Putting on the Big Boots

Hi-Yo Silver! Away!

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I don’t remember a time when we did not have a television in our home as I grew up. The black and white Zenith sat next to the roll-top desk in the living room and often provided night-time entertainment for the family.

The enticing adventures that flashed on that gray screen drew me in far more than I care to admit now, as an adult. Already at the age of four, I had favorite shows. The common theme was evident in my hero characters: Trigger, Fury, Flicka and Silver.

But our farmer parents believed there were far better things to occupy their children’s time than TV viewing. “You don’t need to be sitting in front of that television.” I can hear Dad setting down the rules. When there was work to be done, we had better be helping. When there was time to play, we had better be outside.

I don’t know if Mom and Dad had bicycles to ride in their growing up years, but they obviously concurred that their own children should have the opportunity. When Deloris was just old enough to ride a full-size bike, the folks wheeled one into the living room on Christmas Eve. She couldn’t wait until the snow melted the next spring so she could ride it.

For a time, Donald rode a russet-colored two-wheeler that Dad bought at a sale. When he was nine, Mom sent his name to a Sioux Falls TV station to be entered into their promotional contest, the Treasure Chest. During the nightly news, the anchor man drew a name for that night’s key. Donald’s name was drawn, and his key opened the chest. He won a brand-spanking-new red Schwinn boy’s bike!

My older siblings put many miles on those three bicycles. Of course, the boys rode the boy’s bikes and the girls rode the girl’s bike. (I never did get an answer when I asked why a girl’s bike was different.) A short fender arced over the front wheel; a narrow tire centered on dozens of shiny spokes. Over the back tires on all three bikes extended a sturdy four-inch metal strip—the passenger seat.

One warm summer day, Dorothy asked if I wanted to go on a bike ride. (Duh! Did the Lone Ranger catch bad guys?) My bare toes stepped on the chain guard, and I deftly swung one leg over and settled in right behind her. She sternly instructed me to keep my feet out, far away from the wheels. I nodded gravely, not sure why this was so important, but soon her feet pushed down on the pedals, and we were off.

A soft, gentle breeze caressed my face. Gravel crunched in rhythm under the tires. Suddenly, the metal seat beneath me became a smooth, brown saddle. Trees and grass blurred as we cantered by. Silver whinnied happily underneath us as we blazed a trail, onto the road and up the big hill.

We pulled back on the reigns and skidded to a stop at the neighbor’s driveway, a quarter mile away. Silver’s white mane flashed in the sunlight as he shook his head, turned around and galloped back toward home. Maybe, in my wondrous imaginings, I forgot my sister’s orders and let my feet drop. Maybe I moved my foot to nudge Silver’s flank. Whatever the reason, just as we were trotting into the driveway, I let out a shriek of shock and pain. My heel had been pulled into the whirling spokes. My sister braked immediately. She took one look at my injured foot, pulled me carefully off the bike and rushed to the house.

Dorothy felt terrible. She was crying when Mom met us at the door. They set me on the kitchen counter and lifted my foot. When I saw it, I started crying, too! (Probably for all I was worth.) Dad came in and they examined the torn skin and flesh. They considered taking me to the doctor in De Smet, but since there was no need for stitches, decided not to.

Mom filled a basin with hot, soapy water. Dorothy, still upset that her little sister was hurt, ran upstairs to get bandages from the medicine cabinet.

Dad stood next to me, his big strong hand resting on my shoulder. “Does it hurt bad?”

Opportune tears flowed down my cheeks. I sighed a long, pathetic sob, the big-breath shudder that happens when you have been crying hard. Then I sniffed a really big sniff for good measure and looked up into my father’s worried hazel eyes.

“Dad, can I PLEASE have a horse?”

(Tune in next week for another episode!)

Kruempel’s newest book release, Once Upon a Midwest Sunset, as well as her series, Promises to Keep, are available on Amazon.com. Once Upon a Midwest Sunset is a compilation of the stories from her NOOKS AND CRANNIES column, which was published in five newspapers in 2020-21. Contact her at deannkruempelauthor@gmail.com and receive free stories, recipes, photos and updates.

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