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Looking out my Backdoor: Girl on bike, woman in red car


August 30, 2018

It’s a mystery. I hear Jack Webb’s voice (Sgt. Joe Friday) in my ear. “Just the facts, Ma’am. Just the facts.”

July 25, a sweltering sunny afternoon, my granddaughter Antoinette, rode her bike down Kendrick, a side street in Glendive, Montana.

At 3:30 her Mother sat in her office, recording client notes into a file, waiting for her 4 o’clock appointment, when her phone rang. “Mom, come get me. I wrecked my bike. I don’t know where I am.” She was on a street she rode every day.

A woman, whose name we do not know, took the phone and told Dee Dee that Antoinette was on the lawn of the church.

Meanwhile the woman who had picked Antoinette off the street and helped her to the grass, laid the bike beside her, waited for Dee, got into a red car and drove off. Thank you for stopping and helping, whoever you are.

Dee’s office was five minutes away. She rushed out of her office, leaving the door open. Dee helped Antoinette into her van, stowed the wrecked bike in the back and drove straight to the hospital emergency room.

At the hospital, Antoinette admitted she remembered nothing. She rode along the street and then she was in the street, down and hurting. Obviously she had a concussion. Her right arm was broken, third broken arm. The flesh on her hand was skinned back. Road rash covered her left leg, knee, thigh and shoulder. Her right knee has either a hairline fracture or severe bone bruise. And, she hurt all over.

It wasn’t until the family got home and Chris, Antoinette’s dad took the bike out of the car, that they realized that the “accident” was not as simple as believed. Her brand new bicycle was crumpled, the handlebars not just loosened but bent out of shape and the brake line had ripped apart. The tires and seat were twisted. Antoinette’s bike helmet has two holes in the top as well as a long scrape the length of the helmet.

Those are the known facts. You tell me what happened.

Antoinette is 12 years old. She’s had mild cerebral palsy since birth. Luckily her disease is not severe. From birth she has had physical and occupational therapy and she is encouraged to stay physically active. She typically rides her bike a couple hours a day when weather allows.

It is a month later and Antoinette still has no memory of what happened. She has intense headaches and still suffers high levels of pain.

Glendive is a small eastern Montana town, population about 5,500, just off the freeway. Everybody knows everybody. They are good people, just like our neighbors. Kendrick Street is not a main thoroughfare. Nobody reported the accident.

Obviously Antoinette didn’t hit a rock in the road and lay down her bike. Who hit my granddaughter? I have many questions and no answers. We’ll probably never know.

I’ve un-intentionally laid my bike down on the rutted gravel roads I rode around Harlem more than once back in the day. Worst I ever suffered was skinned knees and gravel bits welded to my palm. Something is really wrong in this story.

It’s a good thing Dee Dee is a bike-helmet tyrant. (Dee said moms of CP kids tend to be tyrants.) If she weren’t, I might not have a granddaughter.

I know it seems silly to our generation. None of us ever wore a bike helmet. There was no such thing. But if you don’t have one and can’t afford one, I might know somebody who’d get you one.

Schools are back in session. Kids are walking and biking, laughing and talking. It is up to us to be alert. Please, please, please, watch out for our young ones.


Sonndra Ashton grew up in Harlem but spent most of her adult life out of state. She returned to see the Hi-Line with a perspective of delight. After several years back in Harlem, Ashton is seeking new experiences in Etzatlan, Mexico. Once a Montanan, always. Read Ashton’s essays and other work at montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com. Email [email protected]


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