7/4/20 – Memphis
As I rode again on the AG Farm, I saw a guy on a chopped motorcycle with an American flag attached to his handle bars. The flag flapped over his head as he streamed along at 50 miles per hour. I came to the end of the road and noticed a sign to Shelby Farms. Bicyclists were coming from that direction so I decided to check it out. What I discovered was miles and miles of beautiful bike trails around the lake and along Wolf Creek.
The tree covered bikeway was sheer delight for riding, but even more fun was circling the lake at Shelby Farms. Ducks were swimming and people were canoeing on the lake. Lovers sat in love seats facing the lake, and old men were fishing, a common site I’ve seen in China. Just like there, I never saw anyone catch a fish. I asked one experienced-looking fisher, do you occasionally catch anything?
“Yes, occasionally,” he replied nonchalantly while tending his line.
“I hope you catch a big one,” I offered as I parted.
“Thank you. I appreciate it.”
At 8 a.m. there were lots of walkers too. Half or more of them were Black people, and I noticed they were more inclined to be friendly and spontaneous. As I circled the lake on Sunride, I was greeted with bright smiles and compliments from about half a dozen engaging women. One woman, taking in my unusual bike as she approached, exclaimed, “I like it! I like it!” Her good nature opened up mine. I passed another walker, stepping tall and pumping her arms upward. I called out: “Good form!” She smiled big and thanked me. A pair of women were striding toward me side by side. Their legs and arms swung synchronized like marching soldiers. Both raised their hands simultaneously and waved at me. Their walking posture was perfect, chest out, arms pumping. I couldn’t resist saying, “Looking good the two of you!” Gleefully laughing they both said, “Thank you,” simultaneously, and continued without breaking stride. It reminded me of the only date I had in my single days with a Black woman. She took me to a dance club where I was a minority of one. I remember while dancing everyone on the floor snapped their fingers at the same time, except for me. Though I felt a bit out of place everyone was kind and accepting of me. I hope we are always as kind to the minorities in every crowd.
One of my earliest memories was at my grandmother’s house in Pulaski, Tennessee where, dubiously, the Ku Klux Klan started. I must have been only three or four years old. I was sitting on the front porch swing when an elderly Black man came by in a mule-drawn wagon. I was captivated at the sight. As he sat holding the reins in one hand, with the other he lifted his hat high in the air and flashed a big, toothy smile at me. My grandmother, just inside, came out on the porch and told me not to waive at that man. I said, “But grandma, he’s nice.” Then she said, “No, Johnny, we don’t have anything to do with those people.” My grandmother was a living saint. Even though she raised three boys as a single mom during the Depression, I knew she was wrong.
I’ve celebrated a lot of 4thof July holidays. This one, of course, was different because of Covid. Even so, as I glided effortlessly along the Greenway Trails, I never felt so free. God bless America, the home of the free!