February 11, 2012

Boys, Bikes, and The Pack

Dave K., a men’s group pal, sent me this amazing photo. On Vashon Island (near Seattle, Washington), a tree grows carrying a strange passenger – an old bike. There are a variety of stories about how the bike got into the tree. One story goes, a boy went to war in 1914 and left his bike chained to a tree. He never came home and the family left the bike there as a memorial to the fallen soldier. Another less romantic version is that a kid simply put his bike in the tree decades ago and never picked it up, leaving the tree no choice but to grow around the bike. Then, of course there are those who think the whole think is a hoax and just a tourist attraction.

Apparently, you can go to the Country Store and Gardens, across the street from the Bicycle Tree, and get a copy of the "original" history of this island legend written by Aunt Vy (Vy Bie), the woman who lived it and wrote it.While there will always be some controversy, and maybe even mystery about when the bike was left and by whom, the photo of that bike touched something deep in me.

Do you remember having a bike as a kid? My bike memory, when I was 6 or 7, was the boy equivalent of getting a driver’s license. That ride opened up new neighborhood territory, fresh vistas, got me away from my house, and, almost more importantly, got me access to the cool boy pack of young guys who also had gotten bikes. In the summer, we’d swarm the neighborhood, test our skills on rugged park terrain, terrorize other kids, and pedal till we couldn’t any more.

Boys, adolescent males, and even men are simply pack animals. Tribe, team, squad, or troop, guys are comfortable in a swarm and have been for centuries. Were you part of a boy tribe? What was your core experience of being on a team? Do you support a sports team today and, if so, what's in it for you? Who is in your male tribe today, if you have one, and how do you feel if you are without one? Leave your story in the comments section of this blog post below or send them to me and I’ll add them for you.

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1 comment:

  1. Tim W.11:20 AM

    Another great blog! I've seen that tree/bike photo before. Interesting the gender assumption that it was a boy (not a girl) who left his (not her) bike by the tree. I did that too.

    Getting my first bike was probably one of the most significant "milestones" in my boyhood. I got a Schwinn bike for Christmas (with training wheels) and it was snowy (I grew up outside of Detroit), so I shoveled not only our small front sidewalk but down the block so I could ride my new bike a ways down the street.

    Can't remember if I realized it at the time or not, but that bike opened up a "new world" for me: independence, mobility, even a job (newspaper delivery boy). I don't recall riding with other guys or even thinking of bike riding as exercise or a possible sport but I loved getting on my bike in the morning and riding to elementary/middle school (many miles away from my home), and riding back home in the afternoon after school. My bike was one of those old-fashion fat-tire, single speeds with a carrier/rack on the back to load my newspaper saddlebags on. Thanks for bringing back so many wonderful memories.

    To add a political/environmental dimension to this post, there's a movement in the US called "Safe Routes to School" which advocates making it safe for kids to ride their bikes to school (rather than taking a bus or being driven by their parent(s) ). I live near a couple of schools and ride my bike to a recreation area near the schools, and am saddened/angered to see how many parents drive their kids to school, increasing air pollution, burning oil and depriving their kids of exercise and the freedom I experienced as a child.


Your response to this blog post is appreciated and welcome.