Some memories stick out from my childhood so clearly that I wonder how that is possible after all this time. How can something that happened 45 years ago, and did not having a life changing impact on my life still be running around in my head? And why am I thinking about it now? So many questions, only one of which I can answer. I am thinking about Ft. Smith Arkansas, the smells of spring and riding a bike because my doctor told me to get exercise to ward of the increased levels of sugar and cholesterol in my body. Evidently, I have some borderline issues.

The year I was in 6th grade, my family moved to Ft. Smith Arkansas. Having spent the previous 6 years in Southern California, moving to a relatively small Arkansas town created culture shock for the adults in our tribe. Even back then Southern California (Orange County) was a hopping place with 24/7 availability and multiple non cable TV channels, which is how civilization was measured in the 1960’s. Ft. Smith Arkansas had one rabbit ear channel that combined the major networks (remember that?) and the sidewalks of downtown rolled up at 5pm. While my parents tried to adjust to this drastic difference in lifestyle, my brothers and I hardly noticed. I made friends at school and in the neighborhood. (My elementary school had a cafeteria inside, not just picnic benches!) Across the street from our rental house lived a family with three kids, including two girls, in 5th and 4th grade. The Culp sisters, Julie and Cindy. We started playing together, including riding our bikes (I had a big white Schwinn with pink pin striping) in big circles down our block, then down the alley behind their house and around again. (My house backed up to a field with grazing cattle even though it was the middle of town and did not have an alley.) The alley was dirt and had little hills that would create puddles after a rain, which in Ft Smith that year occurred frequently. We always rode those hills and through those puddles as fast as we could making mud streaks on the back of our clothes. White 1965 Schwinn

But that is not what this entry is about. Surprised? Mr. Culp was a hands on guy that ran/owned a go-cart raceway on the weekends. I don’t know if that was his full time job or just a weekend thing, but I went with the family from time to time and got to drive a go-cart. I recall liking it very much. But what I recall about hanging out with the Culp sisters the most was that Mr. Culp built, for his family’s enjoyment, a bicycle built for 5. He used parts of other bikes, and built this multi colored homemade bike that was completely wonderful. He was the leader, seat number one, with the three kids in the middle in order of age and Mrs. Culp at the back. But on many occasions, I filled in the trailing seat. On warm evenings or Sunday afternoons, 4 Culps and I would ride all over Ft Smith Arkansas on big one bicycle.

Mr. Culp had confidence and would locate streets with hills to race down while we all hooted and yelled, encouraging the fun. A bike of that size draws attention from everyone including, well, dogs. Besides people smiling, pointing and waving at us I recall more than once I had to raise my feet from the pedals to the handlebars of my section of the bike to keep from being nipped as a dog would chase the end of the homemade ride. Riding around on that bike is one of my best memories ever.

So why am I thinking about that now? I am wondering if I can talk my husband into a tandem bike. Exercise. Outdoors. I swear, it won’t matter if it is just the two of us, I will be 11, and riding with 4 others, if at all possible. It was the best ride in town.