Heading for a Landing

Back in those days you didn’t go out and buy a perfectly balanced skate board with those fancy rubberized wheels and pretty, pretty paint schemes. No, you made your own.So I took a board I found some place. And I hand-sawed the ends to give it a sweptback look. (Although one side was a little off, so one side was more aerodynamic than the other.) I painted the whole thing a really cool color, metallic hot silver.Then I took apart one of my old roller skates. (The kind that required a key and extended to fit your shoes) I extended it all the way out and got it apart somehow. Next I carefully attached it using lots of care to make sure the wheels were straight, with a hammer and quite a few nails.For some reason, it was hard to stay up on the board, and it wanted to turn to the left all on its own. Nonetheless I spent lots of time riding it here and there, doing tricks like falling off the front, falling off the side, or for the finale, falling off the back.Oh, there were other things we did, almost too numerous to mention. For one, I fixed up my brother’s old bike with a really cool banana seat and high rise handlebars. The only weak link was in the, well, chain.It kept breaking and when I got tired of fixing it I decided it would be so cool to ride it down one of our rock covered hills.You know, if your chain isn’t connected, you can’t peddle, and worse, you have no brakes. I didn’t realize that until I was speeding down the hill hoping to miss all the rocks, and wondering how I would stop before I hit the barbed wire fence.I needn’t have worried about stopping, though. I hit a rock and did another one of my famous mid-air flips over the handle bars, landing harmlessly in front of the bike. Where I could once again, look up at the sky.We did lots of great things on bikes. Like the time our Dad let us take them to the automotive parts store where he worked. There were rows and rows of nice cement aisles. There were big steel shelves lining the aisles and off we went. Of course we could have used somebody directing traffic. I remember well the ensuing collision. My fingers still hurt.Or the time I was trying to balance my bike without riding it. I was sitting on the seat behind our garage. There was a narrow footpath there and then a rock strewn ditch. No one was watching and I’m sure that if there had been they might have warned me about falling away from the garage. I had my left hand on the handlebar and my right hand out for balance and to hit the garage wall when I fell that way. But of course, I fell the other way, down the ditch and slid on the rocks.When we moved to Collinsville, Illinois, just outside of St. Louis we were awarded with a second hand bike to keep us entertained. We thought we looked really cool if we could pedal furiously down the alley and then do tricks like standing up on one foot on the banana seat. Curiously, I never fell off doing that. But I did manage to get my fingers hyper-extended by flipping off the swing. No, I mean I did a backwards flip on the forward apex of the swing’s frontward arc, landing neatly on my feet with the swing chain wrapped too tightly around my fingers.That didn’t hurt near as much as the time I rode my Schwin bicycle to the Dairy Queen to get a malt. I wanted to watch TV while enjoying a butterscotch malt. I was in a hurry to get back because I didn’t want to miss any of some old movie that was coming on. So it was no wonder that as I rode with one hand, I took a turn too fast. When the dust settled I was hanging upside down by one knee across a fence railing. In my hand was my malt cup also upside down with no malt left inside. That was all over my pants. The bike was resting up against the fence unharmed. Stupid bike.Yes, in those days we climbed up on anything we could find, like a rocky cliff, or a stack of hay bales; anything that looked adventurous. I did some trick riding on our Shetland pony. I could jump off and on him while he was trotting and stuff like that. The only thing was, you had to lead him up the hill because he would only run going downhill.So when I see on the television. Extreme this‚ [‘extreme that’ and I see these young snifflers in their fancy duds I just grumble to myself and switch the channel. I mean, it’s all old news to me. After all I was the original Extremely Extreme Extremist.

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