The most dangerous hour

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Blinded by love, blinded by rage, or blinded by the sun. All of these I’ve experienced before. I can now add a fourth item to that list. Blinded by happiness.

It happened to me just as I was returning from a quick trip to the grocery store. Few things I’ve seen while driving have caused me to pull off to the side of the road and stop. Fewer still have made me cry. Last Friday both things happened simultaneously, flinging open a door behind which a childhood memory had been hidden away and almost forgotten forever. A memory from growing up a long, long time ago on an old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo.

If asked, some parents say the most dangerous hour of the day for a child is during the middle of summer when the outside temperature and humidity are at their highest. Others say it’s the middle of the winter when the outside temperature and wind chill are at their lowest.

Ask any kid living on Flamingo and we would tell you the most dangerous time is the hour when we first get home from school. That’s when our parents said, “You kids go outside, run off all your energy, come back in an hour. Then do your homework.” We had to cram an entire day’s worth of fun into just one hour. Any wonder why it turned out to be the most dangerous hour of the day?

It was during the “most dangerous hour of the day” even the simple act of riding bikes could have multiple kids rushed to the doctor’s office. I’ll explain. After school one day, Mom suggested that my three brothers and I go outside and ride our bikes or play with our wagon. So we did both.

And by doing what she said, three kids were rushed to Doc Jim’s office with multiple injuries and one broken wrist. Now looking back at what happened, it could’ve been worse. It could’ve been my wrist broken and not Goofy Steve’s.

Bubba Hanks was the strongest and largest kid who ever lived on Flamingo so he was the logical choice to pull the wagon. It was Older Brother Richard’s idea to tie the Red Rider wagon to the back of Bubba’s bike using a three-foot piece of rope. After loading the wagon full of rocks, we all watched in amazement as Bubba pedaled up and down Flamingo.

With the test run finished, the rocks were dumped out and Twin Brother Mark and I sat down in the wagon. Bubba struggled at first but was able to peddle up over the crest of Flamingo and started down the steep backside. Eventually we came to a crashing halt in the front bushes of Old Mrs. Crabtree’s house. After a few trips and nothing more than a few scratches, it was time to up the fun. It was time to add a lawn chair.

As Big Brother James sat in one of Dad’s lawn chairs precariously perched on the wagon being pulled by Bubba, we all ran on either side cheering them on. I must admit, when they reached the cul-de-sac at the bottom of the hill, the sight of James flying over Ms. Crabtree’s bushes was the funniest thing I’d ever seen — until the next ill-fated ride. That’s when Goofy Steve got the stepladder.

With only 10 minutes left to play, Goof had run to his garage and returned with a short stepladder. Since it was his idea, Goof opened up the ladder, placed it inside the wagon and sat on the top step. Later he told Doc Jim he thought it would be safe because he wasn’t standing on the step, he was just sitting. Neighbor Thomas sat on the middle step, and the kid we all called Booger sat on the very bottom step. Don’t ask why his nickname was Booger; he was a good kid nonetheless.

With a hardy push, Bubba took off up Flamingo and down the backside. I’ll never forget the sight of Bubba, Thomas, and Booger crashing into Old Mrs. Crabtree’s bushes. But Goofy riding atop that stepladder was the craziest thing I’d ever seen anyone do. And him flying through the air as both he and the ladder crashed into and toppled her mailbox was by far the funniest thing I’d even seen anyone do while riding or being pulled by a bike. That is until last Friday.

Returning home, I started to turn down our street, being sure to keep a sharp watch for kids because school had just let out. My eye caught the neighbor’s three daughters riding bikes up and down their driveway. I watched as one of the twins attached a bungee cord to the front of a Red Rider wagon then placed two kid-size lawn chairs in the back. The other twin took off dragging the wagon and chairs on a successful trial run up and down the driveway.

Upon her return, the youngest sister, age 3, removed one of the lawn chairs and then climbed aboard and sat in the other. With a mighty push from the oldest twin, the younger twin started peddling with the wagon, lawn chair, and younger sister in tow.

I watched for a while, remembering this story, then took a picture and sent it to their dad before going inside. Even though all three girls were wearing bike helmets, I suggested that if he had a small stepladder in the garage, he might want to hurry home before the eventual crash occurred. He said that he did and that he would.

It warms my heart to know that, at least for our neighbors, Flamingo Street really isn’t so far away after all. Just hope all those injuries we received are.

Little One and Sweet Caroline, our two granddaughters, just received their first bikes. They’re pink and come equipped with training wheels. It should be a long time before the training wheels come off. Longer still before we have to worry about them doing something as dangerous as we did back on Flamingo. At least I hope so!

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]