Sunday, March 4, 2012
On Hatteberg's People, if you live in Harper County, you've seen Merle Walker on his bicycle. He's everywhere. So the question is: what's he doing? Turns out, it's a lot.
"I like being out by myself, where I can just 'think' about things," said Walker.
Eighty-three-year-old Merle Walker of Anthony has ridden his bicycle 35,000 miles since 1997.
"I used to farm and I'd spend 14 hours a day on the tractor and this is as near that as anything I could find."
He's had prostate cancer, surgery for an aortic aneurysm, had two surgeries for intestinal blockage. Has a pacemaker, gall bladder surgery, a hernia and knee replacement. Plus, he has diabetes. The bike riding he believes now helps keep him fit.
"That's where I do my serious thinking. It's as easy to do it on the bike as it is setting in a recliner."
But it's where he bicycles to that's the important thing. Twice a week, he's involved with the Youth-Friend Program in the first grade class at Anthony Elementary school.
"I just love being around the kids. They call me Mr. Merle. I've been going for five years. It just makes me feel good.
Then, he bicycles over to an assisted living facility where he plays kick ball with the residents.
"It just keeps your reflexes sharp, creates fellowship and spending time with the other people. And you get good conversations going."
On the bicycle once again, he heads to another rest home to read the contents of the Anthony Republican newspaper.
"I go through and tell them what was in the newspaper... give them the 'jest' of it rather than reading it word for word."
"I just get pleasure being around the people."
His bike seldom slows except for bad weather and bitter cold. On his 83rd birthday, he rode a hundred miles in one day to celebrate.
"I always said I didn't want to be the village character, but I think I turned out to be one."
The bike may get older, but Merle Walker keeps young just pedaling away at life.
"I've got something on my agenda every day except Saturday."