Casselton man peddles 'bike ministry'
CASSELTON, N.D. - Three years ago, Jim Kieffer went to a police auction looking to buy a Honda automobile he had his eye on.
During the sale, he noticed a couple of teenagers who appeared to want the car more than he did, so he let them buy it.
Before leaving, he bid $10 on a three-speed bike.
He realized later that he had bought not one bike but an entire lot of bicycles numbering several dozen.
After carting home the tangle of frames, wheels and handlebars, Kieffer realized he had gained something else - a full-fledged hobby.
Discovering that he liked tinkering with bikes, he began scouring other auctions and city berms during clean up week to find more.
As word got around, individuals dropped off bikes at his home near Casselton.
After fixing them up, he donates bikes to various agencies that in turn give them to people with a need for inexpensive transportation - refugees, youth and the homeless.
Over time, Kieffer found himself taking in more bikes than he could give away.
He stores the extra in a large barn that is barely able to hold the thousand or so bikes he has amassed.
Bicycles fill the barn's main floor and upper loft.
Kieffer, 62, said he likes to tease his wife with talk of building another level so he can store even more.
But more bikes wouldn't really bother Arlene Kieffer, who says she's happy that her husband has found a hobby.
"That's a good thing," she said. "He had 10 children and 25 grandchildren. Mostly he spent doing what he had to do to support them all."
That meant farming for many years and, more recently, driving truck.
Arlene Kieffer said her husband calls his obsession with two-wheeled machines a bike ministry.
"Which it really is," she said. "When he sees a bike, he sees happiness."
While she doesn't share her husband's passion for pedals, Arlene Kieffer takes a poetic view of the dusty machines rusting quietly in her barn.
"Actually, they are memories," she said.
"That whole barn is stuffed with memories - some little kid getting his first push down the hill with his dad running behind."
The couple's grandchildren sometimes help grandpa work on the bikes.
The grease and mess are just what a kid needs, Jim Kieffer said.
"Dirt to an adult is poison," he said. "But to a child, it's medicine."
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