During the early part of that summer, I rode my brand-spanking-new, $39.95 Sears and Roebuck girlís bike to and from vacation Bible school at First Baptist Church in Columbia. I was almost 10. The "big road" was creek gravel packed by cars, trucks and horse-drawn vehicles and was called Fulton Gravel because it was the all-weather road between Columbia and Fulton - it was also part of the shortest route between New York City and the West Coast.
My bicycle adventure to the Pagesí house would be two or three miles on the big road and more than that on the unnamed country roads. Mom and Hattie Page discussed this and planned to keep in contact with each other by telephone until I was safely at Hattieís house. The first turn, up a steep, rocky hill, was also well-traveled. About halfway to the Pagesí, I turned left onto a less traveled, unnamed road - now called New Haven Road - that had mud holes made passable for cars with the addition of big boulders or logs.
I pushed my bike by its handlebars while lifting the rear wheel to keep mud from balling up between the back wheel and that beautiful tan-and-cream-colored fender. I stopped often, got a stick and dug the mud out from between the tire and fender. I was unaware that the sun was going down in the west and it would soon be dark. I lifted the bikeís rear wheel by the saddle, and the front wheel was turning, but I was tired.
Today, more than 80 years later, Iím amazed that fear never entered this event! A strange noise was getting louder, and I assumed it was an owl. No, it was Hattie Page, calling, "Sue, Sue, Sue!" What a friend!
In five-buckle overshoes and by the light of the moon, she had come to help me.
She held the back wheel out of the mud as I guided the front wheel with the handlebars. Thus we finally arrived at their home and made it to the Turner School pie supper.
Hattie Page became a special "third party" in my life, next to Mom and Dad.
Traveling this same road for most of my adult life, I never fail to recall the exact spot where that "owl" seemed to be calling my name.
Iíve traveled thousands of miles by bicycle in this country, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Samoa, China and elsewhere - with full saddlebags - sometimes alone. I believe this childhood experience gave me extra courage. There has not been any occasion when someone like Hattie Page didnít lift me out of a tight spot.