Tuesday, March 19, 2019

It's not raindrops that keep falling on Paul Richardson's head

(Paul Richardson's column, The Horse I Rode In On, appears regularly in the Neosho Daily News, Seneca News-Dispatch and the Turner Report.)

One of the positive aspects of riding on a single horse-powered horse or the steel horse with many horses-of-power, is the escape from confinement.

While being in the cabin compartment of the caged vehicle offers some amenities such as heat, a/c, shielding from the rain and more; exposure to the elements builds character. Character can be built in so many ways, but when you ride one must understand that everything out there is a threat to your very life. Some of these may not kill you but can certainly dent your dignity and will always build character.

My dear mother doesn’t like to park her car under power lines. This is not from a fear of induced voltage, but an aversion to bird droppings. She is very protective of her vehicle. This OCD leads to purchasing wiping cloths that are identical to the paint color in order to keep any cloth fuzz from showing up after post-drive wipe-down. You can only imagine what trauma bird droppings would develop.

So if you can relate to my dear mother’s angst, just imagine the fear that would grip you under the following conditions: 

Many years ago I recall riding in my unfettered environment without a care on my mind when I observed a large bird flying at a rather low altitude and on a course that would intersect my path. The bird was gaining altitude, I was riding forward, there were no apparent problems. When suddenly, I saw an unidentified “something” descending. 

What do you do? Do you speed up? Do you slow down? Do you swerve head-on into the car coming at you in the adjacent lane? A quick calculation indicated that the descending item would intersect my path at about the eye level coupled with my current rate of speed. My desire to not intersect with this item at any level resulted in me just closing my eyes and twisting the wick. Oh sorry, I forgot, not everyone is going to understand all the lingo. 

Well, let’s put it this way, I accelerated without hesitation and a lot! At the next scheduled stop, a review of my person and the bike did not reveal any nastiness, so I considered the decision a success.

That day a different outcome would have required a ride through an automatic car wash. Other encounters of the fowl nature have held a more sinister threat. 

We were headed north on Sunday morning last summer. The “we” in this story was myself, the good wife riding behind me and the rest of the crew in a full pack formation. Someone, probably Dr. Howard, was riding to my immediate right as I was in the high left position next to the centerline. At an unthreatening distance ahead, a flock of turkey buzzards were feeding on some road kill. 

As we approached, all the flock took flight. All except one bird. This bird waited until the last second, probably because he had staked a claim on the best possible part of the road kill. 

Upon takeoff the flight path was away from us but was precisely in the same direction and line. This bird wasn’t taking off like a jet liner. His speed was more like that of a very old twin engine prop driven plane. The main problem was that there was a significant differential between his air-speed and our ground speed. 

In addition, the bird wasn’t gaining altitude quickly. He was about eye-level height and we were looking at the south end of a northbound buzzard. The good wife had chosen to completely ignore the warning that I have posted on the back of my helmet for her to read and observe. That warning reads: Crying, whimpering, or screaming to slow down will not be tolerated and could result in the ejection of the passenger. 

It turns out that the possibility of colliding with anything seems to unhinge the good wife and her fear of hurting my feelings is no longer paramount. While the good wife is screaming, screaming something that I probably don’t want to remember, the rest of my crew is watching and backing off in case I should choose to clamp down on the binders. 

All the while I’m thinking, “Surely, this bird is going to get out of my way”. Just as it seems that time has expired and a decision must be made, the bird banks left to circle back around to the road kill. I don’t think a pass through the automatic car wash could have saved this one!

So, as you go to park in the downtown district, look up. Just don’t look up as you stand beneath the overhead wires. You might want to move down a space or two, or just plan your trip so your next stop is the automatic car wash!

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