Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Catalog bike leads way to many years of cycling

My 1886 encyclopedia has a paragraph on the bicycle that says the pedals are attached to the axle of the front wheel, "which is much larger than the rear wheel." Another source says the bicycle was "invented by French carriage-makers and perfected in England." A footnote added, "Long journeys have been extensively made on such a machine."

When I was in grade school, I didn’t care about any bicycle except the beautiful yellow and dark tan one pictured on the slick pages of our Sears and Roebuck catalog. It cost almost $40. I promised Mom and Dad I would continue my dairy chores and keep my grades up if I could have that beautiful bicycle.

The only thing I rode was our three-gaited mule called Jack. Neither Jack nor I knew what "gaited" meant. We just jostled along, and when Jack was ready to quit, he took me to the barn. A bicycle would be wonderful. Finally Mom and Dad placed the order, and I waited. I was surprised that such a huge package could be delivered to our farm by our rural mail carrier friend Edwin Gordon. His one-horse cart was a simple canvas sling, and the mail was packed in, on and around the driver. By evening, every family between Columbia and Harg knew that Meyers received a huge package that day.

When Gordon received the package, he called Mom, and she drove our dairy truck to meet him a half mile from our home. It was all in one big package. Could I wait? Yes. We ate, Mom did the dishes and then we began to sort the small packages out of the single one. All were plainly marked and identified, and complete assembly instructions were illustrated. No wonder mail-order houses explained each part and counted out every little bag of nuts and bolts. Farm families ordered many items by following detailed mail-order instructions.

Dad and I began to put all of those parts in their proper places. I spelled the parts’ names out loud, using lots of words I’d never heard before. Dad had not seen a bicycle dismantled, but he certainly had patched up enough farm machinery to recognize a problem, if necessary. At the very last, something just did not fit correctly. We could not understand why one pedal went on smoothly but the other wouldn’t go. The metal threads for the right-side pedal were different from the threads for the left side.

A long-distance call to Kansas City the next morning solved the problem: Both pedals were for the right side of my new bike! A correction was sent to us in rural Boone County with an apology from an embarrassed workman in Kansas City. I was disappointed but began trying to absorb the various instructions about safety, traffic, rain, tires and more.

This was the start of my cycling days. Eventually, I introduced bicycling to four classes of physical education students at Christian College and led three tours of Europe.

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