Bev had a 26”, fixed wheel boy’s bike, not the ideal machine for a rather small 5 year-old to learn on. Mounting the bike presented a problem. Using the fence to stabilise the bike, I could climb on, then pedal like mad to get it going. Learning balance took time, but my friend Bev steadied the bike till I got going. She had endless patience and energy for running along beside me. There were plenty of wobbles and falls. Even with the seat at its lowest, my short legs had trouble reaching the pedals and I managed by slipping from side to side.
Stopping was another problem to overcome. No free wheel to ease to a stop! My feet barely reached the pedals, so they were inches off the ground. The fence was my anchor. I would cruise past slowly as close as I could and grab a wire. I made one bad mistake grabbing a barbed wire, but only once. I eventually got the hang of it after losing some skin and collecting a lot of bruises.
For Christmas that year I received a 24” green Malvern Star girls’ bike. Being a proper girls’ bike, it was easier to get on and off and it was a free wheeler. I cycled up and down our long driveway and out into the paddocks. I was free!
The school days I spent in town, staying with my grandparents, went more quickly now I could ride around Violet Town, which, in those days, was a quiet, safe place. I could visit my other grandparents or play with my friends after school. Even in the school holidays I could sometimes ride into town on gravel roads that were very quiet. I always gathered speed to cross the bridges after hearing that “swaggies” sometimes camped under them. Probably the most frightening experience I had was coming across a large brown snake in the middle of the road. Too late to stop, I had to swerve around it, being careful not to run over it. I had heard tales of people running over snakes and suddenly finding the snake wrapped around them!
Another humorous memory is of Grandma King‘s attempt to learn to ride. One evening, when she was minding Allan and I while Mum was in the hospital with our new little brother, she decided that, as the coast was clear, she would try to achieve what her little granddaughter was doing so effortlessly. Sadly, she found it harder than it looked! It always amazes me that it is a skill which, once learnt, seems to stay with us forever.