I date Thelma, the long-stemmed beauty - Across America - 70 years ago - CycleBlaze

I date Thelma, the long-stemmed beauty

WAYCROSS was a small town, but set at a junction of six roads. A drug store was particularly busy, and the place seemed to sell everything, "even drugs," said the proprietor, proudly reminding me that the modern American drug store of late years had stocked so much frivolous merchandise that medicines appear on the shelves as a very belated afterthought. His assistant was a treat for eyes made weary through hours of watching a monotonous tree-less road. Of the type that the American so aptly calls a "long-stemmed beauty", the young lady was fair of hair, trim of figure, and the possessor of the tiniest feet I've ever gazed upon. "Size one," she admitted, as she served me a cooling soda drink.

A yearning for feminine company assailed me. "Will you come to a movie with me to-night?" I asked, greatly daring. The vision looked at me with steady eyes, smiled and said, "I guess so; I'm not supposed to let the customers date me up, but if Pop over there doesn't get to hear about it,, why should we worry?"

To my great pleasure the young lady was a cyclist, and so were the members of her family. That evening I became as one with the hundred young American boys strolling round Waycross. When the cinema closed its doors, Thelma, the blonde "soda-jerker", rode side by side with me through lanes enriched by a huge moon, then asked me home to "meet the folks." And a very fine family they were; curious to know about me, what I thought of the United States in general and Georgia in particular. How did Waycross girls stand in my estimation? I answered that question with such fervour that Thelma's gratified parents urged me to stay in town for a few more days.

It could not be. I had kept well to schedule till now, but there were several hundred miles to cover before reaching the country of the Everglades, so I said farewell with genuine regret to a kind group of people. Thelma's last letter enclosed something "something for your club's 'Comfort Fund' (Ed: Many clubs and companies in wartime Britain operated Comfort Clubs to send parcels to servicemen abroad.), and when the war is over I want you to arrange for a ladies' real lightweight bicycle to be sent to me at Waycross!"

On leaving that hospitable town I rode for thirty miles with a cyclist who had just completed a lengthy trip on Highway 50, and he added to my store of incredible names met with in the States by showing me on his route map the name of a village he had cycled through the previous day. Ty-Ty was the "handle" given to the hamlet, and try as we did there seemed no feasible explanation. My friend was also bound for Okefenokee Swamp, lying off Highway One, and a I yielded to his urgings that I turn aside my strenuously-ridden trunk road and seek peace in a land of half a million acres in which dwelt a diversity of plant, bird, and animal life.

I'm glad I did, for the "Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge," as the direction boards called it, was something hard to credit by those not fortunate enough to witness its immensity, and I'm afraid chaps in the clubroom these nights walk stealthily towards the door when I say, "Oh, that reminds me of a funny looking creature in the Okefenokee Swamp!"

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