In 1914, a young man leaned his bicycle against a tree, left Vashon Island, Washington, and went off to war, never to return. The tree did what trees do, and two became as one. So goes the legend of Vashon’s infamous tree bike—a poignant, romantic, tragic story.
That happens to be false.
The bike, which has become a minor tourist attraction, actually dates to the 1950s and belonged to a boy named Don Puz. The house that Puz lived in burned down, and he received the bike as a donation. But Puz didn’t like the bike—it was too small for him and the handlebars were more like that of a tricycle. As his mother Helen told the Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber, one day Don and a gang of friends went into the woods to play. Puz was the only one on a bike and when the boys went home he simply left it there.
“Probably as much as I detested the little thing, I just gave it a toss and forgot about it, and then denied knowing where it was,” he said.
The bike, originally red, is located just a few hundred yards where Helen Puz lived until she passed away at age 99. After the bike started getting attention, at the age of 97, she and Don visited it to see what the tree had done.
“We went down there in the woods,” said Don, “and there was this bike in the tree, and I said, ‘That’s my bike. I recognized it, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen another one like it.”
Asked if she was surprised, Helen said, “Nothing surprises me at my age.”