Angry shouting broke the quiet of Sunday morning. It was my brother and I blaming each other for crashing the bike that we shared onto a neighbor’s newly seeded front lawn. Our arguing attracted the attention of the homeowner, who shouted, “Get the hell out of my yard!”
We scrambled onto our stingray, and pedaled home at top speed, or at least as fast as two guys sharing a banana seat can ride.
Sometime during grade school, maybe second or third grade, my parents made an offer to me and my brother, who is one year and one day younger than I am. If we came up with $25, they would cover the rest of the cost of a new bicycle, which my brother and I would co-own.
Raking leaves, washing dishes, vacuuming, and returning bottles to the neighborhood grocery store for deposit money, we managed to scrape together $25 toward the purchase of an Executive-brand stingray. We were beside ourselves with joy as my dad assembled the bike. Shortly after that, the trouble began.
Deciding who gets to ride is the stumbling block with bicycle co-ownership, especially when the owners are younger than the age of 10. We both wanted to ride the bike all the time, but never more than when the other owner wanted to ride. With the Executive’s high-rise handlebars and a banana seat, we could both ride at the same time. But it wasn’t easy.
We both fit on the banana seat easily enough. I was taller, so I sat at the back of the seat, with my brother in front of me. His feet were on top of mine on the pedals. We placed our hands side by side on the handlebar grips, and away we’d go. We were a bit shaky at first, but once we found our rhythm, we could really fly. We had two sets of legs pumping the pedals. Imagine a compact, lightweight tandem, but ridden by two brothers who didn’t always get along very well.
We were pretty good going straight, and when we both agreed where we wanted to ride. Intersections were always an adventure, with shouts of “Turn!” and “Go straight!” competing against each other. When we couldn’t agree which way to go, a common experience, it was very easy to lose control of the bike. When one rider wanted to go straight, and the other wanted to turn, the resulting hand-fighting could easily steer the stingray onto a newly seeded lawn.
The all-too-common crashes took their toll on the bike. With its scraped handlebars, scratched paint, and dented pedals, the Executive lost its luster. The shared rides became less frequent and solo rides more common. Also, as we grew it became tougher to physically fit two riders on the stingray.
I don’t think we rode it for more than two or three years. The Executive had a brief second life as a BMX bike several years later. One summer racing up and down the hills and around the sharp curves on the dirt trail that we called Baja, and the Executive was laid to rest in the attic above the garage of our family home.
I haven’t seen the bike since we buried it in the attic of a house that hasn’t been my home for more than 35 years. But every time I see a sprinkler watering a newly seeded front lawn, I remember the scraped knees, busted knuckles, and good times that I had riding with my brother. Long live the Executive!