Getting around on the Hill: Every trip was an adventure

Mike Ward

Most of the kids who grew up on the Hill have events or places that stand out in their lives. In Headquarters, it may have been swimming at the HQ pool, fishing up by the Y, playing on the old 92 steam engine (now the center piece at Locomotive Park in Lewiston), etc. One particular feature stands out to me. It was a ditch that ran across the field between the swimming pool and the baseball diamond.

One day while riding my bike toward the pool, I decided to go through the ditch at top speed (for me). I had previously removed the front fender to reduce wind resistance and increase the cool factor. As I exited the ditch, I flew into the air. The whole world was below me as I prepared for a perfect touchdown. Suddenly, I noticed that my front tire had separated itself from the bike and was rolling out in front of me. I had a basic understanding of certain laws of physics. You could say that I fought the law and the law won. Sure enough, the bike came down; the forks dug into the ground and the bike stopped. I, however, did not stop. I rolled for a bit before coming to a halt. I was not bleeding “that” bad, so I hauled the wayward wheel and bike back to the house and reassembled them. This time I turned the wrench a little harder to avoid a repeat of the previous event.

Another episode involved a friend, Darrel, who gave some of us kids a ride on a horse around the infield of the baseball diamond adjacent to the ditch. When it was my turn, I walked the horse around like all the others had done. Suddenly, the horse decided it was time to go home and ran full-tilt across the field toward the ravine by the railroad tracks. As we approached the ditch, he jumped and I went into a low flight pattern just above his back. He landed, and I came down in the saddle as if we had planned it that way. While in the air, I screamed a three-word prayer that changed the course of my life: “God help me!” I know He heard me. He couldn’t help but hear me, because this was no silent prayer. The horse continued up the draw. I grabbed the limb of an alder bush that was along our path and let the horse continue without me. I floated for a second or two before hitting the ground in a manner similar to that of the bike episode. Again, no major bleeding. I limped back to thank Darrel for the ride. The horse went home. I don’t think I ever saw him again. God does answer prayer.

Ward, 72, lived in Headquarters from 1948-70. He graduated from Pierce High School and received a bachelor’s degree in education at Lewis-Clark Normal School (now Lewis-Clark State College). He’s now retired and living in Columbia, S.C., with Beth, his wife of 47 years. His stories are fairly true — the names may or may not be changed to protect the guilty — with thanks to the many friends from Headquarters, Pierce and Weippe (and all the little wide spots between these towns) who enriched his life and fueled these memories.

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