As early as the age of five or six, I was allowed to ride my bike with no real supervision While I still had training wheels I was pretty much restricted to our driveway and maybe a short way up and down our road. Eventually, when my training wheels came off, I was allowed to ride not only down the street to my best friend's house, but even to the Farm Store (now called Royal Farms), which was a gas station/convenience store on Sandalwood Road about a half mile from our house. My mother would give me money and I could run to the store to get milk or eggs, or sometimes to grab her cigarettes. I usually got a candy bar while I was there too, as a payment for my service.
On one particular summer morning, I had been riding my bike up and down our driveway, and I had tied my Radio Flyer wagon to the back of the bike with a shoestring, so I could pull the wagon like a trailer. It was a lot of fun for a kid in the 80's... My mom came out of the house and asked me to run to the store for some milk and she gave me a plastic baggy with some change in it to pay for the milk. I happily untied the wagon from the back of my bike and set out on my mission to go get milk. I took off down the road on my bike with the shoestring still attached to the back. I got about halfway to the store when the string got caught in the chain of my bike, and I got my first real lesson in physics. Because although my bike came to an almost immediate stop, I remained in motion. I flew off the bike, over the handlebars and landed on the asphalt, face-first. I slid for a short distance, and I must have lost consciousness at least momentarily. The very next thing I recall was three young black boys helping me to my feet. One of them was at least a few years older than me. He helped me up while the others grabbed my bike and asked me where I lived. As best I can recall, this was the first time I had met a black person in real-life. Prior to that, I had only seen them on television.
The boys were kind enough to help me walk and began taking me back towards my home. We made some light conversation, but I was bleeding badly from my face and I am sure I was more than a little dazed. I know I had told them I was just trying to go to the store. I can still remember vividly the site of my best friend's father's red & white ford truck coming down the street towards us. I can only imagine how things must have appeared to him, me with a bloodied face being carried off by strange boys towards the woods... I remember his truck came to a screeching halt and stopped at an angle on the shoulder of the road opposite from us. The large burly, bearded man lept from the truck screaming "Get the hell away from him!" as he ran over and snatched me away from the oldest boy. Before I could even speak he had put me in the cab of the truck and thrown my bike in the back and peeled out back towards my house.
When we got home he handed me over to my mother and explained what he had seen and I told her what had happened. She thanked him and took me in the house and laid me on the couch. While my mother was cleaning my face and tending to my wounds, I remember there was a knock at the door. The boys who had helped me to my feet had gathered up all the change I had dropped and brought it back to my mother. She thanked them and sent them on their way. I believe she gave them some money to get a candy bar. I learned that not all strangers are dangerous and that there are virtuous people out there who are willing to help. I also learned that such virtue should be thanked and rewarded. I never saw those boys again, but I remain grateful. I cannot imagine what might have happened had they not come along.