Yesterday I announced the countdown to March 17, and a happy 50th to my brother, Brian, the best brother anyone could ever want in the whole world.Â Note: Itâ€™s the theme.Â Today we will talk about bikes. Since Brian and I were roughly the same age (1 year and 3 days) apart, everything we did was pretty much the same, except when it came to bikes.Â While many of you likely have older or younger siblings, you probably saw the hand-me-down saga that often upsets those on the lower rungs of the sibling pecking order.Â Well, that didnâ€™t happen for us.Â There was NO WAY IN HELL our Dad would EVER buy anything new when he could buy it used and fix it up. This standard was applicable toÂ homes, cars, pools, and yes, kidsâ€™ bicycles.
However, Brianâ€™s bikes were more, letâ€™s say, along the newer and safer side. Â Even stripped, sanded, and lovingly repainted. My bikes, well, letâ€™s say, were always quite, letâ€™s say, hazardous.Â At least one friend who rode this bike had all their front teeth knocked out, many others suffered (really) lacerations, abrasions, etc. Â In fact, while my father would never admit in a million years Brian was his favorite of the two of us, when you ownÂ a bike that has nearly killed everyone you know, and every adult has forbidden their childÂ to ride it, Â and your own parents forbid any other their OTHER children to ride it (everyone except you), that belies a little hint. Â Either I was such a proficient rider that IÂ alone couldÂ be trusted at the helm of the â€œWidow Makerâ€ or… I was expendable. (Iâ€™m pretty sure it was the latter).
It was made of black ironÂ and weighed a metric ton (think momentum) and the brakes barely worked anyway; stopping it was like trying to bring the VinsonÂ into port.Â If this POS would have been on the streets today, there would likely be an army of lawyers converging on our home.Â Iâ€™m sure Ralph Nader would have had it recalled. The Screamer made the Vega and the Pinto look like safe choices (ironically, we had both used Pintos and used Vegas over the years, if that tells you something). The bike in the picture is not my ACTUAL bike (I wish I had a picture of it) but that is the 1970â€™s era Screamer muscle bike, sans rust, grip tape falling off and held on with duct tape, and rotting seat held together with electrical tape. Note the red handle: that was supposed to be an “emergency brake”. I kept waiting for an anchor to drop from it, but it never happened.
Brian wanted to ride it.
As mentioned, our parents forbid that ever occurring. This was not reinforced once or twice. Â It was specifically announced each time we walked out the door: “Brian needs to stay off your bike.”
Again, all you who know me, know I can barely follow directions now. as a “responsible” adult. Â Think of me at tenÂ with theÂ Death Bike From Hell.Â Of course Brian could ride it. He was my brother.Â I loved him more than anyone.
I remember it was raining and we exchanged bikes at the corner of Prospect and Ninth, which began a long hill that passed the Welsh family abode. We could make the change back again before making the turn onto Church Street where we could be seen from the house.Â He got up on the pedals quickly and passed the Beidlerâ€™s at warp speed (did I say this was a heavy bike?). With enough velocity, Â when youÂ hit the hump at Spruce Street, the bike came off the ground, which was always my goal. Brian, however, failed to calculate for wind, lift, and drag. With very little front wheel, bald tires, heavy black-iron frame (okay, maybe it was just cheap steel), oil-and-rain-slicked streets, and substandardÂ brakes, you can calculate the effect.
If you ever want to know why children have to wear helmets these days, you can thank Brian. The skull fracture was a sure thing. Â I didn’t personally see any cerebrospinal fluid or brain matter, so I felt he could walk it off. At least we were close enough that he could staggerÂ head-injured to the house (the only way anyone was calling for an ambulance back then was for a real near-death emergency, not for a silly skull fracture). Thankfully he survived it and thankfully, I survived the punishment, but as you all know- I was back on the bike shortly after.
He seems okay, I guess. After all, heâ€™s turning 50. Tune in tomorrow when I plan to tell you about another saga.Â This is the countdown to March 17, and a happy 50th to my brother, Brian, the best brother anyone could ever want in the whole world.