Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Another Story from Growing Up in Himni, Utah

Down behind the house, across a hay field, past a large pond and into some Cottonwood trees (on somebody else’s property) we found a a tremendous Tarzan swing.  Todd and I had been down that way before trying to sneak up on ducks (skill we never developed) when we stumbled onto the swing and finding no one around to stop us, decided to give’r a try.  Holy Cow!  It was good!  We spent the whole afternoon arching into that deep green shady chamber of glory.  Vines covered the ground and a thick canopy of leaves concealed the heavens.  I’ve seen a lot of  rope swings in my life, but never one to beat that one.  I’ll bet it had a 30 foot rope and a good 50 foot arc.  It’s quite a trick to find the perfect tree, the perfect branch and of course the perfect hollow space to swing through.  The rope was 2 inch hemp with a great knot tied at the end.  Leaning against the tree was a pole with a hook affixed to the end for retrieving the rope when it dangled.  The bank stood nearly as high as the branch the rope was tied to.  The gulch beneath fell a way quickly leaving all the room in the world to swing into space.  And swing we did!  Extravagantly!
It was the Summer before I went to work.  We had plenty of time for horseback riding, hiking, building forts and various other potential mayhem.  We had our freedom most afternoons and never ran out of great things to do.  Then Uncle Dan accepted a TDY assignment for the Air Force, in Denver and Aunt Olive decided to go with him.  She called Mom, her big sister, and asked if she could take the kids for a couple of weeks.  Todd and I gathered what was happening and with pleading looks on our desperate faces mouthed the word NO!!!!
Mom, didn’t seem to notice and happily said, “Yes.”
“Aw Mom!”  we lamented as she hung up the phone.  ”We can’t be baby-sitting Durrant all summer?”
“Not all summer, just five weeks.”
“Five weeks!”
It was worse than we thought.  My stomach turned green just thinking about it.  Durrant had to be the most pesky, obnoxious little kid on the planet and not only were we going to be charged with keeping tack of him, it would have to be done outside – all day long.  Three weeks of the summer had already flown by and now another five weeks had been yanked from under us.  Why couldn’t we be Aunt Wanda’s kids, she’d have said no.  Probably already had.  Todd and I had thought we were free of Durrant after the Geronimo incident.  We were sure his parents would prevent him from ever seeing us again, especially after it took Dad and  Uncle Dan 45 minutes of howl accompanied peril to rescue him from the top of Grandpa’s biggest apple tree.
We both sank into a deep dark gloom.  We retreated to the cool basement to await our doom and to hide as many treasures as we could find hiding places for.
They arrived the next morning at nine.  Durrant has two sisters who are just about the sweetest kids you’d ever want to meet.  The same age as our sisters, we’d hardly see hide nor hair of them.  The girls would be allowed to play inside.  Barely, out of their car, Durrant kicked Todd in the chins so hard he yelped, then headed for me.  I swatted him like a mosquito and as suddenly, Mom cuffed me up the back of the head.  Then she gave Durrant a big squeeze and peenched his wosy wosy cheeks; like he was some kind of adorable little angel or something.  Amazed.  Shocked.  Worried.  We just stood there.  There was no way we were gonna get out of this unscathed.  We were either going to be lined up and shot for killing Durrant or we were going to die trying to save him.  The former being our preference as it was  quick, humane and worth it.
“Why don’t you boys saddle up the horses and give these sweet kids a ride,” Mom told us.  No I didn’t get the punctuation wrong.  It most certainly was worded as a question, but there definitely wasn’t a question mark at the end.  I saddled up Chico, while Todd rubbed his shin.
Chico’s a great horse.  Remind me to tell you how we got him some time.  Anyway, with an adult in the saddle, Chico is a spirited eager mount.  But with the children he’s a doting old nanny.  We took him into the pasture and put Carrie on board.  Chico took her for a nice stroll around the perimeter and brought her back, joyful; where we helped her down and Emily up.  Chico strolled around the same course, carefully, casually and then dutifully returned.  Durrant was next and Chico walked him over to the clothesline and scraped him off on the wires and then faithfully returned to give Carrie a second turn.  While Todd and I helped a howling Durrant down from the line Chico sweetly took Carrie  around the field on his usual course.  Once again he was nice to Emily as well.  But Durrant’s turn was as brief as the last having once again been gently, but definitely, left hanging out to dry.
