I watched through the living room window as a neighborhood kid, his bicycle slightly too big for his stature, paused at the 2-foot, rock-walled drop-off that separates my yard from the yard of my neighbor, the crazy postal worker.
I can call my neighbor “the crazy postal worker” because we are the best of pals and I don’t mind at all if she calls me the crazy newspaper guy.
Back to that kid in my yard.
As a former kid myself and the father of a former kid who is now an adult but will always be a kid to me, I knew exactly what was going through this current kid’s mind: Can I jump my bike over this wall?
He dismounted, turned the bike around and pushed it about 5 or 6 feet from the wall. He climbed back on, struggled to balance, peddled a couple of times, plummeted off the wall and flopped over into the crazy postal worker’s grass.
It wasn’t much of a jump.
At this point, I had several courses of action before me.
I could close the blinds, shake my head and mutter something about the pathetic bike-jumping efforts of today’s youth.
Or, I could open the front door, step onto the porch and scream, “Stay off my lawn, you little bike-riding maniac!”
Or, I could be a mentor.
As a child of the 1970s, I know a little something about bike jumping, thanks mostly to one of America’s greatest mentors, Mr. Evel Knievel, who taught children that a man could soar through the air on two wheels, come crashing down, break a lot of bones and eventually get back up and do it all over again.
In 1967, Evel set the stage for my upcoming bike-jumping decade by flying his motorcycle over the fountain outside Caesar’s Palace Hotel in Las Vegas. He spent the next 29 days in the hospital with a crushed pelvis, smashed femur, fractures to his hip, wrist and both ankles, and a concussion.
Four months later, he jumped 13 cars. You fall down, you get up.
My first two-wheeler was a small red bike with hard rubber, tubeless tires that produced a bone-jarring, teeth-rattling ride on our gravel driveway. Eventually, I graduated to a sleeker, yellow model with a banana seat.
I stripped away everything I deemed unnecessary — fenders, chain guard, etc. — to have a bare-minimum, fast-peddling, jumping machine. If we could get it into the driveway or the yard, my brothers and I built ramps to jump it.
Were there crashes? Sure. Blood? Quite a bit. Missing teeth? Hey, that’s what the Tooth Fairy is for. But it was a blast.
Back to that kid in my yard.
I watched his bike-riding progress since early spring, when he first pushed the bike to the end of the street and coasted down the slight grade back to his home three houses down. He soon learned to peddle to the end of the street, get off the bike and turn it around then coast back home. Eventually, he didn’t have to get off the bike to turn it around.
Now, late summer, here he was lying in the crazy postal worker’s grass after a less-than-successful wall jump.
I opened the front door, stepped onto the porch and yelled his way.
His eyes grew wide, perhaps anticipating a grumpy stay-off-the-lawn admonition.
“Son,” I said. “You can’t be doing that … not without getting a good run and go first. Get up there to the top of the yard, pedal as hard as you can and hit that drop-off full speed. Pull up on the handlebars a little when you catch air.”
And that’s what he did. It wasn’t a perfect landing, but I would give him a seven out of 10. No broken bones.
He looked back at me and smiled, and I gave him a thumbs up before he reached the pavement and coasted on back home.
I think Evel would have been proud of us both.
Scott Hollifield is editor and general manager of The McDowell News in Marion and a humor columnist.
Email him at email@example.com.