The Man on the Bike
If you routinely traveled through Weber Canyon in northern Utah between the hours of 8:00 A.M. and 10:00 A.M., you probably saw him. He rode an old rickety bicycle with a box of aluminum cans on each side of the back tires. At age sixty-five, he had ridden this same bike from his home in Tennessee to Utah. Then, for reasons known only to him, he had made a canyon cave his home. *
Everyone in Morgan County knew of him. They had either seen him riding his bike through the canyon or had noticed the bike parked at a local convenience store early in the morning. He had become a part of the community. People would visit him from time to time in his cave, but he told them very little about himself. He was a sad sort of man.
Many people were afraid of him, including four-year-old Amy Creager. She had seen the man on many occasions and wondered about him. One day, about six weeks before Christmas, as she, her baby sister, Sydney, and her mother left the convenience store, Amy saw him. As they waited to turn onto the road, she said, “Mama, tell me about that man. Where does he live? And why does he have all those cans on his bike?”
Amy’s mother told her that the man lived in a cave in the canyon and that each morning he went around to dumpsters in the town to sort out the cans, load them onto his bike, and take them through the canyon into Ogden to turn them in for money.
As her mother told her what she knew about the man, a worried look came over Amy’s face. Her mother told her of the different names people used to refer to him, such as “the can man” and “the hermit.” But from that day forward, Amy and her mother began to call him simply “the man on the bike.”
With her voice trembling, Amy said, “It’s too cold to sleep outside. Why does he want to live in a cave?”
Trying to explain it simply, her mother said, “He probably doesn’t have enough money to live anywhere else.”
Amy and her family had just built a home the year before, so the solution seemed simple: “Why can’t Daddy build him a new home?”
“Well, we don’t have enough money, and Daddy doesn’t really know how.”
“The men who built our home can do it!”
“Well, it’s not that simple, Amy.” Mother tried to explain why that could not happen.
With tears welling up in her eyes, Amy sat silent for a few seconds, then said, “He can come and live with us! I am afraid of him, but he can have my room! I just won’t look at him.”
Tears came into her mother’s eyes as well. She could tell that Amy was determined to help the man somehow.
They finally reached Grandmother’s house, where Amy and Sydney would stay while their mother went to help their father at his shop. Reaching the shop, Amy’s mother told her husband about the events of the morning. The story touched him.
“We need to figure out a way for her to help him,” Amy’s father said. He thought for a while. “Since we can’t build him a home, let’s get him a new bike! I know a guy who owns a bike shop. I’ll call him, and he can tell us which would be the best bicycle for the man’s needs.”
Amy’s parents were both so excited about the idea that they stopped working and made the call. Her father told the bicycle shop owner the story. They decided that the man needed a sturdy mountain bike. After working out a few other details, they felt that Amy needed to decide the rest.
When Amy’s mother went to pick up her and her sister, she told Amy about their idea.
Amy’s face lit up. “Let’s get him a horn so that he can honk back at the cars! And let’s make sure the bike has two big baskets on the back for his cans! And, Mama, it has to be purple! Purple is everyone’s favorite color!”
As the days went by and Christmas drew nearer, Amy’s excitement about the bike grew. She could hardly wait to go and pick it out. She did many chores around the house to earn money to help pay for it. Whenever she saw the man riding his old bike in the canyon, she’d say, “He is going to love his Christmas present! How many more days, Mom?”
One night her mother went to Relief Society Homemaking meeting. Each sister was invited to tell of her most memorable Christmas. When it was time for Amy’s mother to tell of hers, tears filled her eyes. She said that she thought this Christmas was going to be one of her most memorable. She told them of Amy’s love for a stranger of whom she was afraid. She told the sisters of their plans to purchase the bike, and they were touched. After the meeting, many of the sisters asked Amy’s mother if they could be part of this Christmas memory. One sister wanted to make the man a quilt and a pillow. Another thought it would be nice for him to have some new, warm shirts. And the offers for contributions kept coming.
The next morning, Amy’s mother had a phone call from a sister in the ward who worked at a local business. The company employed many in the community. She had mentioned Amy’s desire to help the “can man” to some of the employees. They had all seen him because their place of work was his first stop every morning. He’d pick up the cans that they had gathered in a garbage bag for him. She wanted to know, on behalf of the employees she had spoken to, if it would be all right with Amy if they took up a donation to help with the cost of the bike. It was.
As the days went by, the word began to spread. More things were donated, including food and more clothing. It was exciting to watch the community rally together to help a four-year-old girl serve a sixty-five-year-old man.
About two weeks before Christmas, the “man on the bike” was invited to have dinner with a family who lived in the area. He told them it was time for him to move on. He was beginning to feel that he was an embarrassment to the people there. The family tried to tell him differently, but he had made up his mind. Amy heard of his plans and worried that she wouldn’t get the bike to him on time.
The day to buy the bike finally arrived. When she and her father reached the store and walked in, Amy looked around. Her eyes fixed on one bike.
“This is it, Dad! I want this one!”
“It is a mountain bike,” the store owner said.
It wasn’t purple, but it was the brightest blue you could imagine, with even brighter splashes of pink paint all over it! Amy loved it, and that was all that mattered. With the money that had been donated and what Amy had earned, she was able to pay for the bike and buy the largest baskets and the very best horn.
That night as Amy was tying a bow onto the bike, she said to her father once again, “Daddy, I really don’t want the man on the bike to see me.”
Her parents talked it over and asked the sheriff for his help in delivering the collected items and the bike to the “‘man on the bike.’ We understand he goes into the convenience store every morning. Do you think you could try to catch up with him there tomorrow?” Amy’s father asked.
The sheriff agreed, so Amy and her parents took everything over to his house and loaded it into his truck.
“I’m proud of you, Amy,” the sheriff said. “This is a very kind thing you are doing for a stranger.”
The next morning, the sheriff drove to the convenience store, and the man was there. The sheriff went in, walked right up to the man, and said, “You need to come with me.” The “man on the bike” thought that he was in trouble. They walked together out the door. Then the sheriff began to unload his truck, and the man stood there in silence, looking very bewildered.
“This is all for you!” the sheriff told him.
When the sheriff lifted the bike out, the man just stared at it. Then the tears began to fall. “Whose idea was this?”
“A four-year-old girl who is worried about you,” the sheriff said, his own eyes filling with tears. He explained to the man how it had all come about and how the whole community had wanted to help Amy help him.
The man was overwhelmed by this act of love. He said, “I don’t deserve all of this! You need to give these things to someone who really needs them!”
“I think you are plenty deserving. I’ll help you take them over to your cave.”
“Will you tell her thank you for me?”
The sheriff quietly nodded.
The man ended up staying in the area until May of the following year. Every time the people of Morgan County saw “the man on the bike,” they were reminded of the Christlike love of a child.
Only because of his proven experience over many years, this man had permission from local authorities to live in the cave.