OLD TIMERS WERE ON A ROLL!
By Norris Chambers
Kids always have to roll something. It can be just about anything. You start by rolling something like a tin can; you graduate to a churn lid or a basket top. Then you get creative and nail a syrup bucket lid on the end of a stick and push it around the place. When you get older you can roll plow wheels, wagon wheels, buggy wheels, water wheels, and just about any kind of wheel except a windmill wheel. We tried windmill wheels and voted against them as a good rolling toy.
Clifton and I built and used many wheel devices and enjoyed all of them. Some worked pretty well and some didn’t.
One of our favorite coasting conveyances was an old buggy frame. We removed the body and left a nice frame with four wheels. We bolted a board across the frame in a position that enabled us to sit on it and place our feet on the front axle. The axle swiveled in the center for turning so we could steer it with our legs. This old buggy frame was even better than a coaster wagon. We logged many miles coasting down the long hills in the area. There was only one problem. The buggy coaster had to be pulled back up the hill. The ride was worth the effort.
Of course the size of the hill and the length of the road that descended from it were important when coasting. About three miles from where we lived was a great coasting hill known as the Graham hill. An automobile, or other coasting device, could ride free for about a mile. Most travelers on that road turned their engines off and coasted down. Those who were in a hurry didn’t bother. Most drivers in those days were not too ambitious and took time to enjoy the fun things that were offered.
When we wanted to do serious coasting we used that hill and transported our coasting device by old automobile or our faithful mule that we called Jack. Old Jack was slow, but he was dependable. If old Jack were still alive and could talk he could tell some tales that would make the Old Timer’s tales sound like children’s bedtime stories.
Perhaps our most memorable rolling episode began when we were browsing through the Cross Cut junk yard and happened to notice a large tire. It must have been used on a very large truck or some sort of machine. The tread was about eight inches wide and the wheel opening was at least two feet in diameter. This was too good to ignore and we began wondering what we could do with it. Clifton was the first to make a suggestion. He told me to hold the tire upright and he curled up inside the wheel area. He had me push him a few feet. “It’s a natural coaster!” he exclaimed. So we took the tire with us. We decided that some modification was necessary to make the ride more comfortable so we installed some wooden brackets along the inside edge to make the riding compartment more comfortable. After a few short trials we decided it was ready for the Graham hill.
Since the whole idea was Clifton’s it was only fair that he should get the first ride. I patiently held the tire upright and he curled himself comfortable inside the center. Then he instructed me to “Let it go!” I gave it a slight push and it started its journey down the long hill. We had neglected to consider a steering system and as it gained speed and veered slightly toward the ditch on the side of the road I realized our mistake.
The big tire with Clifton inside continued to increase in speed and kept moving toward the ditch on the right hand side of the road. The ditch wasn’t very deep and the side adjacent to the road was slightly sloped. The speeding tire entered smoothly and continued to speed along the bottom, dragging Clifton’s arm and legs against the steeper bank on the opposite side.
I started racing down the road to survey the damage. By the time I reached the site of the catastrophe the tire had turned over in the ditch and Clifton was beneath it. He was moving around beneath the coaster and I pulled it off so he could get up. He stood up but wobbled around a bit and fell back to the ground.
“Everything is going around and around!” he complained. I noticed that his shirt sleeve was torn and he had a nice “hen scratching” on his arm. He tried again to arise but fell back down. Eventually he was able to walk but it was obvious that he had survived an irritating trauma!
Did we have fun with the big tire? Clifton didn’t and I didn’t dare laugh. You might have fun with a big tire if you don’t try to ride down Graham hill inside it.