Friday, May 9, 2014

The Cigar Tree

When I was a kid, I liked my bikes’ looped, u-turn handle bar that set up or down.
I liked the bike’s thin tires and wire spokes. I liked getting two playing cards and clothes pins, then attaching the cards to each tire. The spokes slapped against the cards and my bike sounded like it had an engine!

I liked the shifter---I shifted the gears to select between ten speeds--- to pedal easier up a hill or go faster on flat ground. Actually---Sacramento just had flat ground; and I loved riding my bike.
Rolling over the streets, I felt I was a cowboy; riding my bike elevated me. It extended my range. I rode it to a grassy field one summer day where girls from school played baseball with us. I rode it to William Land Park to fish in the pond; but the pond was closed. I stood, blocked by a chain link fence on a sky blue day---so decided to climb over. I poked the fishing pole through the fence and pitched, but as it went through the hook penetrated my index finger and instead of climbing the fence, I went to a doctor.

I liked to ride with friends on my bike. One time, a group of us were pedaling fast, parallel to Curtis Park going north, our destination the Cigar Tree. Tottering tombstones visible by the Cigar Tree emanated foreboding in that place.  We zoomed in, dropped our bikes and scrambled up the tree. We were grabbing cigars as fast as possible.

These cigars grew about six inches and were thicker than cigarettes. They were withered and dry, and many dangled from the tree. We knew the Cigar Tree was in “other” kids’ territory---we didn’t know them, but raiding their tree was taking a risk, and the risk challenged. A band of yelling kids on foot suddenly attacked and we fled on our bikes fast--- furiously!  We rode ten blocks, past the tennis courts in Curtis Park, gradually feeling calmer the more distance we put between ourselves and our pursuers---until we stopped in a grove of redwood trees.

We climbed up thick, low branches which gradually thinned the higher we climbed. Careful to plant feet firm, we grabbed branch after branch, pulling ourselves aloft higher and higher until we found perches--- until we were so high we could see the distant white dome of the State Capitol.

Hidden in the Redwoods ---we lit our cigars and smoked and watched the smoke billow and ascend. We gazed at the Capitol and felt like kings.


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