12 Year Old

Tales of Vashon

We thought that the occasional white feather in the crow’s wing was from their parents having eaten too much seagull manure.

Birds fighting are relentless.  The Junco remembers “bitches” they had days ago and sometimes; it is just the different breeds disputing territory.  The feeders hung in the fruit trees, a popular place for the Chickadee and Bush Tit to light and feed.  Dad cut plywood squares, a foot each way.   He used sticks, tacked to the four sides to keep the seed from falling out.  The feeders were then hung on lines and the birds came in flocks.

Sometimes, a bird would fly into the glass windows in the breakfast nook where they could see through both sides and cold-cock themselves; I’m sure they did it by accident, but it made us feel good when you would look down at the body in your hand and watch the light come back into the little bird’s eye and then his eye goes frantic; he fights to get out of your fist; which after much practice, we  learned how to hold them with their heads sticking out.  We waited for them to regain their flying abilities before letting go.

Kit Bradley, Brother Mike and i were coming back on our bikes from the garbage dump where we had been picking-up after the army guys from the AAA battery who had thrown away their un-eaten C-rations.  The pemmican was the best.  We were shooting down Joslin’s hill when Kit rode past at the speed of light, his playing cards whacking his spokes with a sound like machine gun fire.  We were like engines pumping the pedals and the cards were the sound of the engine.  The noisy-cards announced to the neighbors that we were coming.  We thought the card noise made people notice. The cards could have come from Mom’s multiple decks of canasta cards, she never said.  Her spare clothes pins held the cards to the fork supporting the front wheel.  She did remind us of the stolen clothes pins.  Four cards to the front wheel was about the limit.  Too many cards would fall off and more than four made pumping the bike harder.  We made tassels for the handle bars out of surveyor’s tape or our sister’s hair ribbons.  My red painted bike cost me a dollar from a cousin and had no fenders causing a muddy stripe up your back if you rode in the rain.  The little clip that held the Bendix brake to the bicycle frame was always breaking or coming loose from our hasty repairs using a bent nail or piece of string, created the catastrophe of coming down steep hills without brakes.

John described those torpedo shaped, chrome headlights clamped to the handlebars and how he would steal batteries from his Mom’s flashlights until Mom got wise and put a stop to his larceny.  His next attempt at lighting up his bike, was to take a large empty can and punch a hole in it to secure it to the handle bars, by melting the bottom of a candle and standing it up inside the can.  “I tested it out by going down a steep gravel driveway that had potholes and curves.. at night naturally.. success was not achieved, although a good swabbing with that evil iodine mercurochrome did result..”   after the mercurochrome treatment my Mom asked the usual question.. “what were you thinking?”and I replied with the usual answer…’well.,, it seemed a good idea at the time..’.

We patched our old tubes by separating the tube from the wheel; prying up the rubber with a screw driver; no, it was two screwdrivers, one in front of the other, frequently causing us to nick the tube in our haste, creating another hole to patch.  We used those old tube kits with a scraper for a lid and roughed up the area to be patched.  The patches came in different colors of red and black and sometimes blue.

One of John’s greatest inventions  in bike riding..  “After numerous failures with battery powered bike lighting, … one time I came across an old car in a musty old barn, that was mostly broken down.  “Probably not used for decades.. had mouse eaten upholstery.. and hay bales had been put on the back.. likely used for farm stuff.. Wish i could remember what kinda car.  Had one of those folding windshields.. think it was chain drive.. This car had carbide headlights.. even though they were large and heavy, I got one and mounted it.. much to the dis-advantage of weight distribution.. turned out, although I got it working. …it was only effective if you added water to the calcium carbide. …and not usable for less than several hours.. far too long for my bike rides. .. and only after a short time, corrosion rotted out the brass reservoir.  Back to snagging d- cells from the family flashlights.  My mother eventually noticed and put a stop to that knavery..