|Druid Hills School in Martinsville, VA, where I learned that females can be deadly|
It was the mid 1960s, I was probably in second grade, and Mum and Pop had allowed me to ride the mile or so to Druid Hills Elementary School on my bike for the first time. Most of the kids in my neighborhood were already riding their bikes, and I was feeling the peer pressure to keep up. Now, I could already ride a mean bicycle. I could pop wheelies with style; ride long distances with no hands; go down steep hillsides, hit a jump ramp, fly out into the air, and land without mishap. A regular daredevil, I was.
Getting to school that morning was great. I was proud as a peacock as I turned my little red spyder bike into the school parking lot for the first time. I could just feel the eyes of every young lady on the premises watching me and bursting at the seams with admiration for my clear pedaling prowess.
But it was that afternoon, when the final bell rang, that my true chance to shine arrived. All the kids were coming out from their classrooms, some bound for buses, some for their parents' cars, some for the sidewalk to walk home, and some — like me — for the bicycle rack. Out there, I think I engaged in conversation with a couple of third and fourth graders who'd ridden their bicycles, confident they would no longer look down on me because, by god, I was on my bike. What a great feeling that was. But it was as I went pedaling out of the parking lot and down the street toward home that I saw my opportunity to impress not just any ordinary people but girls.
Yes, it was Ellen Hundley and Nancy Carter walking down the sidewalk, and my young heart went zooming into overdrive. If I pulled this off, I knew they would never again look on me as a wee little shrimp of a fellow.
So I pumped those pedals, picked up speed, and took my hands off the handlebars. I passed them waving and shouting, and I think they both smiled at me, which spurred me to pedal faster. Faster.
It was then I turned around and saw that, somehow, a parked car had gotten in front of me. I hit the brakes, but it was too late. BAM! BOOM! THUD! CRUNCH! Over the handlebars I went, up onto the trunk of the car, over the side, and onto the asphalt. Holy god, the pain. I saw more skin on the road than on my arms. My head felt like a cantaloupe that had split open, and probably looked like one, with what few brains I possessed spilling out onto the pavement.
Ellen and Nancy walked on by, giggling. I think a passing adult took a look at me and asked if I required medical attention. I just shook my head and motioned for them to go on because there was no way I was going to try to explain what had just happened to anyone. My bike's handlebars were bent and the chain had come off, so I worked everything back into place and pedaled on home, where my poor mom nearly had a heart attack at the sight of me. I told her a dog had chased me and I had fallen over. I think both my folks were a little concerned that I couldn't really describe the dog or where it had happened, but in the end, I healed up, and I went on to perform all kinds of daredevil stunts on my bike, quite successfully as long as no women or parked cars got in my way.
But after that, you'd best believe that I had a pretty healthy fear of the human female. Two of them had damn near killed me.