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Title: Riding the Dam
Genre: Middle Grade, humorous, coming-of-age
Word Count: 40,000
Pitch: 1952 Texas is a boy’s paradise providing ten-year-old Allan with endless adventure; but when his mother becomes ill, Allan discovers it’s not excitement he longs for, but the comfort of family and the gift of friendship.
San Angelo, Texas, 1952
Today, Raymond and me were going to ride the dam. I’d been waiting for this day for three solid years. This wasn’t just any dam, but the biggest dam in the world. If it was in Texas, it had to be the biggest.
We both owned bicycles, but I had decided early on that it was a lot of work to pedal around looking for adventure, so I convinced Raymond to let me ride on his handlebars while he did the pedaling. I told him riding this way allowed for easier conversation. This arrangement came with some risks. Kids were known to get their toes cut off in the spokes of a bike riding like this, so I learned to wrap my toes around the front axle like an eagle wrapped his talons around a branch during a windstorm and hold on for dear life.
It took us thirty minutes to get to the far end of the dam and there, we began our slow ride to the highest point. It was straight uphill and Raymond was pedaling, almost standing straight up. This was going to be harder than we thought.
Raymond was trying to catch his breath and in rhythm with each down pedal, asked, “Why. Am I. The one. Always. Doing. The pedaling?”
I said, “You know good and well, this way I can watch for rattlesnakes. Just because we ain’t never seen any doesn’t mean we won’t.”
Raymond was deathly afraid of rattlesnakes–they were the only thing he feared more than Principal Hanover and Fifth Grade Math.
I guess I sounded convincing because Raymond was quiet the rest of the way. ‘Course it could have been that he preferred breathing to talking. Twenty minutes later we were finally at the top. As Raymond positioned the bike for the long, almost straight down slope, I began to rethink this idea. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I had never been afraid of anything before, but the dam was made entirely of dirt and the ground was so uneven and rocky. Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea.
I hopped off the handlebars and picked up a rock. I threw it and we watched it hurl down the dam, twisting and spinning and bouncing until we couldn’t see it anymore. I wondered how many pieces it was in, once it landed. I turned to Raymond and said, “You know, Raymond, I think it might be best if you rode the dam by yourself. It might be easier for you to see where you’re going if I’m not riding along. Come to think of it, my extra weight could be a problem too.”
Raymond had something of a temper and he said, “Allan, this was your lame-brained idea to begin with. If you don’t ride down this dam with me, you’re walking home!” He reminded me that I was supposed to be watching for rattlers on the way down. It was settled. It was my idea after all. I hopped back into my position, curled my big toes tightly around the front axle, and grabbed the handlebars with a death grip. Then together we counted, “One. Two. Three.”
And down we went.
To see pictures of the real characters go here