In Durrant’s mind it couldn’t possibly have been Chico’s fault.  Todd and I had trained him.  I think Mom thought the same thing.  Todd and I were just delighted.  Exonerated by a horse!  Of course a horse is a horse, unless of course….  Chico really was special and now there was no denying it.  We were not surprised that Chico took the initiative, that was his nature, but we’re were amazed that he took the liberty.  Perhaps, Dad, the horse whisperer in the family, had compassionately given him permission.
The next day, the pressure that was Durrant became too great and just after lunch we ditched him.  We’d made it across the canal when we heard the dinner bell ring.  We were on a long leash, but there was no quarter for disregarding the dinner bell, even if it wasn’t dinner time.  We dragged our butts back home.  After a Scotch Blessing from a lass whose ancestors are entirely Swiss, we headed back out with Durrant in tow.  We’d resolved to return to the Tarzan Swing.
At first our little nemesis wanted nothing to do with the swing.  He just sat on the grass and moped while we flew back and forth across the gulch.  Eventually though, he began to see how much fun we were having.  We told him it was too dangerous, but he’d seen us come to no harm and dared to venture.  Durrant’s health and safety were no concern of ours.  We sat him on the knot, instructed him to hold on and gave him a mighty shove into space.  He went out in terror and came back in ecstasy!  Durrant isn’t one to share.  We gave him a few more rides and then, literally had to peel him from the rope.  Promises to take turns didn’t appease his howling protests, so we quit and took him home.
The next morning it was, ”Can we go to the swing?”
“Can we go to the swing?”
“Can we go to the swing?”
“I’ll take turns.”
“I’ll take turns, I’m promise.”
“Cross my heart and hope to die.”
“Us too, but the answer is no!”
“Aunt Mable…?”
We.  Went.  To.  The.  Swing.  And, wonder of wonders Durrant took turns.
Todd gets bored more quickly than most people.  After awhile, just plain swinging wasn’t keeping his interest.  Next came upside down swinging, spinning swinging, climbing on a stump for higher swinging and eventually sky diving.  At least that’s what he called it.  On the opposite side of the gulch was a mat of vines about 12 feet deep.  Todd calculated that landing laid out flat on those vines one would bounce like on a bed, something he was expert at.  Now the surface of the vines wasn’t horizontal, more like 45 degrees.  Todd would have to swing out, kick his feet above his head, let go of the rope and somehow land at that angle in order maximize the striking surface and minimize the concussion.  A matter of pounds per square inch; if you get my drift.  He took a deep breath and flew.  And with the grace and finesse of a circus performer dismounting from a trapeze to the net below, Todd landed on that mat of vines.  He rolled off the vines and scrambled to my side in mere seconds eager for another try!  It was a beautiful thing to behold and I, after Todd accomplished the feat three times without difficulty, finally dared to try.
I am no where near the athlete Todd is.  Nor am I in anyway a dare devil.  Still, I can recognize a good thing when I see it and after a few nervous moments and one false start I too, pulled skydiving off without a hitch.  It was every bit as fun as it looked.  Even more fun than swinging out and dropping into a pond, I later found out.  We sky dived to our hearts content, still taking turns with Durrant.  He hadn’t seemed the least bit interested in sky diving, just sitting on the knot.  When we were ready to go home we gave our little cousin one last swing during which he apparently mustered the courage to emulate his elders and much to our surprise, let go of the rope.  His timing was impeccable and he sailed majestically off toward the vines where he stuck the landing.  Literally.  Instead of his back, he landed on his feet and in an instant vanished from sight.  There was dread silence for a few moments and then this eerie awful howl that went on for the better part of the next two hours, for that is how long it took us to extract him.  We had to return to the house three times for more equipment, so dense were the vines and so deep was Durrant.
That afternoon Mom went to town.  She came back with materials for a butterfly net and  a box, some pins and some formaldehyde.  The next morning she set Durrant to catching bugs and we hardly saw him for the balance of his stay.  Aunt Wanda has nothing on our Mom.

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