… kite for sale
(photo of a Columbia “Standard” bicycle ca. 1880, from the Smithsonian)
Charles Isherwood Greenleigh Sale, “CIGS” for short, was a tall fellow of some renown. “The length of person you’d gladly welcome onto a boat, in case the mast snapped in bad weather,” as CIGS liked to put it in his own, personal version of self-affirmation undersell.
“Hey, CIGS – how’s the weather up there?” kids would yell as, at 16, he rode by on his five-foot-high bicycle. CIGS would smile down, and sometimes wave, if he wasn’t too distracted by looking in the second-story windows of the daughters’ bedrooms along Doctors Row.
He was “no salesperson of the self,” he once said. “If fact, if you gave me three-dollars-ten on Tuesday, and asked me to invest it in the latest, la-ti-da of self-promotion, by Friday I’d still have the full, three-dollars-ten resting in the pocket where I’d put it deep, on Tuesday, having gone on to think of better things.”
“Boy’s a fool,” Elwood Grainger told his daughter, Junie-Tune, when his peripherals observed her glancing at the cyclist as he passed. She blushed, Elwood shook his head, and CIGS kept on biking.
Some of the denizens of Empire False were surprised when, after high school and six years at the Polytechnique, he put aside the various techniques he’d successfully polified, and began racing on the big-wheel bicycle circuit.
“I had no idea there was a big-wheel circuit,” E.F. inhabs said to each other, over short picket fences, and long ice cream cones at the Frozen Numbler.
“Apparently it’s something that he started on his own,” others replied. “There are no races — not against other riders, or the clock.”
So it became a generally-regarded weirdness that was mostly overlooked, as people realized they liked to see him riding by. And once it became a fashion to toss dollar bills ten feet into air as CIGS passed, he began carrying a long-handled butterfly net to pluck the fluttered money from the air, like butterflies with cameos of Lincoln.
Then as word spread, CIGS spread his big-wheel wings and began touring across the country. In 1885, with few automobiles on the roads, and horses that remained surprisingly unspooked by the passing of a six-foot-seven-inch guy on a five-foot-high bicycle, traveling on the roadways of America was like opening presents on Christmas morning — an unfolding adventure of surprise.
20171212 15:45 Tue (414 words)
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