Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, 44, finds it hard to resist a new challenge. Once he parachuted from a plane just to see what it was like. More recently, the former Navy pilot decided to try out the controversial new B-1 bomber, piloting the supersonic plane himself for 50 minutes. Small wonder then that Rumsfeld rose to the bait when his dinner host, photographer Dick Swanson, showed him a new $55 unicycle. Swanson had bought it for his 11-year-old son, Philip (and his own amusement). Rumsfeld nonchalantly mounted up, remarking, "I used to ride one of these in high school." He then proceeded to steer the one-wheeler, arms flailing for balance, around Swanson's Bethesda, Md. backyard. "After a while," says host Swanson, "it all came back to him and he was pretty good."

The plunge at far right illustrates Rumsfeld's initial wobbles. He was honest about it next morning when he arrived at the Pentagon. "They got some great pictures of me," he told an associate, "falling on my can."