The Banana Seat 2.0

You remember my telling you that we lived on a dirt road when we were in Bath? I’m pretty sure I mentioned that before….so…..we lived on a dirt road when we were in Bath. It was Drumheller Road. We had a big side yard on our property that was between our driveway and the gravel pit that was next door from an earlier story. At the end of our side yard and across Drumheller was another dirt road that ended on our road. This was Watson Road, and it ended in a very steep hill as it came up to Drumheller. Add to that the fact that our driveway also had a nice steep slope to the last 15 feet of it as it met the road, and you’ve got another “potent and high-risk” situation brewing.

Between my brother and I, one of us would be stationed at the end of the driveway (henceforth known as The Spotter) to warn the Evil Knieval wanna-be of any oncoming traffic–although I can remember more than once having no spotter to do this. The other brother (forthwith referred to as The Speed Freak) would race down the stone driveway, gathering momentum as the tires bit into the stones. The Speed Freak would tear down the sloping end of the driveway onto Drumheller, the bike’s tires spitting gravel up into the air as he turned left towards Watson Hill (this stretch of Drumheller had a slight downward slope of its own, so….brewing….it’s brewing). Then The Speed Freak would turn right onto Watson Road and commence a careening ride of trying to maintain control of a bike screaming over dirt and gravel as it keeps a more or less straight trajectory down Watson Road, The Speed Freak’s feet and pedals a dizzying blur as he gets as much speed as possible down the hill. Then, breathless and covered in sweat, bug guts (we weren’t wearing helmets) and tears of exhilaration, The Speed Freak would come to a complete stop.

Enter the “I-want-to-be-like-Calvin’s-bike” bike with the really cool banana seat.

There I am, in the starting blocks, listening to the announcer as he introduces the next racer. My engine is revved–I’m ready for takeoff. The “Christmas Tree” hasn’t lit up yet. Suddenly, there it is! Yellow, yellow, yellow, GREEN! I’m tearin’ it up, trying to get some air between the bike tires and the stone driveway before I’ve even hit Drumheller Road. I’ve got flames coming off my back tire as I fly past The Spotter onto Drumheller. As I turn onto Watson Hill, I’m barely keeping the bike on the ground as the tires begin to melt. It’s screaming down the road, gravel shooting out and ricocheting off the trees. Suddenly, it happens. The bike decides to steer for a huge piece of gravel that wasn’t even in my way. As it hits it, the really cool banana seat lets The Twins know that it’s there and that it doesn’t like twins. I bring my bike to a screeching halt, horizontal tear paths on my face (these are not tears of exhilaration). By the way, it’s extremely difficult to bring a bike to a stop while looking through tears–and my eyes were filled with them. I look down at The Twins to make sure they’re ok and what do I see? The long pointed end of the really cool banana seat–the accomplice to the “I-want-to-be-like-Calvin’s-bike” bike that committed this heinous act against innocent parties involved.

The really sad climax to this story is the fact that not only did I not learn the first time of what this bike’s evil intentions were, but I even tried many times going down Watson Hill no-handed (no racing, just riding). Who’s bright idea was it to put a metal bar right under the seat between the seat and the handlebars on a boys bike?? The bike knew that as well. So did the really cool banana seat. And so did The Twins. More than once. In extreme peril. And all I could do was try to bring the bike to a complete stop while trying to see through tear-filled eyes.

…..sigh…..The price of exhilaration.

The Banana Seat

The snow is really starting to melt!

That means it’s gettin’ time to be riding bikes again.  Which means it’s time to tell you about my banana seat bike.

It was the first bike I ever had.  Orange with a brown banana seat that had some sort of cowboy imprint on it (probably to give me the impression that I was in the saddle of the toughest mustang in the midwest).  I learned to ride a bike on this one.  And so it followed me out to Bath when we moved, just like a puppy dog not wanting to be left behind.  It was then that it began to reveal its true nature.

Remember those Calvin & Hobbes cartoons where Calvin’s bike is hiding around the corner, just waiting to pounce on him, beat him up and then take off….eh?  Well this bike of mine slowly but surely became that bike.  It apparently had an affinity for a certain part of my anatomy due to that really cool banana seat.  So, for the sake of propriety, that part of my anatomy shall be heretofore and henceforth referred to as “The Twins”.  (If you’ve ever heard Bill Engvall’s remarks about the twins, you know exactly what I am referring to; if you haven’t, well….I’m sure you can figure it out).

