Archive for August, 2010

The Tricycle

August 9, 2010

 Every few years, we hunt scrap metal to sell.  Usually, it’s around the time that real estate taxes come due.  We live in my grandparent’s old place.  We bought it after they died.  Acres here bring big bucks.  People are drawn to this part of the country by the Blue Ridge Mountains, just like my Grandma and Grandpa were.  Out-of-towners keep arriving here.  Taxes go up.

    The garage, barns, sheds and fields are all hunting grounds for bits, pieces, and parts to sell.  We pull out the steel, aluminum, copper and iron, pile the truck full, and haul the load to the junkyard.  It takes a whole weekend with four of us working.  We get dirty, greasy and our clothes have to be thrown away on Monday.  It’s hard work, but sometimes we make as much as three hundred dollars.

     I found a tricycle today, a small red one.  It was in the back corner of the tin roofed shed, the one that butts up to the smoke house.  I was surprised to find the trike.  I hadn’t known it was there.  I reached out and touched it, then pulled it toward me.  It was sturdy with its hard rubber wheels, red steel frame and the black plastic pedals still intact.  The handlebars had some rust, but the rubber hand grips still held fast.  I think it may have been my toy.  I remember riding one on the front porch, in the yard, on the driveway, and around and around the kitchen.  I was a big girl riding that bike.  Today, when I found it, it looked so small.  I wondered how it ever held me.

     When I rode the tricycle, my imagination traveled. In my mind, I pedaled the ten miles to the lake at Boar’s Head Inn.  I carried a long plastic Sunbeam Bread bag full of crusts for the ducks. I was alone, and brave. I understood not to get too close to the water and to watch for cars.  

     Earlier that year, my Mama had introduced me to the Mallards.  The birds were wild and could fly away anytime they wanted to, but they weren’t afraid, and came right out of the water and waddled up to us for a handout.  When the bag was empty, they wanted more and chased us to the car.  We laughed, jumping in before the ducks could pinch our behinds. 

    At my make-believe lake, ducks didn’t pinch. They came and sat on my lap, letting me feed them.  They even followed me home.

     Later in the day, I’d climb aboard the seat of my tricycle, place my sneakers on the hard black pedals, lean back, with my arms straight, and strain my legs, pushing my way up the hill in the yard past Grandma’s lilac bush to a flat place overlooking the driveway below.  That spot in the yard was my Afton Mountain. 

     There’s a picnic area on Afton Mountain two and a half miles on the other side of Waynesboro. Grandma and Grandpa took us there when the heat of town was sticky.  The cool shade in the mountains made lemonade taste better.  A flat ledge of rocks hung over the Shenandoah Valley. When we sat up there, dangling our legs over the edge, we could see for miles.  Houses and cars looked small enough to pick up and move around.  I imagined I could gather all the people I loved close to me by moving their houses next to mine.  From that vantage point, it would be easy.  I would just have to be careful not to tilt the buildings, keeping the people and furniture from sliding out the front door.   I could put a fence around all of us, with a gate that locked.  We could go out at night, playing hide and seek without being scared. 

     When it turned dark outside, I brought my three wheeler indoors.  The kitchen was big enough that I could ride circles without bumping into anything.  Grandma sat at the table shelling peas, while Grandpa cleaned his fingernails with a pocket knife.   The faster I went, the dizzier I got.  Sometimes, Grandpa would reach out and stop me, saying,  “Whoa Tump, not so fast.  If you lose it, you might break something.”  I knew he didn’t mean furniture or dishes.  

     When I got too big for the tricycle, my Mama bought me a two wheeler.  I forgot about the tricycle.  This afternoon, my two boys walked into the shed to collect more junk.  They pulled out an old push lawnmower, a truck bumper and a galvanized wash tub with a hole in the bottom.  They saw me standing, looking at the tricycle.

     “Who’s was that?” Ben asked.

     “I think it might have been mine,” I said.

     “It’s still in pretty good shape considering how old it is,” Ryan said.

     He made me laugh.  “Yeah,” I said, “considering how old it is.”

     I lifted the tricycle, handing it to Ryan to put with the rest of the scrap.  Neither of my boys knew the history of the toy.  It didn’t mean anything to them.  Ryan picked up the washtub in his other hand and began carrying the two pieces to the truck.

     As I turned back to the shed, I thought I heard my Grandpa say, “Whoa Tump, not so fast.”

     I called Ryan back and took the tricycle out of his hand.  I put it back in the corner where I found it.  I think it’s supposed to stay there. It seems that neither Grandpa, nor I are ready to say goodbye just yet.