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Country boy transportation

By Clif Knight

My brother Billy and me jumped with joy when we saw the mail carrier stop at our mailbox and unload a big cardboard box from the back seat of his car. We had been anxiously awaiting the arrival of a mail order from Sears & Roebuck after sending the company $31.50 of our hard-earned money for a new J.C. Higgins bicycle a few days earlier.

We were even more excited when we cut open the package and viewed the shiny parts –two 26-inch wheels complete with inflatable tires and tubes, two red and white pin-striped fenders, red frame and chrome handle bars, would soon become our first and only bicycle.

Despite the urge to drop everything and assemble the parts, we were called back to the cotton field to resume our work. However, we were given the time to look over the instructions and unwrap the parts and line them up in order on the front porch.

As we worked with our hoes, we visualized how we would use our new wheels to get to places we wanted to go faster than ever before. It would reduce a walk to the nearest store from 25 to five minutes and give us a half hour more time to fish and swim in Fox Creek before returning home.

Earning the money to purchase the bike was not a piece of cake. After committing ourselves to the project a year earlier, us brothers saved every penny and nickel we could get our hands on. Included were coins we could’ve used to buy popcorn at the movie theater or ice cream bars at the school recess store.

Most of the money came from chopping, hoeing and picking cotton for neighboring farmers after we helped harvest our own crops. The pay was $1.50 per hour for choppers and $2.00 per 100 pounds of picked cotton.

The bike more than paid for itself in terms of the service and mobility it provided. For three years, it took us anywhere we wanted to go, often riding double, in creeks, through fields, on washed out dirt roads. It also provided us invaluable mechanical experience, keeping the wheels rolling with the aid of replacement bearings, brakes, tires, tubes and spokes. Replacing it with an engine-driven car became a search of a first cousin and me, and we settled on the purchase of a 1931 Ford Coupe with our first two Alabama Army National Guard checks. We kept the Model A Ford on the road throughout our senior year in high school. We sold it for $100 after graduation. I traded my share for a 1948 Plymouth working car and my cousin used his part paying freshman tuition fees at Auburn University.