Every town, no matter how straight-laced, has a few odd balls who do not fit into the conventional mold. My hometown, Sequim, is no exception.
At the bottom corner of our 40-acre dairy farm south of Sequim, Bell Creek cut diagonally across the land isolating a little one-third acre parcel of our farm that was worthless for any agricultural purposes. My parents rented that space at a nominal fee to Sam Wyatt — an elderly man known to all the children of the valley as “Sam, Sam, the bicycle man.”
Wyatt, long before we arrived in 1948 had rented the land from the previous owner and constructed a tar-paper shack heated by a tin stove. It had a makeshift kitchen, a single bed, an outhouse.
On the porch he plied his trade as a bicycle repair mechanic. He could take any junked bicycle no matter how rusty, and reconstruct it into a bike that some needy youngster could ride.
He built one for me. After he had adjusted all the spokes and tightened the nuts and bolts, he took steel wool and polished off the rust. He couldn’t find a proper bicycle seat so he took an old automobile tire and cut out a chunk and wired it on the seat stem poking up from the bike frame. It was very comfortable.
No brand new plaything under the Christmas tree ever gave me as much joy as that bicycle. I rode it hundreds of miles on all the scenic byways of the east end of Clallam County. If it broke down, there was “Sam, Sam, the Bicycle Man” to fix it for me.
Wyatt rode his own bicycle. He was a familiar sight pedaling around Sequim on shopping errands. I tracked down his grandson, Russell, a retired commercial fisherman who lives with his wife near Sequim. He told me his grandfather pedaled thousands of miles and not just on the Olympic Peninsula. He had a dozen siblings scattered all over the Pacific Northwest.
“In his seventies, he mounted his bicycle and rode all over, visiting every one of his brothers and sisters,” said Russell Wyatt.
Sam Wyatt died in my early teens and I went to his funeral at a church in downtown Sequim. The church was packed with youngsters he had built bicycles for. I can’t recall any of us paying him a penny for his work. We were all weeping that Sam was gone forever. He taught me to value old things, to try to fix broken things before we buy something new.
He taught me that every child deserves food and shelter, a bicycle, and lots of love.
Tim Wheeler is a Sequim resident and author of “News from Rain Shadow Country.”