Essays Written for The Plantation News

I wrote essays for The Plantation News, our family newspaper, between 1983 and 2003. Some essays recorded actual events, while others were humor, satire or fiction. The Plantation News transitioned from paper to blog and continues online here.

The Swing, Part 2: The Last Time Mom Ran

The Allen boys grew up in the last house on Hunter Drive, next to 200 acres of woods, fields, and swamp. All the neighborhood kids gathered to play in our big backyard, with its great sledding hill, the treehouse, the creek, and, of course, the famous Allen’s swing.

When we were young, Dad put up an awesome rope swing, tied 50 feet above the ground to the high branch of the tall oak tree. The swing’s renown spread far and wide, and some kids made the pilgrimage from several neighborhoods away to check it out. Upon first seeing the swing, several neighborhood parents expressed safety concerns, because the swing was tied so far up, and, given the sloping hillside, one ended the long pendulum-like arc sitting so high above the ground. All structural worries about the swing were calmed when Mickey R., a 240 lb. seventh grader, also known as “The Meatwagon”, swung for three hours without stressing the rope, the branch, or the massive tree trunk. Afterwards, everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Nevertheless, kids being kids, there were some accidents.

The Allen boys invented many games to play on the swing. One game was to try to touch your feet on the far away telephone pole. Ordinarily, this feat was impossible. On a normal use of the swing, you sat on the 2×4 seat and walked it backwards up the hill until you were on your tippy-toes. You hopped up onto the seat, and the swing slowly gained momentum, skimming downhill over the grass and dirt, faster and faster. At the bottom of the arc the ground fell away, and you soared outward 20 feet above the earth, with your hair blowing back and a feeling of vertigo in your heart. Your momentum petered out about ten feet away from the telephone pole. You hung there, suspended motionless and weightless for a split second, before swinging through the arc in reverse, back uphill to go around again.

To actually touch your feet on the telephone pole required an extra push of some kind. When we were younger, Dad would walk the swing much farther uphill than you could reach on your toes, up over his head, and he would aim and whoosh you towards the telephone pole. You swung through an arc that seemed to last for 30 seconds. At the apogee, you could just barely, lightly, touch your feet on the tarry black pole. I’m so glad Dad properly calculated the geometry of the situation, so that we didn’t get tangled up and shocked to death by the electrical wires high overhead!

Later, when we boys were older and stronger, we found a way to touch the telephone pole without Dad’s aid. You gripped the wear-contoured 2×4 seat in your hands, and ran as fast as you could downhill toward the telephone pole. As the swing seat rose in its arc, you were given a strong lift into the air. When you neared the telephone pole, you raised your dangling legs forward and upward, like an Olympic pole-vaulter, and planted your dusty footprints on its sun-blistered creosote. After touching, you’d spin the swing seat around in midair to make a running landing on the ground.

Now, about this time in my life I was maturing into a young man. Almost overnight, my sweat, especially in my armpits, began to give off strange odors. Mom’s beagle-like nose noted my scent, and when a free sample of a cream-style deodorant arrived in the mail, she gave it to me and encouraged me to use it. Magically, it worked! Unfortunately, at this age I was not yet hip to roll-ons and aerosol spray deodorants, but washing the slippery cream off of my hands seemed a small price to pay for the elimination of perspiration odor.

One day when we were swinging, Mom called me to go with her to the library. I rushed inside to dry off my perspiration and change clothes. From three rooms away, Mom detected my mephitic fetor, and reminded me to use my antiperspirant. I quickly wiped the slick cream on my perspiring underarms. I was ready to go, but Mom wasn’t ready yet. I ran outside to swing one more time, forgetting to wash my hands.

I gripped the worn seat tightly in my hands, and ran at breakneck speed towards the telephone pole. I was determined to put my footprints higher than the highest marks on the pole. Instead of simply running into the air as the swing seat rose, I leaped like a long jumper. My nails dug deep into the wooden seat as I soared into the air. About ten feet from the telephone pole, I pulled down hard on the seat to lift my feet high into the air in front of me. Alas, at that moment, my hands slipped off of the swing seat. I flew through the air unfettered, and smashed face-first into the tar-blackened telephone pole. According to witnesses, I seemed to stick there for a moment, before plunging 25 feet down to the ground. I landed in a heap with a sickening thud. Just like in those Roadrunner/Coyote cartoons, a small cloud of dust poofed up around my inert body.

Now, being unconscious at the time, I have to rely on the word of observers to relate what happened next. Whether by a mothers’ sixth sense, or because she saw a crowd of neighborhood kids standing too quietly around the pole, Mom knew I was hurt. She bolted from the kitchen, leaped down the stairs, and exploded out the back door. According to reliable witnesses, Mom ran all the way down the hill to where I lay comatose. I groggily came to, and climbed to my feet with Mom’s help. She half carried me up the hill to administer first aid. Miraculously, nothing was broken, although I was bruised up pretty badly.

I meekly accompanied Mom to the library, but, I must admit, I was back outside swinging and touching the telephone pole later that same day. Kids don’t heed the lessons of experience very well, do they? To this day, I regret only one thing about this whole incident. Being unconscious and crumpled on the ground, I missed a historic moment: This was the last time Mom ever ran.


Addendum: Mom tells me that this is not quite right. She did run another time! A couple years ago, she was cutting the grass, and stepped on a nest of yellow jackets. The bees swarmed out of their hole, swirled around her, and stung her several times. She ran into the house to escape!

|| Index of The Plantation News Essays ||
April 26, 2019
05:38:24 AM