Growing up on Angel Fork, a tributary of Browns Creek, we were mountain biking before it was cool. Biking was faster than walking, daylight was a finite resource, and we aimed to minimize travel time in favor of whatever activity was up next. Biking up and down hills, through mud and water, over jumps and around sharp curves—we ran those bikes as fast as our feet could pedal. We balanced balls and gloves, shovels and fishing poles, and buckets of minnows.
I rode a single-speed bike with a coaster brake. It was outfitted with a demon-possessed chain that jumped off the sprocket when I needed it most. Calico, the evil German shepherd, lived between my house and the open road. Kids on bikes were his favorite game of fetch. Some days, he watched as I pedaled by, but other days, he catapulted from the porch with a snarl. Calico had 9 inch fangs and sprayed slobber as he ran. His ferocious bark terrorized me, and my brain sent a crucial message to my legs, “PEDAL!” It was survival of the fastest.
I never had a carport or garage, and a bike left in the weather doesn’t last. I parked under the eave, but the rain and snow turned the silver parts rusty. The weaker parts, like the twin headlamps with the battery pack, disintegrated. The vinyl seat split and became a sponge, offering another challenge. Who wants to arrive anywhere looking as though he suffered a bladder accident on the way? Eventually the bike became too dilapidated to ride, and I fed it to the ravenous honeysuckle cowering at the edge of the property.
My Christmas list that year included a new bike, but my gift was a carton of BB’s and a new Daisy. Sweet! That gun was a blast, but when spring chased winter out of the valley, my friends were riding new bikes. Running with my long legs, I could not match the speed of a gold Schwinn Stingray or a shiny red Roadster with a 3-speed twist shifter.
I knew coveting someone’s ass or donkey was a bad thing. I sort of knew the rule applied to bikes, too, and I struggled with my feelings. It was hard to be content. Others coasted effortlessly, while I trudged down the dusty road.
I conquered the honeysuckle covering our bike graveyard, and extracted every usable part. With sweat, hammers of various sizes, wrenches, and rust-penetrating oil, I assembled a bike. Think Dr. Frankenstein creating his monster. The bike was aptly named, The Tank, and I was the envy of my peers, especially after I applied the coat of metallic blue spray paint on every surface.
I used money from my life savings, hidden in the Planters Peanut can in my underwear drawer, to buy all-terrain knobby tires from Kmart. The Tank had no fenders, nothing to separate the rider from nature. Most rides left mud splatters on my front and back, and I learned to keep my mouth closed. Long pants had to be rolled to prevent a disaster as there was no chain guard. The bearings were packed in inches of grease, and The Tank became an amphibious assault vehicle. She defeated blacktop, dirt roads, trails, and creeks. She weighed a ton, but rolled faithfully through the years.
Sometimes I see a peer with a shiny new something, and life grinds to a halt as I drool. How can I take another step until I have a shiny new something of my own? Perhaps mine needs just a tad more gleam? Maybe that’s a good time to cut the weeds, take stock, and give thanks for the blessings I already have.
We may be amazed at what we can do with the resources already in our hands.
“Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” Luke 12:15 (NASB)
(Coming soon: The Lesson of the Flying Tank.)