If Wildflower were a movie it would require a leading man. But first you need an elevator pitch. How about this? Forest Gump meets Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. An epic about an undersized seven year-old who is told that he is handicapped and must wear leg braces, has his brand-new bicycle taken away, gets kicked out of his school, spends three years at a handicapped facility, becomes a champion runner, searches vainly for the perfect bike, makes and witnesses triathlon history and finds the love of his life. This odyssey will make you laugh and cry. You will never want to leave the theater, even if you badly need to use the restroom. And at the end, you will stand up and cheer as the hero again leads the pack and breaks the finish line tape at an event that evokes memories of Woodstock. This movie could only be about one magical place and one man, Wildflower triathlete Duane Franks, a leading man on and off the course.
byteclay.com recently spoke with Duane Franks about his cinematic life.
Mark Davis: What was your first day at school like with the braces on your legs?
Duane Franks: My mother waited at the door of my classroom as I walked in with the braces between my legs. Everyone was staring at me. I sat down and the teacher looked down at my braces and motioned for me to come over and she said, “We’re going to go talk to your mother.” The teacher told my mother, “You’ve got to go talk to the principal. I don’t know what to do.” We walked to the principal’s office and he told my mother that I couldn’t go to school there, that I had to go to a school for handicapped kids. A lot of the kids there were intellectually challenged.
At this time, I got home from school before my mother. The neighborhood kids teased the hell out of me because I was different. I used to get so mad at them. We used to race around the block in opposite directions. The first person back to the start would be declared the winner. They would tease me and I would say, “Oh yeah, I challenge you!” I would take my braces and my shoes off and run barefooted. I was undefeated; I probably won ten times. I never had any pain in my hip, never felt it once. I would put my braces and my shoes back on and go have dinner. My mother would say how are you and I’d say “Good.” I never told her I was racing…
I also climbed over fences. That I did in front of my mother because I had the braces on.
MD: How long did you have to wear the braces?
DF: After two and a half years of wearing the braces, I went to the hospital and got an x-ray. The doctor said: “You are cured.” My mother took me straight to a bike shop and with probably the last $50 she had, bought me a brand-new green Barracuda stingray bike. The next day I got home from school, got on the bike and rode ten miles on residential and busy commercial streets to my Aunt Betty’s house. I knocked on the door; Betty lets me in, picks up the phone and calls my mom at work. “You’re not going to believe who’s here! Duane rode his bike.” That was the start of my cycling career.
Next up: Duane and his mother meet Carrol and hit the lottery. Stay tuned…