Thursday, January 11, 2007

The AELEOPE GOOGLE EARTH MEME, part 3. A Stout Old Tree...

Well, The Grand and Cheesy Gouda took up my challenge and wrote a great piece about peace and happiness in a mobile home park. LOVED it! She was able to Google her favorite sitting rock!

Now that is cool!

And Lizza, the blogger-maniacal gal from the Philippines who seems to reside in almost everyone’s computer, took up the challenge and wrote a wonderful piece of remembrance complete with lists of street games (no kick the can?) and a comparison of then verses now.

And Kylie has promised to take up the challenge (well, partially, but I am ever hopeful) and I will link her when she does.

As for me, well, here is my third story (as I promised five. The challenge is five, folks)--

When The Grand and Cheesy Gouda mentioned seeing a rock that brought a lump to her throat, meaning she had a moment of recollection that made her feel nostalgic among other things, it made me ask the question “what thing?”

For me, “what thing?” What lumped up MY throat?

There was the hill beneath the water tank. I would do my daydreaming there, imagining all sorts of heroisms involving tiny knocked kneed girls and stout boots, watching the clouds float past and feeling the breeze blowing across the tops of the unusually high grass that grew there.

You could sit down and get lost in that grass, sometimes as tall as five feet in the late spring, and I did. I lost all cares and worries and reservations and childhood anxieties. They blew over the hill behind where I lay and were gone. In that grass I was invincible and very much living and thriving in a Calvin and Hobb’s world...

Loved it.

But that wasn’t “the thing”. Not like The Gouda’s rock. No. No lump in my throat there. Just easy, breezy, fond memories.

I would have thought perhaps “the creek”, but that isn’t even there anymore. There was a creek that ran deep and ragged right through where that cul-de-sac I hashed out lies now.

One day, bulldozers came and my brother and I watched horrified as they simply filled in the entire creek. All those frogs, water skippers, our hand-dug caves and our forts with the sculpted armrests and hardened clay thrones...

Just shoved under by four or five guys in a matter of a day. Our huge world and enormous playground turned to dusty clay and bright orange marking paint and stakes with orange flags and eventually asphalt right before our young eyes.

The whole incident was so traumatic it turned Steve and I into some of the youngest Eco-terrorists in history. We were trying to save the hills, by peeing in gas tanks and leaving rotten eggs under seats and stomping down sheetrock out of attics we crawled into.

It stopped the progress.

But no. The missing creek was not “the thing”.

“The thing” for me was an oak tree, is still an oak tree, IS the oak tree labeled number 2 in the above picture. It still stands. It is still harboring earwigs and the dreams of children. I would bet my lap to sit on for an entire season of 24 that there is still a rickety tree fort on the fork of its stoutest branch. Nails I drove and bent are still embedded in her meat, probably consumed by years and years of cambium growth and covered now, in bark and green moss.

It was the middle tree in a cluster of three oak trees. And for the six years I lived on Yerba Buena Rd. It was my second home.

The story went that the Malvino brothers discovered the unusually flat forking branch and put up a platform when they were in their early teens. When I was in the first grade, the two brothers were just leaving high school.

I learned to hammer on that platform, in that oak tree, as my brother and I began reconstruction and additions to the original work the first year we lived on Yerba Buena Rd.

We got or materials by seeking out job sites and begging for wood from the scrap pile. We hauled all of this back up the hill to the oak tree in a red wagon. We collected bent and discarded and dropped nails on these job sites and straightened the bent ones by pounding on their sides.

We considered ourselves wealthy when we got a hold of a plank once used as a cement form board and we wrestled these ten and twenty foot long boards back with all the pride of hunters returning home with a bison.

We turned a rickety but way cool platform--over a period of six years, into a place young woman could enjoy and put curtains up in...


That’s what we said! No girls are gonna come up here and hang curtains. There was a war. The girls had taken over the fort. They had rocks they tossed at us. They had a big German Shepard that they tied to the ladder at the base that would growl at us. They had put up curtains, and they were gonna pretty-up the place.

The first girl I had up in that tree house was a girl named Lisa S. I was in the first grade. I had a sword back then. I fought gallantly for her affection and won it, and made out with her up on that platform and fondled her and swore my allegiance to her king. The poor girl had not a clue what I did to her in my mind in those days. Heck, she was only seven, but she was a great kisser and a pretty thing in a pretty dress and I was a knight with a stick that I waved around a bunch...

Lisa S. never tried to put up curtains.

These girls were a year older than I. Their German Shepard was old and scary and snaggle-toothed. Steve and I came up with the same plan at the same time. Run home and bring back Sampson. Sampson would solve the curtain crises. Sampson would remove the guardian from the ladder and allow us to attack...

