Friday, October 07, 2011

Peanut Gravel

It was a beautiful Fall day in rural South Georgia 1975. My brother and I had gotten out of school and were peddling our bicycles home like we did everyday. In 1975, we did not have to wear helmets to ride a bicycle or knee pads or any safety gear. The cool fall weather made the bicycle ride more enjoyable.

After crossing the highway that led out of town to Cairo, my brother looked at me and put down the challenge, "Lets race!" That was all I needed to hear. I stood up on the pedals and began pumping my legs as hard as I could. We were side by side as we approached the corner. I shot for the inside of the turn to get the advantage. As we righted the bikes out of the corner, I was flying and had him by just a bit.

The local peanut processing plant in town had machinery that separated peanuts from rocks. The plant would pile these small rocks at the edge of their property and offer them to the public for free. Many of our neighbors took advantage of this generous offer and used these peanut rocks for their driveways. As I came racing down the edge of the street, the tires of my bicycle hit some of these peanut rocks that had scattered from a driveway into the edge of the street. The bicycle jerked, and I wrestled trying to regain balance and control. But it was not happening. I went down with a thud sliding on the course rock imbedded asphalt and the loose peanut rocks scattered on it.

The palms of my hands burned from the scraping they took and my chin hurt. I began spitting rocks and blood trying to clean out my mouth. A kid from our school had walked out to get the mail from their family's mailbox just as I crashed at the end of their driveway. He looked me over and suggested to my brother, "You probably need to get him home."

My brother helped me up and had a terrified look on his face. I got back on my bicycle to complete the remaining 150 yards home with blood dripping from my chin. My brother took off riding as fast as he could screaming at the top of his lungs for my Mom. When I rode into our driveway, my brother and Mom were standing in the driveway to inspect my injuries.

Mom took a quick look and reported I had a puncture below my bottom lip that needed stitches. She gave me a wash cloth to control the bleeding and loaded us into her car for a trip to the local clinic.

Our family Doctor shook his head as I described the events leading up to the rocks tearing a hole in my chin. He described what had to be done calmly as he began administering several shots into my chin to deaden the area so he could sew it up. Once done he advised that I could not eat anything for the next seven days. I could drink with a straw being careful to keep liquid away from the stitches.

My mind raced to what this meant. The school fall festival was that weekend with Carmel Apples, desserts, and all kinds of great candy. And now, I would be having none of it - a devestating revelation to a 12 year old.

The next several days were filled with every food imaginable being blended into a pulp the consistentcy of broth and consumed with a straw from a glass. Those seven days seemed like months. One of the happiest memories of that school year was the painful experience of having those stitches removed and knowing I could eat whole food that night for dinner.

I remember this episode in my childhood every time I crawl on a motorcycle. It sits in the back of my memory reminding me to carefully watch the roadway for loose gravel and other debris that could disturb the delicate balance of traction and control.


Bill (cycleguy) said...

Being a bike rider myself, I am constantly watching for loose anything. Going around corners that are "strange" is always an experience in care. Yelling out "Sand!" or "Gravel!" is the norm. how much more it would be traveling at such a higher rate of speed than the mere 15 or so I may be doing. Be careful Allen, on the cycle and in life. I have found it is the pesky peanut gravel that often causes me to slip.

Allen Madding said...

That is a good word both figuratively and literally, it is not usually the big stuff that causes us to slip.

Thanks for reading and writing!


redlegsrides said...

Allen, pea gravel, heck any kind of loose and builtup gravel can make for an "interesting" experience when on two you unfortunately found out.

It's one of the "drivers" to my being on three wheels when I know I am going into iffy terrain conditions.

Good post.


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Allen Madding:

Doesn't it make you wonder how the hell any of us survived our younger years? No helmets... No protective armor... No nuthin... Then again, no bicycle helmet made today would have spared your chin?

I had a couple of good bike crashes... One of which put me in the hospital for four days with a vicious concussion.

Like I said, "How did we survive bicycle crashes, playing on the tracks, and our first experiences with drugs and alcohol?

Fondrst regards,
Twisted Roads

Allen Madding said...

Dom - your three wheeler approach makes more sense to me ever day :)

Thanks for writing!

reep - I honestly thing we aren't helping kids with the padded playgrounds and knee pads. I think we grew up tougher and more resilient because of our rough and tumble upbringings. A lot of important life lessons were learned just the way I learned about peanut rocks.

Thanks for writing!

Lady R (Di) said...

I remember getting the top of my right foot scrapped along the asphalt for about 10 feet,while riding double with my girlfriend on my 3 speed bicycle. (we must have been 12 or so and bare foot, of course) I got it trapped under the pedal some how and I practically threw us both down trying to get off! Boy, that hurt for days!

My first experience with road rash... and it wasn't the last.

Unknown said...


I was about to say I've been through something like this - I punched a hole through my lip on one occasion (5 stitches) and bashed my chin on a bicycle another time (7 stitches...) But this must have been pretty gruesome, nobody kept me from eating after my maulings. Lord, I'll bet you remember a good number of details about that day.

Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life

Allen Madding said...

Lady JeepsaLot -
Despite our maulings on bikes, we came out ok. I chaulk it up to important life lessons.

Thanks for writing!

Brady -
Something tells me we both lived a rough and tumble childhood and wouldn't change a thing.

As I remember, it was something to do with where the stitches were, infection, etc. What I firmly remember was I thought I would starve to death!

Thanks for writing.


Unknown said...


Sounds about right. And no, I wouldn't change it. I fell on set of unfinished stairs I was using as a balance beam and knocked my face right into a piece of plywood. Zip, right through the lip.

I can only imagine what it's like to eat 'soup' for a week. If you were anything like me, that would not have been cool. Bring on the potato chips! (I did not come from a family of hippies, or even health conscious parents. People thought I had a tapeworm growing up.)

Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life