To know him was to laugh with him.
Dalerider wrote many stories and poems. This is my favorite.
A Ride With My Father by Dalerider1
We awoke early as we had agreed to do the night before, although “the night before” had somehow quickly become “this morning”. A Drambuie haze covered our conversation like the morning fog hovering in the dells surrounding the pleasant little Cotswold village. “How about a little breakfast before we’re off? He offered. “Yeah, I guess so” I replied…..not knowing exactly what he said or why I responded. Cheese, some fresh fruit and a little “Bubble ‘n Squeak” in the old cast skillet were quickly made ready……..and, we ate ravenously…….something about alcohol and late nights……or was it alcohol and no dinner…….made us very hungry.
He was a handsome man…not quite 6 feet….with coal black curly hair…..thin arms, but he possessed those “soccer legs” from the years he had played the game. It made me wonder it I could keep up on the ride.
The sun crested the last hill and made it known it was to be a fine crisp early fall day. Outside, we prepared to leave……he had borrowed Tony’s bike for the day…..Tony was his older brother and he worshipped him. Third among four boys, Dad was used to hand me downs……but this was no hand me down…….this was Tony’s bike! He looked at my Zaskar, shiny alumimium with the Girvin Elite on the front. “What’s that contraption?” he blurted. I replied that it was a suspension fork. “For a bloody bicycle?” His reply came like the report of a cannon. “Yes” I said. “It takes the edge of the ruts in these country lanes”. He mumbled something about if I knew how to float over the bicycle as it dips and dives, I wouldn’t need a “suspension fork” Well….. he was used to Tony’s single speed, rigid. He had ridden it many times before.
The Cotswolds are one of the most scenic areas in Britain. Rolling hills dotted with sheep, villages of natural golden stone, houses built centuries ago and the local heritage combine to give the Cotswolds their unique charm. The area is rife with country lanes……..lined with ancient hedgerows that often make you wonder whether or not there is a world outside the lane at all. But, there was. England in the thirties was between wars yet already the rumblings in Europe could be heard on the island like thunder from a distant storm.
But no storms today. We had agreed to ride and that, we were about to do! “Race you to Arthur’s’ place” he said. “You’re on” I replied. He was 10 yards ahead between the “You're” and the “on”. “Tuppence to the winner!” I heard him shout as he turned onto the first lane out of the village. His powerful legs already churning and the single speed lurching with each stroke. I, of course, as Girlie man extraordinaire, was already gearing down at the onset of one of the first of a dozen rollers before we got to Arthur’s place.
“Come on, chum!” the wind carried his voice, “I have a rendezvous with Mary later on……you don’t really want me to miss it, do you?” I heard. No, I really didn’t.
The difference between a 19 year old and a 45 year old was painfully obvious as I rolled up to Arthur’s and Dad was perched on the stone wall…….palm up and out stretched…….fingers flexing. I reached into my pocket and tossed the tuppence. “You really ought to lose some weight” he sported. “Yeah, I know”, I said.
We continued on various winding lanes alternately sprinting and coasting, laughing and telling stories. “Ready for an apple?” he asked. “Yes…..I need something to help me keep up with you!” I replied. “I know a place” he ventured.
We rode on another 2 - 3 km and turned up what appeared to be a old farm trail……..still used, mind you! Soon we regarded a line of trees beyond which one could hear the babbling of a small stream. “Its good and cold” he exclaimed, dipping his cupped hands into the stream and taking a drink. “Don’t do it, Dad!” I shouted. “What?” he spitted. “Its probably polluted”, I pointed out. “What, from the occasional sheep pissing on the bank……go on!” He said, and cupped another drink. I thought, how absolutely right he was to question my sanity……..large scale pollution, while coincident in its origins with pre WWI industrialization in Europe was yet to be recognized by anyone in this time.
We sat by the bank, ate our apples, laughed a lot
and soon it was afternoon.
“Remember?” said Dad.
“Mary”, I replied.
We mounted up and took off. For some reason the return ride took much less time than our earlier traverse over many of the same lanes and village mains.
We got to the cottage and he leaned Tony’s bike against the stones and turned, “See you in about 15 years or so!” he affirmed with a twinkle. “Yes” I said, “Bring your bike!”
This is the ride I never had with my Dad.
Then again, maybe I just did.
Dad died in 1984. Tony, his
younger brother was killed in action in Kenya during WWII.
Francis was killed in France during a German shelling attack. Only
Charles and brother George survived the war.
First Class Warrant Officer Charles Cannon of the Lancashire Fusiliers,
spent 18 months in a British hospital suffering from phosphor burns when a
German aerial bomb his unit was diffusing exploded.
I met him again in 15 years…just like he said. He married Mary.