The Peanut Line

Spring came late to the bike path this year, but by Memorial Day it was here in full swing. All of the regulars were out:

–The serious bikers, with helmets, and the dilettantes, without—though most of the dilettantes with pint-sized companions at least made sure the children were serious.

–The runners, joggers and walkers in singles, twos and threes, huffing, sweating, pumping arms, moving to their own rhythms or those coming from the wires dangling from ears to biceps.

–The moms pushing jogging strollers three abreast, chatting away, annoyed at having to drop back to allow others to pass.

So far, I have yet to see some of my favorites, though—the elderly couple whose slow progress seems less the product of frailty than of Zen-like peace and enjoyment of each other’s company; the thirty-something with his man-purse, lassoed by the leash of his

yappy little dog while he tries to text or talk on his cell; the mother of my children’s classmate, seldom seen elsewhere since the kids went to different high schools, a small woman yanked along by two large dogs.

Will they be back this year? I hope so.

And the landscape—is it really more beautiful than before, or is it just that the long winter made it more yearned-for?

Having ridden this path through a swath of suburbia since the Transit Road end of it was grass, I feel like a parent watching it grow and mature through the seasons and over the years. Every spring, I watch gardens go from bare mulch to beautiful hostas and fat tomatoes. And through the years, I see backyards transform from sandboxes and plastic cars in primary colors to tall jungle gyms to regulation basketball hoops.

The bike path is known informally as the Peanut Line after the trains that once ran its length. From its raised perch, I can peek through bushes to see home improvements–outdoor kitchens, chairs circling fire pits, pools with floating loungers—that would put HGTV to shame.

As a Southerner who grew up with pools used year-round, I used to wonder why anybody would go to the trouble of set-up and maintenance for something whose annual useful life can be counted in months. On one hand. After 11 years living in Western New York, I get it. Cost-benefit analysis, bah humbug. You have to make waves while the sun shines.

Years ago, I liked to vary my five- or 10-mile route, mostly heading west toward Transit, but occasionally turning left onto the path and heading east through fields of crops and farm animals and tractor crossings. In the dewy cool of early morning, even manure smells sweet. But the since the murder eight years ago of a mother out for a jog while her child was at preschool, I don’t go through that unpopulated area unless I have a companion. I turn right and say a prayer for her.

And that brings up the sad part of the ride, the memorial benches and trees and planter gardens dedicated to people whose connection to the bike path often can be gleaned from their plaques. This year, there is a new one, for a 21-year-old soldier killed in Afghanistan. I hope all of their loved ones are comforted by the respite they offer to we users of the Peanut Line.

Mary R. Arno is a former journalist. Her upcoming novel is “Thanksgiving.” She lives in Clarence Center.


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