Into The Pit

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“Would you like to see my ten-speed?” I asked my cousin Bob. I could think of nothing else to do or say.
“Okay,” Bob replied. We got up from the kitchen table and went outside.

I loved my bicycle. I had raised three pigs last year to buy it. Dad and I took two of them to the livestock auction in Saskatoon in the spring. Dad kept the money from one for buying the piglets and their feed and I got the money from the other for feeding and caring for them. The third was butchered for the family. Dad and I went together to order the ten-speed at McLeod’s. I had picked it out from their 1971 Spring issue catalogue. Stores in Biggar didn’t stock ten-speeds. The bike I chose from the catalogue was an Iverson. The name meant nothing to me, but I liked that each letter was capitalized and in a white diamond on the violet bar between the seat and handlebar column. When it came in mother and I made a special trip to town to get it and I could not wait to ride it. We had to wait while they put it together at the store. When we were half-way home I got mother to drop me and the bike off. Eleven miles on gravel roads! I had never peddled that far on my old one-speed but was sure I could on my new tens-speed. As mother crested the hill and left me behind climbing that first hill I discovered I couldn’t shift up from the low gear. The rear derailleur cable had not been tightened. I rode the whole way home in fifth and tenth gear. Even so, I was in heaven.

“It’s good on the hills,” I said. My throat was tightening up again. I couldn’t look at Bob, so we stood staring at my bicycle.

“Lift the back end. I’ll run it through the gears.” I knelt beside my bike and grabbed the pedal. Bob lifted the back. My chest was tight, and my fingers were cold. I took a deep breath, pulled up on the shifting lever, and cranked the pedal. The chain moved from sprocket to sprocket. Tears started dripping from my cheeks. The wheel was spinning.

Bob set the back end down and the wheel pitched gravel towards the house and stopped.

“I think I’ll be getting one this fall,” Bob said. I stood up and kept my gaze locked on my bike.

“That’s great. You’ll love it. I think I’ll go for a walk Bob. See you later.” I leaned my bicycle up on the house and hiked towards the back pasture. My dog Tammy tagged along. I climbed through the barbwire fence, and Tammy ran off chasing a killdeer. I winged a stone at the dugout, but it was too heavy to skip. It splashed, and the ducks flew off. I took a cow path that led to the gravel pit. Tammy followed.

MORE pages to follow: click the page numbers below!
Framed picture of Our Lady of the Prairies hanging above chair

Michael Aylward lives in Ottawa and has recently retired from eighteen years with the Federal Civil Service where he served as a Gender Equality Specialist, Policy Analyst, and Project Officer working on international development and national defence. Michael holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Theatre) from University of Victoria, an MSc. in Development Management from Open University (UK), and is a Journeyman Carpenter (Province of Ontario).
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