Wednesday, August 7, 2013

TO THE SKY, CAPTAIN

When I was a kid, many many many many years ago, I loved to climb trees.  I had one favorite one which was easy to climb and had several spots where a young boy could lean back and rest among the leaves, spying on others walking by down on the ground without being detected.  I called it "The Big Tree" and it was my private, special playground.  I was reminded of it recently when I was watching a television program about the popularity of tree houses.  They have become luxury items for some people. One of them had twin beds, electricity, a bathroom, a completely functioning kitchen and a fireplace.  Imagine that!  A fireplace in a tree house!  Amazing.

One of my other favorite trees sat only about 20 feet from the front door of my home and I used a rope swing in it to sit and read.  



Later on I got interested in short wave and ham radio.  That meant stringing wire aerials so I spent a lot of time on roofs.  That became a sort of hobby for me, much to the dismay of my wife.  But she knew about it before she married me.  She took this picture of me in our "courting days."


There's something special about being up high and looking down that appeals to me.  Still I remember once I was hired to help a man paint our church.  But when I  got up to the scaffold, only about ten feet from the ground I was scared to death and couldn't do it.

Another memory comes of a time when SWMBO and I had been out with a couple of friends and we probably had too much to drink.  There was a lightning storm flaring in the sky to the south of us so I immediately climbed up on the roof to get a better view.  The other three refused to join me and kept telling me to come down.  But I didn't until I felt the need for a cigarette (this was in my smoking days) and no one would toss one up to me.

I've never fallen from a tree or a roof, never hurt myself but I'm afraid my climbing days are over.  There is a tree in our back yard that I have eyed a couple of times but it doesn't look like a good "climber".


If I could even get up to those cross branches I'm afraid they're too fragile and would break off, tossing me to the ground.  At my age that would not be pleasant.

Recently we hired a yard man and he asked me if I wanted the palm tree in the yard trimmed.  It had been awhile and there were a lot of dead fronds high up in the air.  At first I declined but he seemed to want to do it.  I asked him if he had a way to get up there and he said he did so I told him to go ahead.  Later I saw that he had strapped some kind of barbs around his ankles, tossed a loop of rope around the tree and up he had gone.  I wish I'd taken a photo but I didn't think of it at the time.  I just watched him, with a bit of nervousness, as he worked high up in the palm tree.

I also kind of envied him.

16 comments:

  1. We have some things in common. Loving trees in our youth (mine was a tall cedar with smooth bark and limbs arranged in perfect ladder fashion), and not daring to climb now. Must be a self preservation thing, because I've pretty much given up working on the roof, too.

    In my younger years I trimmed my own trees. No more. Whatever I can't reach on a step ladder with my pole saw requires a professional tree man.

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  2. This reminds me of a guy I saw picking coconuts from a tree on Bora Bora. He took off his belt, buckled it into a circle, stepped into it and shot up that tree like a monkey. He made it look very easy. I tried to do the same and believe me it wasn't easy. In my case impossible.

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    1. I can well imagine. I think I've tried that once or twice, too, with the same results.

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  3. That's a lovely tale. That last sentence says so much, "I also kind of envied him." So much feeling in so short a sentence.

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  4. My neighbor across the street has four palm trees and he has them trimmed regularly. I really enjoy watching those guys shimmy up the tree with those spikes in their shoes. The trees are very tall so they have to get up there really high and they make it look like a piece of cake.
    As much as I would have liked one, I didn't have a tree house or a "climbing tree" when I grew up. We did have a back yard playhouse but it was securely grounded. Not the same but, we made the best of it.

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    1. I was going to say "girls don't climb trees" but then I saw Lowandslow's comment below. Actually I think I do remember some girls who climbed trees . . . in my VERY long ago.

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  5. Great memories. I think all boys, and probably more than a few girls, love climbing trees. WE had a big pecan tree in our yard, and my job was to climb to the very top and shake the almost-ready-to-fall pecans loose so my dad could collect them. His goal was to beat the squirrels to them.

    (And don't tell OSHA, but I did it all without a helmet, pads, or any kind of fall protection. I was such a rebel ;)

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    1. Oh, yeah, and I'll bet you rode your tricycle without a helmet, too! ☺

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  6. It was an old elm tree in Muncie where I found that high view and solace. The clouds seemed more accessible from up there.

    Stay out of trees at your tender age. I just read Keith Richards' account of his fall from a tree in Fiji-very serious head injury.

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    1. Yup, my days of climbing are past. And Keith was much more "immunized" than I!

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  7. My sister and b-i-l saw the Stones in NZ just a bit after that Fiji tree incident, Keith said 'Hi Auckland, it's great to be here!' Then as an afterthought,'It's great to be anywhere really.'

    I was the tree climber in my family too, not my brother, who was a great indoorsman. There are holiday places not far from here where you can stay the night in a bit treehouse, I plan to go to one one day, though I think they're really more like platforms built round trees and accessed by ladders, but still, they look fun.

    I really love the old b/w photo of you on the swing, amazing anyone could be comfortable enough to read in that position!

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  8. Bruce, like you my tree climbing days are over, but it was fun as a lad.

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  9. I remember climbing into my grandmother's crape myrtle tree as a small girl. I that that was so daring! I don't know if you're familiar with crape myrtles - they're usually more of a large bush than a tree. Ha!

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  10. Those top 2 photos are terrific, Bruce!
    I've heard of those fancy tree houses but I'd rather just sit high up on a branch. I was a tree climber too, mainly in Paraguay when I lived there as a child but also for a while in California. I too have always preferred being up above and live in a top floor apt now - only 4 stories high but still better than on the ground.

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