The scheme was hatched on hot August day when school-free days were nearing their end. We would ride our bicycles 10 miles to an ice cream shop to purchase treats.
There were a couple hurdles that needed to be overcome. My nephew, who received a weekly stipend from his father, had a multi-speed, light-weight bike that moved as fast as greased lightning. The tank-heavy bike that I painted John Deere green and yellow was sturdy, but slow.
It would be impossible to keep up and my nephew was not known for his patience.
Two additional challenges stood in the way. The sugar jar where Mother kept egg money was running low and she would surely notice the loss of a couple quarters and a few dimes. The other issue was receiving permission to embark on such a long, and in her eyes, dangerous journey.
Mother had little to no confidence in her children’s ability to use caution. Recklessness had caused an older sister and brother to climb to the top of the new elevator that Dad had purchased to carry ear corn to the top of the crib.
While they climbed the metal escalator, I was assigned to hold the bottom of the elevator down with my slight weight. It’s no fun watching others have fun while you are having none, which is why I left the post.
The elevator came down like a one-sided tee-totter. The rim of the new elevator was bent, which did not long escape Dad’s notice. All-around punishment was promised, though none was delivered. Decades later, when the elevator lost its spit shine but still worked reasonably well, Dad reminded the culprits of their youthful idiocy.
The older boys relished taking unapproved risks. The low tin-roofed lean-to on the barn was, when the metal was wet, a great slide. Gunny sacks cushioned the ride, but did nothing to ease the drop to the ground.
The hilly nearby gravel road — called Rabbit Run — provided cheap thrills when it was traversed fast enough so that stomachs rose to throats and heads bumped up against a car’s roof.
Brother Leon found danger on other roads. He rolled a WD-45 in the ditch and yet miraculously emerged uninjured; his car missed a turn and rolled in the fog and again he escaped without injury. If a cat has nine lives, Mother said that he used up most of them.
Our history may have played a role in Mother’s decision to deny the bike journey. However, it was OK to spend an afternoon at the Le Sueur County Fair. Funds allowed a couple rides and perhaps a corn dog and chips.
My nephew showed hogs while my parents discouraged involvement in 4-H. It remains uncertain as to why, but the most likely explanation was they hadn’t been members themselves.
School followed shortly after the fair ended. The anticipation of seeing classmates and wearing the school clothes Mother had sewn and shoes bought at the store, built until the bus made its first stop at our farmstead.
Our rat terrier — as good a dog as there ever was — shared my excitement. That may be the reason he followed me up the bus steps. The bus driver, though he smiled weakly, must have had an inkling that it was going to be a tough year with more than its fair share of ice and snow drifts.
The first few home comings included chocolate cookies and milk without any questions about homework. Studying and spelling practice was put off until supper dishes were washed and scraps carried to the chickens. Gradually, the clothes became softer, the shoes lost their shine and homework took priority over after-school treats.
I never did take the bike ride to get ice cream. I didn't realize then that life would became much sweeter than even a double-scoop on a sugar cone.