Down at the bottom of Second Street, right across from the school stood the Wangsness House on the corner of Main Avenue and Second Street. My relatives built the house and lived there for a few generations, but as I went through adolescence it had become the "Jacobson House". The new third grade teacher, Shirley Jacobson and her husband "Jake" lived there and were beginning their new family in this community as a teacher and a saleman, councilman and eventually Mayor. It was a big house, built in 1901, painted white with a nice front porch that faced the school to the west across Main and to the north across Second was the American Legion.
The school was set at the lowest geographical section of town, where the gullies funneled to as they dumped into the Splitrock Creek behind the railyard next to the school. This low placement is important to the story.
As an young child (probably still preschool), I had a green bike that was a hand-me-down from my brother. Chris and Matthew had gotten matching, but different size bikes when I was just a baby and now Matthew was moving up to the bike that Chris had and I was finally into the bike that Matthew had. Mine, that I was finally being handed was very small, but perfect for me. Dad put the training wheels back on for me and I'd ride around and around and around our concrete patio in back. Eventually, I got past the training wheels and could pedal up and down the sidewalk along Third Street. I'd ride from the corner to the west all the way up to Rachel Jordahl's (the Albers' place now). Once in a while I'd stop at Rachel's and knock on her door and see if she had any candy. Sometimes it'd be a butterscotch candy, sometime it would maybe be an anise hard candy (Chris called them "anus" candy... ha ha... I don't know if that was because he didn't know better on how to pronounce it or if that's what he thought of the candy. I loved them: deep crimson cubes of anise flavoring and sugar. I had to look it up and here's what I just found out about anise from webMD:
"Anise is an herb. The seed (fruit) and oil, and less frequently the root and leaf, are used to make medicine.
Anise is used for upset stomach, intestinal gas, “runny nose,” and as an expectorant to increase productive cough, as a diuretic to increase urine flow, and as an appetite stimulant. Women use anise to increase milk flow when nursing, start menstruation, treat menstrual discomfort or pain, ease childbirth, and increase sex drive. Men use anise to treat symptoms of “male menopause.” Other uses include treatment of seizures, nicotine dependence, trouble sleeping (insomnia), asthma, and constipation.
Some people apply anise directly to the skin to treat lice, scabies, and psoriasis.
In foods, anise is used as a flavoring agent. It has a sweet, aromatic taste that resembles the taste of black licorice. It is commonly used in alcohols and liqueurs, such as anisette and ouzo. Anise is also used in dairy products, gelatins, meats, candies, and breath fresheners.
In manufacturing, anise is often used as a fragrance in soap, creams, perfumes, and sachets.
How does it work?There are chemicals in anise that may have estrogen-like effects. Chemicals in anise may also act as insecticides."
I'm not sure what I think about anise any more.
But my new bicycle, my new found freedom and vehicle to freedom, while it was an nice bike, an adequate bike, it had it's flaws. Mainly, it was a lot like a tricycle in that the pedals ALWAYS turned if the back wheel was turning. There was no coasting with the pedals. It was not built for speed.
Mom and Dad always said to stay close to home I could ride within the block of home as I had mentioned and my freedom started to expand to about a block away to the Hammer house down across from Grandma Gert. But that was as far as I was supposed to go. ever.
Well, back in those days, I hung out with Matthew and Eric Hammer and sometimes Matt Wingert as well. We'd all do things together and sometimes if Matthew or Eric weren't around, it'd be just Matt and I. Matt was not the best of influences on me as a kid and was constantly trying to get me into trouble, it seems.
One day, as he and I played, he suggest that we should just run down to the school and play on the playground equipment. "It's only, like, another block or so".... I knew resisting him would be futile and besides...what's the worst that could happen? [note - upon thinking about it... my brother Matthew MAY have been involved with this now the more I think about it. I think they were just willing to let me come along down to the school}
We rode down Second past Hammers and Grandma Gert's place. We continue further west past Marty and Elaine Eitreim's where the hill begins it's descent toward the school again. I kept control as we crossed Center but then the last hill drop was in front of me as the playground was within sight. They warned me to go slow as I'd be picking up speed as we went in front of Froseth's. Picking up speed was an understatement. My little green steel bicycle accelerated to escape velocity in a few feet and as hard as I tried to keep my feet on the pedals, the harder it was to maintain control of my bike.
My shoelace on my right shoe had come untied and the long dangling end of the lace was being hit by the wildly spinning pedal on the right side. Just as I was getting close to the Jacobson House and I thought that I was maybe in the clear as I would be able to hopefully steer clear either into their yard or just cross Main and hope for the best, my dangling shoelace whipped around the post of the pedal and with the spinning it continued to wrap tighter and tighter, pulling my foot closer and closer eventually my foot was right against the pedal and though you would think that would help slow down the pedal and the bike, it was at that moment that I reached the jump. Yes, built into the sidewalk for some unethical and inhumane reason was a ramp. A ramp approximately 8 to 10 inches high and the length of one sidewalk square. I seriously wonder to this day what the purpose of it was other than to watch kids like myself inadvertently hit it with their bicycle at top speed and see if they could clear the driveway in world record jump attempts.
I hit that ramp then everything just went quiet and into a sort of slow motion. My shoelace was still wrapped around the post, My companions were still at the top of the hill riding down after me. The terrified expression in my face began tensing up for the inevitable impact that was about to happen as my bike and myself twisted in mid-air and slammed into the ground across their driveway and slid to a metal on concrete screeching stop straight out from the Jacobson's north door.
Mrs. Jacobson was in their kitchen at that moment and just happened to be looking out the window when the green bike and blonde haired kid, tied together, skidded down their sidewalk in a blaze of crying glory. I looked up to see her come running out just as Matt come upon the scene of the accident.
I don't remember much else about that experience other than I didn't think I'd be able to quit crying by the time I got home in my scraped up situation. I didn't break any bones that day. I don't think I hit my head. I think it was all knees and elbows and skin grows back. Chicks dig scars. The one thing I took from that day was to quit hanging out with Matt Wingert so much, or at least listening to him. That, and to get a bike with brakes in the near future. Brakes are never to be underestimated.
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I'm just a creative guy that's looking to throw all this spaghetti onto the wall and hope something sticks.