There comes a time in life when you realize that you are not as proficient at some things as you once were. When that times comes, you have probably already realized that you were never all that proficient in the first place.
Some people realize those things at a fairly early age. For others of us it takes longer.
Take myself and motorbikes, for example.
When I was pretty young Dad bought us a minibike. It was a Sears Foremost model with no shocks – except for a slot where the front forks could slide back and forth a bit – and like a 2.5-horse power engine. We gave it more of a workout than it was probably built for, and my dad had to have those front forks welded I don’t how many times, but we never could kill it. In fact, I think we eventually sold it to some neighbors after we had completely outgrown it.
We had it long enough that, at least in my mind, I believed I was a fairly skilled rider. We had timed races around courses we’d set up in the yard and neighboring properties, and it seemed like I won a vast majority of the time. So, of course, I thought I was pretty skilled. What I failed to consider was that all my siblings and a few neighbors I was racing against were younger than I was.
A few years later my dad bought us a moped. There were no rules for mopeds back in those days – like how old you had to be to ride on the street or anything – and my siblings and I practically rode the life out of that thing. When I was far enough away from home that I knew my parents couldn’t see me, I’d crank that thing up and race around corners and such much faster than a sensible person would. But, seeing that I never crashed it, I figured I was pretty darned skilled on it, too.
In the years after that I rode three-wheelers a fair amount and seemed fairly proficient on them. So, when we purchased my youngest son a dirt bike when he was 13 or 14, I was sure I could handle it just fine.
It was a racing bike and it was quick and fast. I puttered around in the yard on it a bit, but never gave it much of a tryout – until the son had some friends over on a perfect autumn afternoon. They were taking turns riding the bike and looked like they were having fun – enough that I was feeling an itch to join in. So, feeling a little cocky, I asked if I could have a turn.
And, for some reason, they all seemed more than willing to oblige.
I hopped aboard, took off slowly through the front yard, then headed downhill toward the stream behind our house. As I rounded the picnic table near the back of our property I was feeling pretty confident. So as I started back up the incline toward the front of the property I gave the minibike a little gas. What I didn’t factor in is that a racing bike, even a fairly small one, is much different than a Sears Foremost.
Before I knew it, the front end reared in the air and my behind started sliding toward the back of the seat. The more I tried to pull myself forward, the more gas I gave the bike, and the more it reared in the air. Before long the only reason I was hanging on was to save the bike from damage, considering that by then my belly was situated where me behind should have been. Then I realized there was another problem – I was completely out of control, my house just a few feet to the right, and I was headed toward cars in our driveway.
It was then that I decided it was time to say heck with saving the bike and abandon the ship.
I tried to push the bike away, but my son and his friends said that when I let go, the back tire missed by an inch or so of tearing the skin off my face. When I finally came to rest face down in the yard, I had managed to keep the bike from hitting anything, but I didn’t feel so good, and my son and his friends were doubled over in laughter. And they kept laughing.
When I stood up, most of the skin on my right knee was gone from where the bike had dragged me through the yard, and the kids were still laughing.
Eventually, they were able to quit laughing long enough to ask if I was OK.
Limping around with a scab covering my knee for the next couple weeks, it crossed my mind that maybe I wasn’t so skilled on a motorbike after all. That was about 10 years ago and I haven’t been on a motorbike since.
Maybe I should try my dad’s scooter. Hmmm, maybe not.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or firstname.lastname@example.org.