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Father’s Day 2021

June 20, 2021

Hugh Atkins

I usually write about baseball, but on this Father’s Day I’m going to cover another passion from my youth–riding a bicycle. My experience with the bicycle predates my love of baseball. A couple of years before I even knew who Henry Aaron, Joe Torre, Felipe Alou, and Rico Carty were, I was riding a bike.

I ride my bicycle around my neighborhood in Pleasant View three or four times a week. I ride my bike for exercise, but I still really enjoy it. During my ride this morning, I was remembering my dad, who passed away five years ago. But thinking about my dad when I’m on my bike is nothing new; I think of him every time I get on my bicycle.

My dad, Jim Atkins, worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the first place I remember my family living was at Lock C, right where the Cumberland River flows from Montgomery to Stewart County in Tennessee. One of my dad’s coworkers (a Mr. Clark, I believe) gave my older brothers, Cush and John, and me a 20-inch black bicycle.

Before we ever rode the bicycle, Dad rolled it into the garage behind our house and completely dismantled it, scattering its parts across the floor. He oiled the chain, greased the gears, and spray painted the frame and fenders. After Dad put it back together, it was the most magnificent machine my eyes had ever seen.

The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.

–Iris Murdoch

Me and My Huffy Belfort

Even though it was our first bicycle, Cush and John somehow already knew how to ride. I was not yet six years old and had never been around a bicycle. Cush and John took a couple of spins and then decided to teach me how to ride. Their instruction consisted of mounting me on the bike and shoving it down the hill in front of our house. I basically had to pedal or die, so I was a fast learner.

Cush, John, and I took turns riding our shiny bicycle around Lock C. Dad’s coworkers were very tolerant of us and gave us a wide berth whenever they saw us coming.

Our bicycle fleet doubled when John got a 24-inch bike and then tripled when we got a 26-inch model that one of our uncles won in some sort of contest and passed along to us.

When we moved from Lock C to Cheap Hill, Tennessee, our major mode of transportation was the bicycle. We rode our bikes to Allen Brothers’ Bi-Rite for cold drinks and candy bars. We also became very proficient at bicycle repair. We could remove a wheel, take a tire off the rim, find a puncture in the inner tube, patch it, and remount it like a pit crew at the Indy 500.

I jumped on the bandwagon and bought a 10-speed bicycle from Zayre department store when I was in high school, but I never liked it. My current bicycle is a Huffy Belfort, a no-frills coaster bike that I bought when my son, Sean, started riding around 20 years ago.

I have a Schwinn 230 recumbent exercise bicycle that is great for burning calories, but I had much rather be out on my real bike, where I don’t feel as if I’m literally just going through the motions.

I’m realistic enough to know that my days on the bicycle are limited. But until the day comes that I no longer can ride, every time I get on my bike, I’ll think of my dad and the lifetime of enjoyment he gave me by rebuilding that little 20-inch black bicycle all those years ago.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 20, 2021 12:06 pm

    Love this tribute. Happy FD, old friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anonymous permalink
    June 20, 2021 2:54 pm

    Hugh

    I really enjoy your blog. I remember how thrilled I was after a neighbor converted my first bike into a “stingray” by adding a banana seat and high rise handles. BTW – a Zayre department store was my favorite source for AMT or Revell plastic car model kits.

    Happy Father’s Day

    Dennis Greeno

    Liked by 1 person

    • June 20, 2021 8:36 pm

      Thanks for reading, Dennis. Yeah, I remember those stingray bikes. My friend who lived next door had one. Hope you had a good Father’s Day as well. – Hugh

      Like

  3. Gary Slagle permalink
    June 23, 2021 11:38 am

    Excellent story! I’m also a long bicycle rider! It never gets old.

    Like

    • June 24, 2021 10:38 am

      Gary,

      It’s great to hear from you. I hope you and your family are well. Instead of wondering how much longer I’ll be able to ride, I now have convinced myself that I need a new bicycle! Be safe out there and maybe our paths will cross again someday. Thanks for stopping by my blog.–Hugh

      Like

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