It started with a home-made ramp my brother and I built for the sidewalk that was right in front of our house in Bath.  It was a ranch house, so the sidewalk went the full length of it–plenty of runway for a bike with a really cool banana seat to get some air between the tires and the sidewalk, right?  For the most part, it was.  But not always.  Sure, any kid taking a bike over a home-made ramp is probably going to meet with some sort of disaster eventually.  But put a kid who’s got a bike with a really cool banana seat into the mix, and you’ve just created a potent and high-risk situation, my friend.  The Twins are witnesses of that fact and they told me so on more than one occasion.

But what this” I-want-to-be-like-Calivin’s-bike bike did to me after the ramp episode was absolutely uncalled for.

I’ll tell you about that next time….

The Play of ’79

It was Spring of my third grade year.

There I was, a shy kid in the second year of being in my new school.  And suddenly I find myself elected to be a cloud on a stage with three other kids (another boy and two girls–even scarier for a 9-year-old boy who finds girls to be intimidating).

I think the play was about Spring–maybe the different seasons–I don’t remember exactly, because all I cared about was the fact that the four of us had to carry a cloud (painted cardboard or something along those lines with a handle on the back of it) and do some sort of choreography to The Beatles’ song, “Here Comes The Sun”.

Remember that song?  A rather pleasant one, as far as I know.  I haven’t paid attention to the lyrics to know for sure what it’s about.  Could be nothing more than the sun coming out after a good rain.  I don’t know and I don’t care.  I haven’t liked that song since this, “The Play of ’79”.

You’re probably asking yourself, “Why the animosity towards such a nice song as ‘Here Comes The Sun’?”  I caution you:  if you like this song, don’t read any further.  It may cause you to never hear it the same way again.

I’m sure that every kid has at some point in their early grade school years been subject to other kids using bad language around them.  I was no different.  I never used bad language and I didn’t grow up in a household where it was regularly used either.  So where exactly this came from, I don’t know, but I can only assume that I have fellow classmates to thank for it.  (Just a disclaimer:  You aren’t going to actually see any bad language in this post, although you will be able to put two-and-two together….)

So get the song in your head.  If you haven’t heard it, go find it off YouTube or somewhere and pay special attention to the chorus.  Got it?  Ok….The words to the chorus….

Here comes the sun

Here comes the sun, and I say it’s alright

(….Sigh….) After that first line of the chorus, there’s a little musical ditty that has a “Da Da Da Da” pattern to it (the emphasis being on the first and third beats of it, as you can see and hear).  In my little sweet innocent 3rd grade mind, every time that I heard this song and it got to that point in the chorus, I heard:

Hear comes the sun (mother  _ _ _ _ _ _ )

I know, I know!!  Awful, but nonetheless true.  (As I said, I would love to find the classmate responsible for this.)  Every rehearsal.  Every performance.  Every day in-between.  And every time I would hear it on the radio.  To this day, I cannot hear it without that memory!

This little bit of personal history came out in a gathering of close friends five or six years ago.  Shortly after they had all stopped laughing hysterically, my wife–caring and sensitive woman that she is–got on her smart phone and found the song.  She made a ringtone out of it and sent it to all of our close friends that had been there that night.  So all of those close friends–caring and sensitive friends that they are–promptly downloaded that ringtone onto their phones for when I call them (a couple of them still have it activated).

And thus ends a sordid memory of my past….

A Knife’s Edge

Good Afternoon, my friend.

Well, this is interesting.  I just heard from my wife that her stepbrother died the other day from a heart attack at age 47.  That’s pretty young, considering.

Have you ever stopped to consider how fragile our lives really are?  We really do live on the edge of a knife, you know?  I remember hearing about aneurysms and blood clots, how these can strike without warning and strike so fast that you can literally drop dead.  You probably know of other examples of life being over so quickly and suddenly.

