Even at pre-school age I had unusually free roam of the neighborhood in which we lived. Maybe it was the naivety of the 1970s, but I was without adult supervision a lot more than it seems in retrospect was probably prudent. On this particular occasion I wasn’t alone, but with a group of similarly aged friends. We were all five or six years of age, tops.
I was at a neighbor’s house, maybe eight houses down the road from my house in the subdivision where we lived. So, I guess technically we were in someone’s yard and theoretically could have been observed by that kid’s parents. I do not believe that we really were given what ultimately happened.
This house had one of those u-turn driveways, paved, that curved in front of the house. To the left of the house was a forest and, as I was soon to find out, a creek. Angled between the forest and the left side of the house was a bike path. On this particular day my friends and I were riding our bikes from the right side of the u-turn driveway, following that turn as it passed the front of the house, taking the sharp turn right onto the bike path, and then sliding to a stop in the dirt. I can’t actually remember why this was something we were doing or why it was fun specifically.
On one of my rides I remember thinking… why do we keep turning onto the bike path? Why not just keep straight and go into the forest. There seemed to be an opening there. So, on my next ride I decided to do just that. In hindsight, I suppose I should have asked someone before blindly going forward. Pedaling as fast as I could, I didn’t take the sharp-right onto the bike path, and instead continued straight.
Here is where I had my Wile E. Coyote moment. As my bike exited the paved driveway and entered the opening into the forest, I realized I was temporarily suspended in mid-air, maybe three to four feet above the surface of the water below. This was where the creek ran up to, and ultimately under, their driveway. I do not know why I did not know this previously, but in that suspended moment I could feel myself hover for what seemed like an eternity before first the bike, and then I quickly thereafter, plunged straight down into the creek.
Somehow, and I do not fully understand this, the bike and I were beside each other in the creek. I’m not sure how this happened. My friends came over to help me climb out of the creek and back onto the driveway. It helped that for some reason there were boards nailed to the side of the ground that held while I climbed them.
The rest of the memory is a blur. I remember being soaking wet. I remember not being hurt. I remember borrowing some clothes from my friend whose house we were all at. I remember my parents coming to get me because my bike was in the creek. I remember coming back at some point with my father and him using a shovel to fish my bike out of the creek.
I don’t remember ever playing with any of those kids again. I do remember being at that house again, though, at some point in the future… and where the creek was, there was now a large pile of variously-sized boards, each with large nails protruding from them. I remember thinking how it was a good thing those were not there that time I had ridden my bike off the edge.