I have had a lot of bicycle wrecks in my life. My two big brothers “taught” me how to ride by pushing me off down a steep hill on a bicycle that was much too large for me. Gravity won repeatedly until I got mad and kept my balance to ruin their joy.
One of my most memorable wrecks was when I tried to Evel Knieval across a ditch. It was a wonderfully smooth flight, but I undershot the clay bank and ended up imbedded or actually becoming one with the damp earth. Digging myself out, I knew pretty much how Adam must have felt on that first primordial day. I probably looked a lot like our old progenitor, except I had a navel and Adam probably did not, though Michelangelo painted him with one. Who is to say? If necessity is the mother of invention, he did not need one—a mother I mean, or a navel.
My second big wreck was when I was a messenger boy for Western Union. I had just gotten off work at dusk and was on my way home, riding down a high-traffic street. The light was green and I kept peddling at an intersection, but a driver coming from the other direction did not see me and made a left turn, broadsiding me. He knocked me over, gravity once again being the victor. I skidded and twirled across a service station entry and ended up wrapped around a gas pump. A bunch of cars stopped and people were hollering, “Are you hurt?” Even the guy who hit me pulled over and said, “I’m sorry, I did not see you. You need to get some lights on that thing.” Well, that “thing” was pretty much totaled, and would never need lights. Then the offending driver said something I shall never forget: “You can thank your lucky stars.” I had never heard of lucky stars, being a Baptist, but I did not have any interest at that moment in asking questions about these sidereal good luck charms. I pushed my wounded and wobbly vehicle homeward, nursing bloody elbows and knees. When I got home, Pop said, “What is the matter with you, boy?” “Bike wreck,” I replied.
It was a long time before I had my third wreck. I was in my thirties and bought a really good lightweight bicycle to get in shape, which is a lifelong preoccupation with the likes of me. It had multiple gears and derailleurs and I was riding along looking down to figure out how these devices worked. I hit a curb. Back in the old balloon-tired days, I could go up and down curbs with ease, but those little high-pressure tires just slid right off the curb and I went over the handlebars and landed on my shoulder, breaking my collarbone. My new bike’s wheels were warped and I was disabled for six weeks.
I had a wreck on my mountain bike standing dead still the other day. I was down at the bottom of a hill at the cemetery, and when I mounted to go up the hill, the bicycle lodged and down I went. Well, I thought, they wouldn’t have far to carry me. . .