So why talk about this?  It can be so negative and depressing.  Well, now, that all depends.   Surely you have seen a movie called “Field Of Dreams”  starring Kevin Costner.  Way back in 1989!  (Can you believe it’s been that long?)  Remember a scene where Ray Kinsella’s brother-in-law Mark is trying his best to convince Ray to sell the farm and avoid complete bankruptcy? (Just to make sure you remember, Ray has taken up a good portion of his corn fields to create a regulation-sized baseball diamond in pursuit of something he can’t explain.  “Shoeless” Joe Jackson–a childhood baseball hero of Ray’s that he believes he is to help somehow–and some other old-time baseball players eventually appear on his baseball diamond.  Ray and his family can see these baseball players play ball, but Mark cannot.)   While they’re arguing, Ray’s daughter falls from the bleachers and isn’t breathing.  One of the players on the field runs over and helps her to breathe again.  After all of this happens, Mark looks across the field and eventually says to Ray, “Where did all these baseball players come from?”

Those players were there the whole time.  Just because Mark couldn’t see them didn’t mean that they didn’t exist.  Now, this movie couldn’t be further from being scripturally accurate, but follow me for a minute.   Do you know that scientists and mathematicians have been in the process of proving the existence of at least three other dimensions besides the three we live in, and it may be as high as four or five?  So what if one of those other dimensions is a spiritual one–one we can’t see with our physical eyes?  Add to that, then, the validity of the Bible (something that can definitely be confirmed if you look at the right resources, like a book called “The Case For Christ”), and you’ve got a very potent mix.  A mix that makes a lot of people uncomfortable, because it means that now they are actually accountable for the sin in their lives–and who really wants to face that?

But hold on a minute.  The “sin factor”, as it were, is only one side of this.  The much more significant side is also much more appealing.  And that is this:  What God has in store for you and wants for you as His redeemed through Jesus Christ is so wonderful and fantastic that it is very literally beyond even your ability to comprehend.  But that can only happen if you first face and accept your need for Him.  You’ve got to deal with the one side to get to the other–but oh, is it worth it!

So when we talk about death and things that happen, the place where you begin makes all the difference.  My beginning place is from that “other side” (thanks to Jesus, I have already been able to deal with the first side).  If your beginning place happens to be from that first side, though, all you see is hopelessness.  And that’s the worst place to be in.  But you can very quickly change that.  It’s simply a matter of acknowledging the sin in your life, your need for a Savior because of it and then inviting that Savior (Jesus Christ) into your heart.  He even told us that it’s so simple to understand and to do that even a child gets it (and they do!).

Sound preachy?  It probably is.  But it’s the truth, and there’s nothing wrong with stating the truth.  You can argue with it all day long, but that just means that you’re not seeing the baseball players that have been on the field the whole time.  So do you want to see them, or not?


Playing In The Snow

You just missed a chance to meet my boys!  They just finished playing with me in the snow over in that clearing.

My wife and I have two boys, ages 10 and 11 1/2 (about 16 months apart–the closest thing to twins we’ll ever see).  I couldn’t be more proud of these two mighty-men-of-God-in-the-making.  And to be able to give them some memories of playing in the snow with their Dad….well, the importance of that is beyond words!

The only memories I have of being out in the snow with my Dad are of helping him shovel out driveways over the years.  But I do have one memory that stands out from the others.

Back when I was in the single digits (around the time Major was….here), we had a major snowstorm that dumped a good three feet of snow on the ground.  Now you tell me, does that not make a kid’s heart go pitterpat double-time?  To know that there is snow outside that’s taller than you are, and it’s just begging to be jumped in, tunneled through, sledded down….sigh….those were the days.

Dad had just finished shoveling the drive, and we really wanted a snow fort dug out for my brother and I.   So my Dad proceeded to shovel out a curved path into the yard from the driveway that eventually opened up into a small square area.  How cool was this!!  The path was probably ten to fifteen feet long and the open area four to five feet square (although this, I’m sure, seemed bigger to us–I’m even right now trying to realistically remember its size).  I remember my Dad being pretty exhausted after that, but we had a fort!

Then Major found it.  And Babe.  How did we know?  They left….signs.  Nasty signs.  Dirty, smelly signs.  And yellow graffiti….everywhere.  We enjoyed a clean fort for about 4 or 5 hours.  It didn’t take long at all for our fort to be vandalized by these two flat-coated retrievers, one of which probably had a fresh stocking-cap kill that he was saving for later.

We don’t have a dog (or two) to give our boys these kind of memories, but we’re making up for that in other ways.  Like working on snow forts together and having snowball fights.

Yup….I sure am blessed.  And so are they.

See you soon.