Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bikes in History

Mulga Bill's Bicycle
~AB (Banjo) Patterson

'Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that caught the cycling craze;
He turned away the good old horse that served him many days;
He dressed himself in cycling clothes, resplendent to be seen;
He hurried off to town and bought a shining new machine;
And as he wheeled it through the door, with air of lordly pride,
The grinning shop assistant said, "Excuse me, can you ride?"

"See here, young man," said Mulga Bill, "from Walgett to the sea,
From Conroy's Gap to Castlereagh, there's none can ride like me.
I'm good all round at everything as everybody knows,
Although I'm not the one to talk - I hate a man that blows.
But riding is my special gift, my chiefest, sole delight;
Just ask a wild duck can it swim, a wildcat can it fight.
There's nothing clothed in hair or hide, or built of flesh or steel,
There's nothing walks or jumps, or runs, on axle, hoof, or wheel,
But what I'll sit, while hide will hold and girths and straps are tight:
I'll ride this here two-wheeled concern right straight away at sight."


A while ago we had a weekend excusion to the Australian War Memorial which has a marvellous children's section complete with replicas of whirring helicopters, smelly submarines and life on the home front.  It is a very worthwhile place to visit but I do need to remind my son of the horrors of war rather than the Boy's Own excitement of all the battle dioramas and display cases full of dashing military garb and real artillery. 

Here we are peddling away on a stationary bike in one of the social history displays - a rather spindly affair which reminded me of my own trusty, childhood steed; back in the days when bikes had front and rear mud guards, skirt guards and a levered contraption above the back wheel on which to strap your school bag, in addition to a snazzy wire basket on the handle bars and a bell.  There were no gears or hand-brakes and we seemed to get around quite fine without them. 

We hardly ever go cycling these days.  The children don't ride to school and as we are at the top of a hill with busy roads nearby, we don't allow them to ride unaccompanied.  It is usually a big production to strap the bikes onto the car and drive to one of Canberra's spectacular bike paths for a short ride.  A quite unfortunate predicament.


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