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The Herald Friday, November 2, 1990
Back on bike again
Many of you will remember Rusty Forrest as The Herald's bicycling columnist. He recently moved from Rock Hill to Lancaster and has resumed writing on an occasional basis. Sometimes he'll two-wheel it: other times, he'll drive the the back roads and tell about the trip and the people along the way.
My first "new" column is a return to an old one about a trip to Florida and my escape from Forsyth, Ga., at the hands of a wise old bicycle repairman named Harold Reeves.
My ride to the Florida Panhandle and back had been interrupted just outside Forsyth when my luggage rack collapsed into my rear wheel. It was ugly--a trip ending disaster--but word of mouth steered me to a local Western Auto where Mr. Reeves spent two hours respoking my wheel and straightening my luggage rack. The whole time, he rambled on about his childhood bicycling escapades in the 1920s. I was astounded to learn from his wife that she was a 1930 graduate of Winthrop College. What a small world we live in.
After the extensive bike repair, Mr. Reeves hustled me out the door refusing any payment for the job. He said, "Go on, now! Get on outta here....and enjoy yourself."
I'll never forget Harold Reeves. He was tall and strong with the most powerful voice imaginable. His gruff demeanor was something he hid behind, as evidenced by his treatment of me.
I wrote the column praising Mr. Reeves without asking his permission. Still, as the publication date rolled around I got antsy and called the Reeves' home to tell them what was upcoming.
To my relief, they were delighted and humbled. Mr. Reeves downplayed the episode's significance by saying, "Aw, I just like to keep things going. Helping folks and keeping things going is what it's all about. If you can't help somebody, what good are ya?"
Mrs. Reeves added, "It's such a thrill for any young folks to even give us a second glance, and doing a newspaper story about us is phenomenal. Thank you so much."
It's a good thing I called, because the copy of the story I sent to the Reeveses followed a copy they already had. A couple from Chester were visiting relatives in a town close to Forsyth. They were thoughtful enough to swing by the Forsyth Western Auto and hand it to Mr. Reeves.
The Reeves' pastor saw to it that the column was reprinted in Forsyth's local paper, The Monroe County Reporter. Again the world gets smaller. But I had a good feeling that perhaps I had paid my dues.
That was two years ago. In February I received a letter from a resident of Forsyth, Billy Cawthon. It was a wonderfully considerate piece from a man I had never met. Sadly enough, the letter contained a death announcement clipped from the Reporter. On Jan. 20, 1990, Harold Reeves had succumbed to cancer at the age of 80. He had owned and operated the Forsyth Western Auto store for 50 years. He was a scout master, a World War II Navy veteran, a deacon in his church. His list of credentials was long and impressive.
While I was deeply saddened to learn the news, I knew I was one lucky rascal to have met and dealt with such a man.
Mr. Reeves' passage was quick. The time between his cancer diagnosis and his death was only a month. True to his character, he refused treatment of any kind. He had had a long and fulfilling life and he felt that the medical community could only prolong the inevitable. His last wish was that the family ride in his new car at the funeral. He loved that car, the first one he had bought since the '60s.
I have since been in occasional contact with the widow, Frances Britt Reeves, to track her progress in her single life. She too is an amazing person, very strong-willed and articulate. Her hearing and eyesight are failing, but she regards the condition as only a "test." She will chuckle and readily admit that perhaps she is losing her common sense too. She told me an infuriating story about her tangle with a con artist, the type who prey on the elderly.
Mrs. Reeves was having trouble with the power at her house. The lights would flicker on and off, hurting her already sensitive eyes. Before it was over, a repairman made repeated visits to the house tinkering with her wiring. He scared her with the prospect that the house could burn down if it weren't replaced. She often sat on the porch for hours as the guy bumped around in the basement. The man's bill came to $3,500, and Mrs. Reeves trusted the guy enough to pay him personally. She says a later examination by a certified electrician revealed perhaps $40 worth of new parts, and Mrs. Reeves' case is hung up in court.
This column was founded on the principle that the world is still full of wonderful people, but it's time for all of us to recognize that there are a few bad guys out there, too.
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