L&T Publisher Earl Watt
The hardest part was breaking off the handle.
And old metal trash can lid was the perfect shape for what we wanted to do, except for the handle. You’d be amazed at just how well built those things are, and the handle was no exception.
No matter how much we bent it up with a hammer, it just wouldn’t come off.
But Uncle Eddie never gave up on a project, and my grandpa’s shed had every tool known to man.
It was too thick to snap off with metal cutters, and the weld was not going to give way.
That left us with the hacksaw, but one way or another, the handle was coming off.
We had to get the hacksaw as close to the lid as we could. We didn’t want to leave anything that could catch on the ground.
We learned to use tools early, so being a third grader working the hacksaw was no big deal.
Still, Uncle Eddie had more experience, and he was able to get bigger bites than the rest of us on each stroke, and despite its best resistance, the handle on that metal trash can lid finally succumbed to the hacksaw.
The next part wasn’t as hard, but it was still a little tricky — how do we attach the rope?
We had to punch a couple holes in the rim of the lid for that, and the metal gave way as we punched through.
When I say the hole was made for rope, that might be giving too much credit.
I’m sure at one time, it was rope, but by the time it made its way to our hands, it was frayed and fuzzy like a caterpillar, but we hoped there was enough strands still connected to accomplish our goal.
With our lid and rope apparatus, Uncle Eddie grabbed the Honda Trail 70, and we headed down the alley to Frog Pond.
Today, the Frog Pond is a true retention pond that no longer resembles the Frog Pond of my youth.
Back then, the Frog Pond along the railroad tracks just west of Pershing Street was a virtual oasis in the middle of town. It was a mini forest that blocked out the view of the city, and kids could play games there outside of the view of adults.
And, from time to time, other activities took place at Frog Pond that weren’t allowed on the regular street or alley, and it was almost an accepted practice that trail motorcycles could be used in the inconspicuous region where it seemed nature was untouched, and unregulated, by man.
Once my brother David and my Uncle Eddie had the rope firmly attached to the Trail 70, it was time for a test run.
Eddie cranked the starter, and with the hum of the engine he revved it up and took off down the straightaway.
The lid had little chance.
It bounced and skipped and flipped as I watched alongside my brother.
Eddie circled back.
“Okay, it’s ready,” he said.
“Ready?” I exclaimed. “You barely made it back with the lid.”
Eddie assured me there was a reason.
“There was no weight on it,” he said. “When we put weight on it, it will stay on the ground.”
Hmm. Made sense.
“Yeah,” my brother chimed in. “When you get on it, it will stay on the ground.”
When I get on it?
Being the youngest in the group didn’t come with privileges, and I knew if I refused, they would tell me to just go home and play inside like all the little kids.
I knew I was going to have to get on that lid.
“We have to pull the lid back first so the rope is tight,” Eddie said, and he pulled the Trail 70 forward.
I just looked at it for a minute.
Was this going to be how I go? On a trash can lid?
“Better to go young and brave than live long as a coward,” I told myself, and I crawled onto the lid.
I was not a big kid weight-wise, but I was lanky, and I had to sit criss-cross on the lid to fit.
Maybe I could get them to add a couple handles before we took off.
That wasn’t going to happen.
I grabbed the sides of the lid, and Eddie asked the question.
I gave a dishonest answer.
I heard the engine start up, and Eddie started off slow as to knock kick rocks right into my face.
The front of the lid lifted off the ground, and I leaned backward as we started to slowly move forward.
I was doing it, I was riding the lid!
With momentum clearly moving forward, Eddie hit the gas as we barreled for the far side of Frog Pond.
It’s at moments like these that you feel close to God, that you question every decision you’ve ever made in your short life on Earth, that you realize how thin the line is between the physical and the spiritual.
For those few seconds, I felt like I was taunting death, teasing it, but not exactly sure that death would not win in the end.
As Eddie reached the far side of the straightaway he turned. I didn’t. The whiplash motion of the trash can lid provided too much force, and I was dislodged from the lid and sent into a tumble on the gravel.
When I stopped rolling, I had survived the ordeal.
Still, I had some pebbles embedded under the skin and a cut on my leg.
As was typical in these situations, Uncle Eddie issued triage on the scene.
“Oh, that’s not bad,” he said. “You won’t need stitches.”
What a relief. But I wasn’t completely out of the woods. I was still going to need some treatment from my grandma.
“Some merthiolate and peroxide and you’ll be fine. But I’m not letting you ride again until you can learn to stay on.”
Yeah, it was my fault I was flung 30 feet off the trash can lid. He wouldn’t have to worry about me getting on that lid again. I had proven myself.
And Eddie didn’t send me without an alibi. After all, there’s no way I could tell me grandma what we were really doing.
“Just tell her we were playing in the alley, and you fell,” he said.
I headed home to see my grandma who secretly though of herself as a docto, and would chomp at the bit to patch one of us back together. Truth be told, the cure was worse than the accident.
After she pulled all the pebbles out with tweezers, it was time for rubbing alcohol and peroxide before the red merthiolate would provide evidence of my war wounds for the next several days.
And yet, all I could think about was how hard we worked to get the handle off that lid.