When I was a youngster, my buddies and I were playing in the woods next to a half hidden house at the end of the block. The yard of the house sloped down and at the bottom of the hill there was a path that intersected the slope. Beyond the path were wild blackberry bushes. My friends noted that it would be impossible to ride a bike down the sloping yard and then make the hard-right-turn at the bottom and continue down the path. I disagreed. They taunted me and called me chicken when I didn’t take the dare and try it myself.
Later I returned alone on my bike. I had seen a western movie called The Big Country staring Gregory Peck. His character had been a sea captain. When he was laughed at for not riding a horse at a ranch, he returned to the corral with the top wrangler. He swore the wrangler to secrecy and asked for the toughest, most spirited horse to ride. He was introduced to “Old Thunder.” I don’t know how many times Peck was thrown off the horse, but each time he dusted himself off and tried, and tried again until he rode that horse and Old Thunder gave up bucking. No one else ever found out about the episode alone with the bucking bronc. It was enough for Peck to know that he could ride that horse and probably any horse. That’s all Peck wanted. It was enough for him to know that he could do it and succeed. This film emboldened me.
I returned to the woods and the house. I sat on my bike envisioning me barreling down the hill and making the 90 degree turn at the bottom and continuing on down the path. I saw myself doing it and I knew I could do it. Just knowing that it was possible was all I was looking for.
I started down the hill gathering speed. As I neared the final twenty feet I hit my rear tire brake and immediately increased speed as I shot forward like a luge at the Olympics. I achieved air and sailed over the path and landed berry deep in the bushes with my bike on top of me. As I lay in a heap I realized there would be no help forthcoming from anyone. Like space and a berry patch, no one can hear you scream. I shoved the bike off me and after several attempts to stand I simply rolled towards the path. Once on the path I stood up and stomped down the berry bushes and retrieved my bike. I walked it home. I had satisfied myself knowing that I had tried and fear had no place in my attempt.
I’ve faced life like Gregory Peck and have attempted what looked impossible many times knowing that I could probably overcome obstacles. I never let fear enter my mind. I don’t always succeed.
Later as an adult I re-watched the movie, The Big Country and felt the same glow and self-satisfaction . . . until I checked the credits and saw the debut date. The movie didn’t come out until three or four years after my adventure. Memories change and alter the past on their own. The down-hill event happened, but over the years my mind combined the lesson of Gregory Peck’s character and my own stupid actions. As an adult I have made similar attempts at various times. Sometimes I’m successful and sometimes I’m not, but my confidence remains intact . . . as well as my ability to laugh at myself.