I hadn’t been riding a bike very long, but that new found freedom didn’t take long to exploit. That’s the way it is with most of us I think, starting as kids and following us around like our shadow all the days of our lives. We tend to take gifts and use them to go our own way, do our own thing, regardless of the rules.
The bike was a Christmas present, probably the best one ever, but with the gift came responsibilities, rules from my parents… Enforced by my dad in a time when breaking the rules, if we got caught, meant the thin black leather belt type of justice.
My friend Glen who lived around the block was over on my street, North 17st, the only street my bike and I, the captain of that freedom, were allowed.
“Let’s ride to Sylvan Park!” Glen blurted with the kind of excitement that comes from breaking the rules…
“I can’t, I’m not allowed,” I answered with far less excitement.
“Nobody’ll know!” Glen was a natural born salesman…
I knew my dad would get home right around sunset, but I also knew the road above our house was like a raceway. Cars flew by on the road that went from one side of town to the other with only one or two stop signs. I can’t remember weighing the risk involved; I do remember that the gift I’d been given and the word I’d given to obey were easily broken.
I can still feel the stinging gusts created by passing cars whipping against my face along with the dreadful sound as they blew by us on that two lane road decades before bike lanes were invented. We made it to the park, but there would be no fun that had been anticipated when I decided to break the rules.
Fear and anxiety turned me back toward home almost immediately. It’s a peculiar thing about a memory… some things stand out vividly.
On the way back we spotted a dead dog along side the road. He was lying down the grade of the shoulder. It was a dachshund and that was the day I remember losing a bit of my not so innocent innocence. The vivid picture was more than just the dead dog, it was the swarm of red ants crawling all over him, especially his nose and mouth.
When we finally made it back to my street alive, I was relieved to discover no one looking for me. I felt bad for breaking the rules and my word, but more than that was the vision I couldn’t get out of my mind of the wiener dog with ants eating his mouth and eyes that haunted me – A haunting I’d have to keep to myself for years and somehow one that still lingers, after all this time.
Isn’t that how our Father works sometimes? There are consequences for dishonesty, and just because we don’t get caught doesn’t mean we’re gonna get away without consequences. How easily we surrender our honor for folly…
I thought about that ant ridden wiener dog a short time later as I was digging the grave for our cat, Kitty Boo, who’d been hit on that same road… Tears were falling from my mom’s eyes as well as my own… I had more reasons for heartbreak than she could know at the time…it was a life changing journey I went on that day..