Every so often, a story circulates on Facebook or somewhere else on the Internet about how the bicycle got into the tree on Vashon Island in Washington State. A popular one is the story of a boy who left his bike by the tree, went off to war in 1914 and never came back. That one is made up.
I intend to set the record straight. While the story of a boy going off to war has several problems that clearly make it a work of fiction, Vashon Island is home to a bicycle that a tree has grown around. And the true story of how it got there is quite different.
In 1954 Helen Puz (who passed on in 2012) moved to Vashon Island with her five children. At that time she had been recently widowed.
“People were very sympathetic and generous,” writes Puz in a document on display at the Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Museum. “We were given a girl’s bike and my 8-year-old son, Don, seemed the natural one to ride it.”
Don was none too happy having a girls bike, said Puz, but it was better than none.
The neighborhood boys, and Don along with them, liked to play behind a local restaurant called, “The Den.” One day, Don told his mother that he had lost his bike and he wasn’t sure where he’d left it. They both let it go because Don was still embarrassed to be riding a girl’s bike anyway.
Forty years later, Helen read in the Beachcomber, Vashon Island’s local newspaper, that someone had discovered a bike up in a tree near 203rd and what is now Vashon Highway SW – only a few hundred yards from the house Helen lived in for 55 years. The bike was five feet off the ground and the tree had grown around it. News of the bike in the tree even carried to Japan where they made a film about it.
The mystery of where Don Puz left his bike had finally been solved.
If you’d like to see the bike in the tree, directions on how to get there can be found at roadsideamerica.com.