These shoes have walked many miles. They have waded across creeks, saltwater marshes, and carried me deep into the forest where the sun’s rays barely penetrate the dense foliage. I have walked many beaches wearing them and they carry the burdens of many long days exploring and looking for adventures. They are old now as am I. I could never part with them as they are like an old friend that you never want to say goodbye to fearing you may never see them again.
In the summer of sixty-three, one of my uncles gave me a red Schwinn Bicycle. It had big tires, a small pack behind the seat and a basket. It had a big sprocket that was hard to get started but once it got going it would outrun any bike out there. All my friends made fun of it but I loved it. In those days anywhere you went you rode a bike or walked. Once I got those big tires rolling you could get anywhere you needed to go in record time.
I had just started middle school and it was about ten miles from my home but I loved riding my bike. Riding in the cold was far better than riding on the bus with the high school bullies. What’s a little cold compared to a black eye? The upside I was getting in shape from riding that bike. I also bought a new pair of Converse sneakers and a denim jacket. All of us that rode our bikes to school from the neighborhood wore the same outfit. We were styling and loving life.
It was a warm and sunny September morning and we decided that we would leave early and ride along Ocean Boulevard so we could see the ocean. We were well on our way when a Ford Mustang full of football players drove by us and the biggest player threw a Pepsi bottle out the window and hit my friend Kenny square in the face. It was like a movie scene in slow motion. Kenny lifted his hands off the handlebars and went down on the pavement tearing his clothing and getting some bad road burns on his hands and knees.
Before I could stop myself I had already shouted a few choice words at the football players. They slammed on brakes, tires smoking they came to a halt. All four of them got out of the car. They were bigger than life. They were the high school’s legendary defensive line. Truth be told all five feet six and 125 pounds of me had called them out. I was too afraid to run so I just sat there on my bike and waited. Maybe it would be fast, furious but soon over. The biggest one told me to apologize, kiss his shoes and he would not beat me up.
I was raised to face my fears and to never back down. That being said my daddy also told me not to be stupid.
I was raised to face my fears and to never back down. That being said my daddy also told me not to be stupid. I was raised to face my fears and to never back down. That being said my daddy also told me not to be stupid. I looked him in the eyes and told him I would apologize if he would apologize to Kenny. I mentioned the part about being stupid right? He just laughed at me and told me I better come up with something better. I told him that I challenged him to a bike race on a stretch of road of my choice and if I won he would buy Kenny a bike to replace the one he broke and if he won I would kiss his feet at the homecoming game. All of them laughed and he said game on.
It was Friday evening about an hour before sunset. Everyone from the middle school and high school was there. The road I chose was about a half mile loop in our development. It was where my friends and I or “The Crew” as we called ourselves rode every day. The rules were he would give me a half lap lead then we would go for six laps. My bike had an extra large sprocket and it took a while to get up to speed and I was mindful enough to stuff my canteen with water. I sat on the ground and laced up my Converse sneakers with my special lace; the one I used when I raced my bike. He rode a high handlebar bike that we called a banana bike. It had a small sprocket and was very fast off the line. He was catching up to me and after two laps he was way ahead of me. Every time he turned the loop my heart would sink as he disappeared around the turn.
Slowly I caught up with him as my bike got up to speed and then I started to pull away from him. He was red-faced and I am sure dehydrated by then. I took a swig from my canteen as I passed him and pulled ahead of him. By lap four I had lapped him and when I crossed the finish line we waited and watched for him. About fifteen minutes later he came down the lane walking and pushing his bike. I had won but was afraid I still might get a black eye out of the deal. Surprising enough he walked up to me and shook my hand and asked me if he could get a drink out of my canteen. Everyone clapped and the bad feelings seemed to diminish. He walked away looking over his shoulder and he said cool shoes …
Point Of View
It is important in life to face your fears and stand with your friends. Often being smarter is better than being tougher. We should challenge without animosity and be humble when things go our way, lastly, you should always wear cool shoes. These shoes have many more stories to tell but we will save that for another day.
These shoes carry the battle scars inflicted upon them when my dog was a puppy and chewed them with gusto. I feel the scars just added character to them. They survived the brutal cleaning in mom’s washing machine more than once. I keep them in a special shoebox along with other memories, sometimes taking them out and putting them on. I can feel their familiar comfort and I long to walk the dark forest and salt marshes again. They still fit a little less for wear and tear but comfortable. Perhaps today I will put them on carefully lacing them up and create some new memories for me and these shoes.