The fridge was my BMX bike. The stifling heat was the jungle. The neighbours were the neighbours but laid out in deck chairs.
It’s been a while and I’m back in the spare room again with a deeply aching arm that brings back more memories of jungle life around the late 1970s / early 80s. Pan to images of motocross barrel jumping, cars and flaming hoops.
I’d somehow gotten a BMX bike for a birthday present that was a BMX bike in name only and was as heavy and about as aerodynamic as a fridge, but the image they sold me on as a kid was of soaring across the sky, jumping barrels, cars and flaming hoops. Also “Cousin Daisy” from the ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ T.V. series. Although that was much later on I think – mid-80s, so I may be splicing and dicing my memories. E.T. (the movie), Elliott and the bike silhouetted against the moon was also later on come to think of it.
Anyway, the “Good Ol’ Boys” from the Dukes of Hazzard made it a habit to jump over lakes and bodies of water in the “General Lee” (a Confederate Dodge Charger) and their “Cousin Daisy” was hot. Uncle Jesse, not so much.
The link was as clear as mud, propel yourself over water in something steel framed (ideally with an air horn) and you got the girl (although that doesn’t quite work as “Daisy” was the “Good Ol’ Boys” cousin) but there was enough there for my brain to make the synaptic leap.
Somehow with my brothers help, we built a wooden ramp on a cleared area of our jungle orchard home beside what we called the “River Kwai” but what was mostly an overland flow path for septic tanks. A trickle of tinkles. This was the stream that an eel swam up by mistake and died a while later in, that my brother afterwards wore as a belt until the smell got too much for him.
The idea was that I would ride as fast as hell from the top of our bowl-like steeply inclined jungle orchard down to the stream edge, hit the ramp at speed, and clear the bubbling (rather than babbling) brook landing heavily yet composed and at all times in control on the other side.
It must have become clear to the neighbours what we kids were up to as they brought out deck-chairs to watch the show from their deck. They had a double-storey house that looked down on us. I remember feeling a bit uneasy at being trapped now with this audience along for the ride but there could be no going back. No retreat, no surrender. Besides one of the neighbours was a cute girl – fait accompli !
Anyway I pedalled like hell from the top of the arched hill and managed to hit the ramp but there was zero lift from the fridge and I propelled hard into the “River Kwai”, its septic contents, and the bank like a bird that just hit a glass window mid flight. Smack ! and then kind of slid down the side into the steaming morass.
This wasn’t how it should be I thought as I tried to make sense of what had happened and dragged myself up onto the bank noticing that I had a crap load of pain coming from my arm. I glanced up at the neighbours who looked pretty disgusted (even the cute girl) with the show – I was too ! – and they started folding up the deck-chairs and moving back inside probably to watch the T.V.
The pain in my arm was now so bad I really felt like crying but I held it in while briskly retrieving the bike with its tangled handlebars and twisted front and rear brake cords, while my brothers solemnly got the ramp and we dragged it all and myself back home. I’d realised at this point that I must have broken my arm as the bone was poking out of my skin – but no need to compound the misery and I managed to get inside without a fuss in as dignified a fashion as possible.
And that was the inglorious end for this Rough Rider for anything intentionally airborne, freestyle or fancy on my BMX (aka the lead fridge).