I rode east out of Broken Elbow, Oklahoma, along the fabled Doe Trail, named for the intrepid John Randolph Doe who first mapped the region. Some say he was an explorer, driven by a desire to see new horizons and discover fresh, unspoiled vistas, but others say he was merely a two-bit con man a step ahead of the law. The trail is one of the scenic wonders of our state, looping through tall-grass prairie, wetlands, and skirting Mount Monongahela. It was built mostly with federal transportation funds due to the diligent effort of our own Senator Doe, great-grandson of the explorer. During construction, it employed almost all his relatives, both living and dead. Many of the living are now serving time, including the senator. It's rumored that some of the non-living relatives, those who testified against the others, are buried somewhere under the trail right-of-way.
Far ahead, I caught an occasional glimpse of another rider. He wobbled back and forth across the trail, waving his arms and cursing a blue streak. The section through the wetlands is notorious for clouds of mosquitoes and midges. He was waving his arms trying to fend them off, and it was hard to tell which was more effective, the arm waving or the blue language.
As I got closer, I realized I knew the guy. It was Wally Crankset!
"Wally! Hey, Wally! On your left!" I yelled as the distance closed. I did this very early; because Wally had a tendency to lurch in whatever direction he turned his head. Sure enough, he swung to the left, directly into my path. If my wheel had overlapped his, I would have fallen.
"Whaaaaa?" he shouted as he recovered. "Who dat?"
Even at a safe distance, I could smell tequila. Wally was infamous for carrying booze in a water bottle. He was sensible enough to avoid riding on the road when he'd had a few drinks, but trails were another matter. He didn't have to worry much about encountering a cop, for one thing, and most local cyclists knew to avoid riding near him.
"Wally, do you have any water? I'm running low." It was a diplomatic way of asking what he had in those bottles.
"Water! Hell, no. I got tequila AND vodka! Got any limes? We could have a party!"
It was worse than I thought. Wally had been depressed off and on since Wanda Sue, his fourth or fifth ex-wife, had gone to trial and been incarcerated for her repeated attempts to kill him. Wally was alternately fascinated and terrified by her. He'd loved her without hesitation and with a passion that nearly consumed him, worshipping her as his personal goddess. But she was a vengeful, jealous goddess when the marriage ended. Besides, she was a good shot with a pistol. Wally had a couple of bullet holes and he'd been jumpy ever since.
"Uh, no, Wally. Do you want some of my water?"
"Water! Never touch the stuff. It's got floridiates or ditoxins or something or other. It's BAD for you!"
We slowed down to talk. This was a good idea because if one of his wobbles caused a crash, it wouldn't hurt as much. Wally was in the LOUD drunk stage that usually preceded falling asleep. A deer fly landed on his neck and bit him. He never noticed, and shortly the fly buzzed off in search of a detox center. I stayed upwind, thankful that the humidity prevented static electricity. A single spark would make Wally's bike go up like a bomb.
I thought it would be a good idea to keep him talking and keep him moving, because if he fell asleep near the swamp, the insects would suck him dry. They'd all die in the process, of course, so it wasn't necessarily a bad thing.
"Wally, did you see that news article about wearing helmets? Some people think it's important."
"Important!" he shouted. "That's what that damned doctor said. He told me that if I keep riding this bike, I’d be important! What the hell does he know?"
"No, no. That was some doctor in Boston who said that bicycle saddles might make you impotent, not important."
"That's right! It's not important. That what I've been trying to tell you! And what's 'impotent' anyways? Why are you using all them fancy French words allatime?"
"Ah, no, Wally. Impotent means, well, your kickstand won't work."
"There's nothing wrong with my kickstand! I've had his same one here on this bike since I bought it!"
Wally didn't get it so I tried another tack. "What it means is that Little Wally won't stand at attention anymore."
He was aghast. "You been talking to my girlfriend, Sue Ellen, haven't you? Dammit! That woman never could keep her mouth shut!"
This was the first time I'd ever heard of Sue Ellen. Like most women Wally found attractive, there was almost certainly a sociopathic tendency in her personality. I'd do my best to avoid meeting her.
I changed the subject. "Wally, this isn't about saddles or Sue Ellen. Some psychology guy did a study that indicated if you wear a bicycle helmet, motorists pass closer than they do when you ride without one. It's been on the news. Did you see it?"
Wally would not be distracted, though he had enough alcohol in his system to cause some confusion. "Wearing a helmet will make me impotent?" he wailed. I could see this was going to be difficult. "I don't wanna be impotent! I don't want my kickstand to fall off!" He'd gone from happy drunk to crying drunk in a matter of seconds. Like most men, he and Little Wally were very close. He tore off his helmet and threw it far out into the swamp. A cloud of insects swarmed around it, dying by the thousands as an oily, foul looking slick spread across the water.
We were almost to the trailhead. "What do you say we stop up here and take a break, Wally? I could use a little time out of the saddle." I really didn't want him to ride on the road in his state. It was just too dangerous. To my surprise, he readily agreed.
As we turned the final corner, I saw a gleaming white Ford Taurus parked at the exit, with a stunningly attractive blonde woman standing alongside. She was looking for someone, and as we rounded the bend, that someone was evidently Wally. She smiled and waved.
"That's Sue Ellen! I forgot to tell you she was gonna meet me!" Wally beamed.
I looked carefully. Sue Ellen didn't show any visible tattoos, knife scars, or piercings. Her hair wasn't spiked or some neon color. She was dressed sensibly in cargo shorts and a t-shirt, and despite the pseudo-outback look that I’d usually find laughable, she was simply and radiantly gorgeous. I was smitten. Better yet, there were no obvious signs of mental derangement, edged weapons, firearms, or explosives. In fact, she looked absolutely normal. This was entirely unlike most women Wally dated or married, most of whom had extensive criminal histories.
"Sue Ellen! I'm glad you're here. I have a killer headache!" Wally didn't bother to introduce me, and besides, I'm not sure I would have been capable of intelligent speech. She was that stunning.
"Just get in the car, Wally. I'll take care of your bike." Sue Ellen bundled him into the car where he fell asleep in seconds.
We did introductions and I stammered my way through without making a complete fool of myself. I even helped her load the bike as we talked. It gave me something to do and helped keep me from staring.
"I didn't want Wally to ride on the street", I said. "He's had a bit too much tequila."
"Oh, that." Sue Ellen laughed. "I've been cutting all his booze with water. He pretends not to notice and pretends to be drunk. It's better for him health wise, but he'll never admit to it. He didn't get much sleep last night so he's a little out of it today."
I didn't want to speculate on why he didn't get much sleep.
"Gotta go", she said. "I have to work hard to keep up with him. Wally's gonna wear me out!"
In a moment, they were gone. As the car pulled out of the parking lot, I noticed that Wally had both eyes closed, but he also had a huge grin spread across his face.