Sampson was our aptly named German Shepard with only one ball. He was HUGE. He was scary.

He worked like a charm. By the time we got back up the hill, the girls could be seen running with their old snaggle-toothed dog with their tails between their legs.

Curtains gone, problem solved.

Now if we could only get rid of the earwigs...

I learned to ride a motorcycle along the path that ran along the small and subtle ridge next to that clump of three trees. I learned to climb by shimmying. I learned to swing a hammer and straighten nails. I learned about moss and the north side. I learned about mistletoe and how to gather it and sell it at Christmas for cash. I learned how to fly. I did not, however, learn how to land properly, but PDL cradled me like a clump of freshly turned earth, several feet of tall green grass, and winter mud.

The tree labeled number 1 is about twenty feet down from where the terrain flattens out. Immediately past the tree, the hill falls away steeply. I drew green delta vees to demonstrate what you can’t see in the picture. The hill where the three oak trees sat atop, was a reasonably large knoll. The first tree labeled 1 was more a part of the incline than the other two. This is the tree we tied a large rope to. This was our giant tree swing. This was where I almost died the first time in my life.

A twenty foot rope scribes a forty foot diameter arc. The radius is twenty feet, but the distance is forty feet as a crow flies, from where you start your swing, and where you stop it before swinging back. Forty feet is a pretty good bit of swinging, sitting on a piece of two by four with a hole in it and tied as a seat with a knot. And if the hill falls away from you as you swing, you get the added bonus of sheer terror as you contemplate falling maybe fifteen feet if the rope breaks at the bottom end of your swing arc.

In the fifth grade, it was a muddy rainy day and my brother and I were up screwing around on that swing and getting muddy and screwing around and trying things like standing on the two by four. BOTH sitting on the two by four. Putting the knees on the two by four. All successful and all fun. All leading up to the moment when I learned to fly and almost died.

It was the Tarzan movies that did me in. I swear. Tell your kids not to swing like Tarzan. It is harder than it looks. Especially when your hands are coated with wet slimy mud.

I told Steve I was going to do a running Tarzan. He said “What?”

I said, “I’ll show you and ran down the hill at full ten year old speed. I started to hang all of my weight on the rope. My feet lifted off the ground. I swung out in my forty foot arc just fine, only I never got to the EXACT end of it-- you know, the part where you slow and feel weightless, then you feel your stomach lift up into your throat as you start falling back down the arc of the swing and head back safely toward where you started?

My hands slipped off the rope just before that blessed point, and I was launched down the hill, only I wasn’t falling just yet, I had some more arcing and climbing to do, and I remember very vividly seeing nothing in all of this but blue sky...

Lots of pretty blue sky...

Blue blue blue...

For a long time...

I heard my brother yell my name-- “SCOTT!”

More blue sky.

Blue blue blue...

And my brother yelled my name again-- “Scott!”

He sounded so very far away...

I remember thinking that the landing was coming soon. I remember thinking--”I have seen entirely way too much blue sky...”

I remember the feeling of bouncing inside of myself when I landed, as if my person was a person inside my person.

I remember feeling like I needed to breath and not having the means.

I was laying in tall green grass in freshly ploughed earth that was wet and muddy. I was stuck and I was not able to take a breath. I tried but nothing happened. No breath. I rolled over.

My brother arrived and grabbed my pants at the waist, and lifted me there. I got air but I didn’t do it. He put me down. He lifted me again and I got air.

I flew, baby. Sixty feet out. Fifty feet down.

The blue sky was so blue that day.


Hammer said...

I posted on the wrong one.

Anyway I started mine and I thought it was funny we both picked trees. anyways off to think up some more.

Liz said...

I've been posting for several days now using your Google Earth meme. Having a grand ole time!

whimsicalnbrainpan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
whimsicalnbrainpan said...

You tell such great stories. thanks for sharing them!

CSL said...

Our house sat on a terraced wooded hill (old plantation land in Georgia) and we had a tree out back with a vine hanging from it. You could swing way out over the hill on that vine, and land back on a log at the top. It was great. A stepcousin took a hacksaw and cut it down. I haven't liked him since.

Jordan said...

I concur.. what a great story teller. :)

I need to play with google earth.

Nancy Dancehall said...


Just how many lives do you have left?

I'll have to google my grandparents' old house. That's where I really grew up. And I'll link to a post about their house that I wrote back in June, when I was given...well, a miracle.

Lizza said...

I'm having a bloody hard time trying to leave comments. *sigh*

Anyway, another great story, Scott! Your adventures sure started early.