface, however, the downslope beyond beckoned me onward. The ease of coasting downhill felt marvelous until the chain grabbed my pants and tossed me into the ditch.  

With scrapes and a slightly sprained ankle, I slowly pushed my bike up the hill to the store. Uncle Emmett knew just what to do. He took the padlock off the kerosene tank and turned the crank enough to dispense a few ounces. Medical science may not be able to explain my sudden improvement, but kerosene dabbed on the wounds and a cold drink in my belly relieved the pain. 

I don’t remember what kind of soda it was. A strawberry Nehi would be my guess. I thought they were exceptional back then but my taste buds changed over time. What once seemed perfect lost its appeal long ago. Or maybe I abandoned the sweet bottled treat when I decided it was for kids. Real men drank Coke or something akin.  

It doesn’t seem that long ago Joe Sanders and I made a ramp for launching bikes. Joe was an innovator, always figuring out how to do things beyond the ordinary. He pedaled the one mile trip from his house to ours where we used an old board and some cement blocks to construct an incline. That was before Evel Knievel’s motorcycle jumps, so I don’t know where Joe got the idea.

It doesn’t seem that long ago I used clothespins to clip cardboard to my bike fenders so the wheel spokes would slap out a tune. The bike seemed faster with its subdued roar and perhaps it was. Maybe the rhythmic sound quickened my approach to the pedals. Immediate reward is a strong incentive. Ask any dog who will sit on command.    

It doesn’t seem that long ago I parked my bike and began riding a used Moped. Sears sold them new, but I don’t remember where Daddy found this one. Red paint was severely faded but the moped would still hit 31 miles per hour as originally advertised. New paint, I’ve come to realize, is often overrated. 

A year or two later Uncle Emmett gave me an upgrade with a second-hand Allstate Compact scooter. He bought it from Mr. Bruce Poole, who delivered the mail on Route One, Unadilla. There were no road names, box numbers, or zip codes back then, just three rural routes which Mr. Bruce faithfully navigated. Uncle Emmett was his assistant and I was Uncle Emmett’s assistant. He drove and I put mail in the boxes.   

The scooter was a major step up from the moped, even though first gear didn’t work. With a little push it took off fine in second. Shifting to third allowed it to reach its full potential of 42 mph. That was before we knew it was unsafe for youngsters with no licenses or helmets to drive motorcycles.        

Cushman scooters were common in our area. There must have been a dozen or so in the community. They had an open area for your legs and feet and no gears to shift. The driver just gave it the gas so it would steadily putter away. Cushmans weren’t flashy but were very dependable, a good quality in things as well as people.

David Dunaway and I, on a Cushman and a Compact, took an unapproved ride to Tippettville one Sunday afternoon. We didn’t know where we were going, just answered the call of the open road. The main thing I remember is running over a rattlesnake. The snake was too close to dodge so I held my legs up hoping he wouldn’t catch a ride on a tire.  

It doesn’t seem that long ago our bathroom mirror could reveal a hint of that young boy who loved rambling country roads. But the glass no longer offers childhood reflections. The only way to see that kid now is to close my eyes and be still. And even then he’s harder to find.

I don’t understand why reaching three score and ten caught me off guard, but somehow it did. There’s only one thing about this milestone I can say with certainty. Seventy came much sooner than expected.          

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8 Responses to Seventy

  1. Cynthia Couch says:

    Happy 70th Birthday! I remember you as when we were kids at the piano playing duets.


  2. vernon twitty says:

    Memories, oh how they linger. Thanks for the opportunity to remember some of mine, which also include some of ours at Valdosta State.


  3. Marlene Hiland says:

    Yes the birthdays come quicker and quicker! Happy Birthday and many more!! Looking in the mirror at the older women who use to not have wrinkles now feels like the Mono Lisa having to fill in the wrinkles! I try to dwell not so much on the wrinkles but more on the smile lines and Praise my Heavenly Father for another day with loved ones and friends!


  4. smittydennard says:

    I always used a piece of cardboard and clothes pin to soup by bike up!!!!!!!! I believe they were faster !! Happy birthday Neil!!!!! Hope I look as well as you, when I reach 70!!!!!!!!!!


  5. George says:

    I’ll join the others in wishing you a very Happy Birthday Neil. Good article… I can
    relate to the cards and clothes pins on the bike and having to roll up my pants legs so they would not get caught in the chain, but never had a moped or Cushman. Always wanted one. It’s always fun to “revisit” the past. Thanks for a good column.


  6. Ronnie Williams says:

    Welcome to the 70’s! It’s not really that bad! Think of our dearly departed Delta Chi brother Skitty Wayne Collins and the almost Delta Ch John Delgetti Sullivan! Arriving at 70 is a good thing!
    Ronnie and Claire


  7. Ellen Hunsucker says:

    But seventy is better than the alternative! Loved this article and the history of your bikes! I can just see you lifting your legs when you hit the snake!


  8. Fran says:

    Happy birthday, Neil! You don’t look a day over 49!


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