Speed Demon From an Early Age



I was never a petrol-head.

Probably because I could not afford it.

But I was into fast machines on wheels, big time, when I was a kid.

I am told that my mother rued the day that she gave me a pedal car.

It was a fire truck like the one above, of course, since my Dad was a fireman.

So perhaps 23 hours a day, I was racing to countless fires, with the full siren (e.g. my lungs) absolutely wailing, boosted by the speaker in my Texaco Fire Chief Helmet.


I’m told that every wall in our house had a red gash exactly the same height as my fire truck’s front fender, which is a coincidence that I cannot explain to this day.

That pedal car was great.

But even so, in no way could it compete with the Deluxe Renegade Stingray bicycle that I got when I was maybe 8 years old, or so.

I could get that bike from zero to 60, or thereabouts, in the blink of an eye, with my tiny little legs blurring like pistons.

How fast? I could literally outrun the neighbor’s old Volkswagen, and that’s no brag, just fact.

I could race through the storm water drains off Barber Street, just like a bobsled at the Olympics, at least until I crashed and burned on the infamous “Shuttlecock curve”.  I still have the scars to prove it.

After school, I could blast down the potted, dirt trail behind the old houses on Iowa Street and get to a key junction in time to build a huge barricade of tree branches and boards.

This, to prevent my arch nemesis, Lydia on her stupid English Racer, from using MY trail to go home.  And it worked splendidly until I got called into the Principal’s office.

I also could ride straight at clusters of girls on the polished-concrete breezeway at Cleveland Elementary, getting them to scream like banshees, and than slamming on the coaster brake just in time, bringing the back tire around 180 degrees, so I could escape from said girls who wanted a piece of my hide.

Nothing gave me that same kind of adrenaline rush for years; not until a buddy decided to store his motorcycle in my backyard on Nebraska Street.

Even though my Dad HATED motorcycles, he allowed Mike to store his cycle in our yard because I would leave it locked to a tree and, most importantly, I would never ever, not in a million years, actually ride the two-wheeled demon.

I promised.

So, of course, the moment my Mom and Dad were off to Lake Eufaula every weekend, on came the motorcycle helmet and Levi’s jacket, and off I raced on the little Suzuki (probably sounding the old fire alarm of my youth).

While I was totally awesome when piloting my firetruck and the Deluxe Renegade, I was the pits when it came to riding a motorcycle.

I never had the guts to lean the bike way down when turning a sharp corner, having crashed and burned way too many times on the Deluxe Renegade.

And, because I wore an artificial left arm, using my hook to work the clutch lever was a real challenge.  Left turns were OK, but right turns, for ergonomic reasons, were fraught with danger.

To this day, I remember turning onto busy Main Street from Foreman Drive.  There was a lot of traffic.  I had way more adrenaline than commonsense, so I revved the bike and let out the clutch way too fast.

As I shot onto Main Street, the front wheel went straight up so fast that I thought I would flip backwards, and that the car I zoomed in front of would splatter me.

I let off the throttle, which, in hindsight, was a very, very bad thing to do.

You see, I was still in first gear, so the torque slammed the front wheel back onto the pavement, hard, which jarred me into giving more throttle, which made me pop another wheelie.

This continued for what seemed like an eternity and must have been enormously entertaining to passing motorists.

I would almost certainly have died that day were it not for the skills I honed years earlier on my Deluxe Renegade and, to a lesser extent, my pedal car fire truck.

They were just that awesome.


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