Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Learning to Ride a Bicycle in Rural West Carroll

written by Esther Eley Jones

There are many kinds of bikes – girls, boys, racer, road, mountain, cruiser, cargo, folding and electric bikes. When I was growing up in rural Oak Grove in West Carroll Parish there was only one kind that I was aware of and that was a two wheel, plain, with no brakes, and a 24” which was large enough for me to ride when I was a teen. 

Learning to ride a bike is something that all young boys and girls dream to do. Living on the farm in West Carroll Parish in the 1950 s when I was about 10 or 11 years old, I really wanted to learn to ride a bike. There were eight of us children and one bike to be shared between us. I had plenty of help in learning to ride a bike; however, when would I get to learn to ride? I would learn but I’ll have to wait my turn and for someone to teach me.

It was autumn and the fields were plowed, the rows were straight, ready for the next crop and work was slowly coming to a standstill on the farm. During this down time was when my sister Mary who is five years older than me decided it was time for me to learn to ride a bike and she would teach me. She asked my sister Jean who is two years older than me to help her to teach me. Learning to ride a bike on the road in front of the house was not a good idea. Therefore, they decided that we needed to go to the field back behind our house where we lived on Mr. Lee Landrum’s place. There was a one lane dirt road that we could ride on.  Which meant that no one could see us. Little did we know that we would regret that decision.

Once we found a good place to start practicing, the lessons would begin. The advantage for choosing the one lane dirt road was that there would not be any obstacles in the way in case I had a run-a-way bike. The weather was pleasant with a cool breeze blowing that stirred up the dust in the field. On this straight one lane road I could go in a straight line and I wouldn’t have to make any turns. Learning the turns would come at a later date, but for the time being I would learn to ride in a straight path.
We found the right place and the lesson begin. I was sitting up straight, with my pretty dress on, my black and white loafer shoes on, I was holding on to the handle bars, my feet on the peddles and ready to go. So Marry and Jean gave me a push and off I went then down on the ground with the bike on top of me. What was I to do? What did I do wrong? What just happened? I realized my leg was hurting really badly and I couldn’t get up. My left leg was broken. The lesson was over. Mary and Jean tried to get me up and couldn’t. My leg was hurting too badly for me to be moved. Someone had to go to get Mother and Daddy to come help.

Well, help came and I was taken to the hospital in Oak Grove. I was laying on the bed and Dr. Biggs, Daddy and Mother were standing outside my room in the hall. Dr. Biggs was telling them what was going on, and my leg was broken in two places. He would set the bones and put a cast on it. I will have to wear the cast from the foot to the hip until the bone is mended back together. I heard this would be painful and a long healing process. My leg would itch inside the cast, but not to scratch it. The cast would make my leg sweat and it would be uncomfortable. All those things did take place, in addition, I scooted around on the floor, because the crutches made my arms sore. In spite of all the uncomfortable obstacles I made progress.

My leg healed after several months of wearing that white heavy leg cast. Learning to ride the bicycle was a feat that I would wait for another day another time period. I eventually learned to ride the bike; however, that was several years later in my teen years. 

Recently I mentioned the two places on my left leg that had an indentation and mentioned that must of been the two places where I broke my leg when I was a child. My daughter-in-law said, "You broke your leg? I didn't know that. I have never heard that story before." Therefore, I shared with them the story of breaking my leg and how uncomfortable it was. Then, there was the peanut pattie that an elderly black man brought to me that he somehow had put a quarter inside the wrapper. That amazed me how he did it. 

I never figured out how he did that neat little trick; however, I kept busy a while and my mind off my discomfort. And I was forever grateful for this elderly black man who brought me my favorite candy, peanut pattie,  in the world. That made all the suffering so much easier to bare. 
Photo from the Library of Congress

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