Friday, August 19, 2011

Tree Climbing and Neatest Falls

I am not big on nostalgia.  I rarely look back at the “good old days” and wish the “out-of-control modern times” were more like past times.  But I do occasionally reminisce about things I did, games I played, as a kid.

My brother Randy and I built a lot of forts, usually shabbily-built wooden structures.  I remember one fort condominium we built in our back yard; he built a big one with random angles between the walls (looked like a Tim Burton nightmare!) and mine was a very orthogonal long, rectangular structure.  Much cleaner design than his.  But my 12-year-old mind didn’t really comprehend that long walls with no side supports weren’t very structurally strong – I couldn’t build up.  But his, which looked as if a strong wind, or a determined wolf, could blow it over, was strong enough to support a second story.  And not only that, he dug out the floor so he had a big “basement”.  Now I could lay down comfortably in mine and he couldn’t, but I was always a bit jealous of his upstairs.

Like many kids of the day, we played war games, pretending to be army men fighting the bad guys.  I was NOT the kind to continue that into my adult life and I can proudly say I never have, and never will, play World of Warcraft® or any of the clone pretend-to-be-a-soldier games.  But we played them a lot as kids.  With toy guns, not controllers, in our hands.

Ours eventually morphed into a different game we called “Neatest Falls” (“neat” in the parlance of the day was synonymous with “cool”).   The point of the game is that when you are shot, you make the most dramatic, melodramatic, funny or athletic collapse possible.  The rest of the kids would rate your death fall and the best was declared the Neatest Fall.

We also played a lot of games in trees.  We made several elaborate tree houses.  Once we tied a long, strong rope about 25 feet up in a big, old cottonwood tree we had in the front yard.  While one of us stood on a stool and grabbed the rope as high up as possible, the rest of our neighborhood gang would grab the end of the rope and run, stretching the rope taught, with the rider shooting up some 10-12 feet off the ground.  The faster they ran, the better the ride.

The younger brother of one of our gang whined on and on about riding so we finally let him.  But he was the lightest rider we had and with all the big kids running and pulling, he didn’t just go up; he flipped up over the rope, couldn’t hang on and flew about fifteen feet away.  The landing broke his arm.  We were never allowed to try that activity again!

And speaking of trees, we often had competitions to see who could climb the highest.  I am the reining and undefeated tree-climbing champion of my neighborhood.  But I retired, so all you young, up and coming (and very limber and light-weight) challengers, forget it.  You’ll need to create your own club to be champion of.

Next time, I’ll write about some the games we played that are no longer available today.  Like Jarts!

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