Monday, October 24, 2011

Inventing the wheel

by Geoffrey Heard

It’s pretty amazing how round a coconut palm trunk looks and how not round a disc cut from it turns out to be. But a couple of coconut trunk discs were still round enough for Lawrence and Faezi to use to invent the wheel for young Bale’s (pron. Barlay) bicycle -- his kokol, as he dubbed it in his three year old nakedness, for some totally unknown reason.

An old bike frame had been hanging around since 14 year old Faezi began messing with it last year -- putting together a running bike from a collection of bits trawled from the middens of his own and neighboring villages. He made it, too, which given his inexperience as a mechanic, his limited number of tools, and the state of the parts he was working with ought to go down in the annals of cycling as a triumph. But the old parts kept breaking so in the end the bits were returned to the midden -- that is, until young Bale toddled down and dragged the frame back up to the house, demanding action on his kokol.

Bale wanted wheels so after appropriate procrastination by Lawrence and Faezi had failed to dim his enthusiasm, they cogitated in depth and came up with a way.
With Bale hovering and providing an unwonted helping hand from time to time, they cut a couple of discs from a coconut palm log and chopped away the bark. Not perfectly round, but pretty good. Then drilling holes for axles -- in the absence of a drill, the fact that the haus kuk fire was burning and there was a steel rod handy meant that the holes were going to be burnt out.

And so they were. Not terribly straight, but as Lawrence pointed out, they would make for a much more interesting ride that way.


Making the wheels and fitting them took an whiled away a pleasant couple of hours, giving Bale his first few rides took about ten minutes, then the whole thing collapsed for want of a second axle (we were using a round file for the front axle), and we all decided it was too hot to pursue the project further. Bale, to my surprise, was perfectly happy with the outcome.

His kokol had been created, he had ridden it, and he had no more demand for it in that form. He continued to drag the wheel-less frame around for a couple of days, seeming to make no distinction between a kokol with and without wheels. The rest of us were perfectly happy too. Lawrence and Faezi had proved their concept and as chief spectator and urger, I was more than satisfied with my morning’s free entertainment. ###

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This material is copyright © Geoffrey Carrascalao Heard 2011. The opinions and comments in this article are his own.

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