Of all his friends, Denny was the fastest on his bike. Not only could he out-pedal anyone at Oak Hills Elementary, he could take on any jump in the field behind the abandoned gravel pit. That place was a world of its own- there were miles and miles of bike trails and hills, and groves of trees and a creek. So many days were spent where the boys re-enacted scenes from their favorite adventure movies, camped out and pondered the Milky Way, planned raids on the Fulton sisters’ house down the street, made a jump ramp over by the old gravel pit, and fished for carp in the old creek.
Summer time was the best. Travis’ dad had just finished a contractor project and brought home some reclaimed wood. The gang feverishly dragged as much as they could to the grove on their wagons and bikes. Using rope, half pounded and bent nails, and a prayer, they managed to erect some semblance of a house in a large and twisted old Oak tree. Despite it’s ramshackle construct, it was fairly sturdy.
They managed to get the assembly about fifteen feet off the ground. Only Arno had a hard time walking across it—he was about three times as large as the others—with three times the appetite. Swing ropes and a draw bridge completed the monstrosity.
When the Southend neighborhood kids caught wind of what the Oak Hills boys were doing, they were determined to take it. Without warning, a lazy Saturday afternoon erupted into the most vicious dirt clod war all of Rock River had ever seen; it was the day when Denny’s highly admired BMX skills were put through their trial by fire and he became legend.
During the thick of the fight, the Oak Hills boys were holed up in the rickety fort. They had the high ground, but they were out numbered, and their supplies- and their bikes were down below. Eric had brought his brother’s airsoft guns so they could pick off the pheasants that stalked the area, but when the first wave came, he barely had enough time to kick the chest down into the lower embankment and cover it with some scrap wood and tree branches. If they could get them, they would outgun those scrappy Southend kids—but they needed a diversion.
That’s when Denny piped up.
“Alright! These guys are stupid. If I can get down to my bike and take off, they’ll come after me. That’ll give you guys a chance to get the pellet guns!” Denny felt brilliant, as if the fate of the free world rested on his shoulders.
“You’re crazy! They’ll kill you when they catch up!” Arno blurted.
“Dude, I can out run them! You just get the rifles and be ready when I get back.”
With that, the gang gathered as many dirt clods as they could that had landed in their vicinity, and at the count of three launched a furious counter attack giving Denny enough time to slide down the rope and take off on his bike.
“Hey losers!” Denny taunted as he tore away.
It was beautiful. He took a jump and pedaled through the groves. As he suspected, the Southend kids all took off after him. Denny circled around, flew over the old water main, through the thicket, and around the bumpy trails. Two of the boys had turned off and re-appeared right in front of him—that surprised him. He turned off and slid to the side almost falling into the old gravel pit. He got up- scraped shin. His wide eyes darted around. Cornered! But adrenaline pushed his bike and he lost no time staying ahead- though they covered the trails back out to the main dirt road.Then he realized- he was by the jump ramp!
The others laughed thinking he was trapped. Denny swerved his bike, rounded a jump and on full huffed up the board ramp up over the edge of the pit and used his momentum to jump over the embankment and over their heads—all of them stopped and craned their necks in a state of shock.
Denny landed hard jolted his spine, but he managed clear the pit and stay on course. He’d feel that later, but it was better than getting his butt kicked by those boys.
Denny rounded again and came up on the backside of the grove. Just as the boys came riding up, the rest of the Oak Hills boys jumped out from behind the trees and sprayed painful paint pellets on the unsuspecting Southenders. They turned and rode off.
The Oak Hills boys cheered jumped for joy! They screamed and hollered. They grabbed Denny and hoisted him up on their shoulders.
It was the best day of Denny’s life, and rounded the top five after his marriage and the birth of his son.