Wednesday, October 19, 2016

My Summer Thrill


Old Florence Library

Most people look forward to this time of year. For some, it means new jobs, having to move, or that dreaded family vacation. For the majority of people, it is a time to relax, a time fotr recreation, time at the pool – for some, even a time for chaos. As a child, mine were a mixture of these – a mixture of a free-for-all attitude with the sense to accomplish something, nothing, and usually leading to do something crazy. Thrills were a necessity to keep my young life exciting. But one particular thrill, during one of my childhood summers, almost changed my life for good.

This summer started out like any other summer. School had let out and everybody was off to explore everything new and old, hoping for something new to do. However, after a few weeks, we were wishing school would start back up – we were bored. So like every other day, my friends and I set off for adventure. As we stopped by to pick up each of my friends, their mother would follow him to the door, telling him to be careful and stay out of trouble. It looked like we were marching off to war somewhere; and we were, our own little adventure. Several hours later, we had played long enough and decided to get something cold to drink. On the way to the store, we passed the town library and noticed that the older kids had left their normal hangout. It was then; we decided to try their fun, their thrill – riding the ropes.

The library was an old bakery, a two-story building, enclosed by a fence. The fence was made of brick stanchions and metal rails. It would go on to the far side, and from there, it would be a brick wall. Located in the center of the courtyard were the ropes – on an old flagpole. To ride the ropes, one had to climb the metal rails and position himself on the brick stanchion. Then somebody would hand the ropes to the person atop the fence. He was ready for flight. He would step forward, swing Tarzan-style across the courtyard, dodge the flagpole, dodge a wood post, kick off the wall and then reverse the course. Seemed easy at the time – except for that post. It was a 4x4 post, five feet in height, and had a pyramid like top. It served as the end post for the handrail on stairs leading down to the basement. One had to clear it to survive. Everybody took their turn, accepting the dare, and I was no exception. My turn came up – it was my chance to ride the ropes. My thrill for the day.

As I ascended the rails, the whole procedure went through my mind – jump, swing across, dodge the flagpole, miss the post, kick off the wall, and then repeat the process in reverse. Easy. But my heart raced at an unbelievable rate and my thoughts blurred as the ropes were handle to me. I told myself out loud, “no problem,” but prayed silently to myself. Then I took that step – everything happened in a blink of an eye. The trill was over, everything went as planned – no complications. I could hardly wait for my next chance to ride the ropes.

My turn soon came up, and I heartily grabbed the ropes. But this time was different – everything slowed to a snail’s pace. I watched the whole sequence play before me – the jump, the swing across, dodging the flagpole, missing the post, and kicking off the wall. But as I kicked off the wall, the unthinkable happened – the rope snapped. I dropped like a shot sparrow and the sight below was not inviting. That post. That stupid post. I landed on it, square in the middle of my back. It took its aim leaving me breathless and sprawled out on the lawn.

As I lay there, I gazed up at the sky and wondered if I was still alive. I then looked around and noticed nobody was in sight. I immediately jumped up, not realizing the full extent as to what just happened, and began searching for my friends. Everybody had disappeared. How could they do such a thing? Feeling no pain except for a small throbbing in my lower back, like that of when one bumps their knee into something, I headed back through the empty courtyard. As I stammered along, the thoughts of my friends’ mothers entered my mind – and those casual warnings. I was lucky this time. From then on, the scar on my back was a constant reminder to heed those warnings and to carefully evaluate my next adventure.

Written on June 30, 1984