06 June 2019

Sam, Sam The Bicycle Man

If I am ever near Seattle, I just might take a side trip to Sequim.  Why?  The lavender fields, which look like a little bit of Provence in the Pacific Northwest.

It also sounds like a place with interesting characters--like Sam, Sam The Bicycle Man.

With a name like that, he could have been one of the folks in The Spoon River Anthology if its author, Edgar Lee Masters, had a more sanguine view of small-town life.  What I am about to relate about Sam, though, comes from Sequim resident Tim Wheeler.

Wheeler's family purchased a dairy farm just south of the town.  A small creek cut across the bottom corner of the farm, isolating a one-third acre parcel that was "worthless for any agricultural purposes," in his words.  When they arrived, Sam Wyatt--The Bicycle Man--was already living there, having rented the space from the farm's previous owner.  

Sam lived in a tar-paper shack he'd constructed.  It contained a makeshift kitchen and single bed, and was heated by a tin stove.  There was also an outhouse. On his porch, he plied the trade for which Tim and other kids would recognize him.  As Wheeler recalls, "He could take any junked bicycle, no matter how rusty, and reconstruct it into a bike that some needy child could ride."  For Wheeler, Sam "took steel wool and polished off the rust" after adjusting the bolts and tightening all of the nuts and bolts.  But he couldn't find a proper seat.  So, he cut a chunk out of an old automobile tire and "wired it on the seat stem poking up from the bike frame."  

Wheeler rode that bike "hundreds of miles on all the scenic byways" in his area.  If he had a problem, "there was Sam, Sam the Bicycle Man to fix it for me."  Recalling that bike, Wheeler says, "No brand new plaything under the Christmas tree ever gave me as much joy as that bicycle."  What Sam did for Tim, he did for other kids in the area even though "I can't recall any of us paying him a penny for his work."  

Sam also rode his own bicycle to do his errands and visit relatives, who were scattered all over the Pacific Northwest.   He was doing that in his seventies, according to his grandson, Russell Wyatt.  He visited "every one of his brothers and sisters," according to Russell.

Tim Wheeler was in his early teens when Sam died.  At his funeral, the church was "packed" with kids for whom he'd built bikes.  I'd bet that they, like Tim, "learned to value old things, to try to fix broken things before we buy something new."  

But perhaps the greatest lesson Tim Wheeler learned from Sam, Sam The Bicycle Man was that "every child deserves food and shelter, and a bicycle, and lots of love."

I can hardly think of a better legacy.


  1. I was in Sequim on Sunday. I didn't see any Lavender fields.

  2. Steve--Hmm. Maybe the town's website was lying. I believe you.