Friday, June 06, 2008

The Woods - Part Five.

I almost forgot to tell you about my one huge sports achievement, which also took place in Missouri. It's not a woodsy thing, but what the hell. One day, out at recess, I became the unofficial Tetherball champ of the school. Cool eh? What the hell, you ask? Not a football or baseball story? Nope, Tetherball!

You guys ever play Tetherball? You've got a long iron pole comin' up out of the ground with a rope attached to the top of it. At the other end of the rope is a yellow leather ball. the object is to hit the ball and keep hittin' it till the rope wraps around the top of the pole. You've got an opponent on the other side that's tryin' to do the same thing you're doin', tryin' to get the ball away from you and wrap it around the other way. Whoever wraps the rope first wins. That was one time when bein' freakishly tall turned out to be an advantage. The other was on the monkey bars, but that's another story.

You wouldn't think it but it really took great timing to be good at that game. The trick was to time your hits and angle them up so the opponent couldn't reach the ball to bat it down. I found that after a while I was really good at it. The competitions out at recess usually came down to this one really athletic girl and me, facing off against one another. Lots of kids would line up to play but it would always come down to the two of us, and you never knew which one of us would win.

It was fun as hell, and easy to get so focused on the game that you didn't notice what else was going on around you. That's probably how nether of us noticed one day when the huge, scary PE coach walked up to us and began talkin' about how he could beat us all. He was such a prick!

He was probably in his 30s then, and looking back I can see that he really wasn't such a bad guy. He was just a grownup with power over us, who seemed then to have a special love for scarin' little kids. He had a HUGE paddle that he used to keep us all in line. The friggin' thing was like a cricket mallet, with holes drilled into it. We were all scared to death of him and that friggin' thing. I think I only saw him use it once, but that was enough. Kept my ass in line, but then my nature has always been to stay away from trouble anyway.

So he walked up to us one sunny day, I think it was in the fall or early spring, with us in the middle of a game. He stepped into the path of the ball, stoppin' everything and started sayin' how he could beat us all. It was probably some sort of attempt on his part to motivate us or somethin'. Somehow, I'm not really sure how, he and I ended up in a match. Everyone on the playground gathered around us and wanted to watch. It was my moment, but I don't think I was aware of that then.

As I said, my height had always been an advantage, but now that went away. This guy towered over me, so it was gonna be my skill with the ball that won the match. Sure enough, I managed to angle the ball up and hit it fast enough that he couldn't get a good hit on it and start knockin' it back the other way. I have this vivid memory of the rope and ball wrappin' around the very top of the pole and all the kids cheerin' me. It was glorious, for a moment, and then recess ended and we all went back to class. "All glory is fleeting", someone used to say.

Oh, the monkey bars thing? Well, they had these exercise bars out in the field, just beyond the paved playground. At some point a game evolved where the other kids would get up on the horizontal ladder part of the thing and I'd try to jump up and grab hold of them. I'd get a running start and try to surprise them as to who I was gonna grab. I guess we turned my being freakishly tall into a game. I'm sittin' here now wonderin' why someone didn't show me how to dunk a basketball at that age, but whatever.

I remember it being a huge amount of fun. I'd jump up and grab hold of a bar and pull myself up further while they dodged my reach, giggling the whole time. When we weren't playing that game we were using those bars for what I assume was their intended purpose.

We'd climb the few ladder rungs on there side and swing, hand over hand, till we reached the other side. Of course, being bigger than anyone else (accept that coach), I made it my thing to reach farther than anyone else, skipping a few rungs between hand holds and making it across faster than anyone else. Again, it was between me and that other athletic girl, as far as who could skip more rungs. At some point she came up with another game that I was initially too scared to try. She'd get up on a horizontal bar, hang upside down by her knees, and start swingin' back and forth.

At some point she'd swing completely free of the bar, flip over, kick her legs out and land on her feet. It used to blow my mind watchin' her do that. She started to show the other kids how to do it, standin' next to them as they swung and holdin' their hand as they took their first flips. I was too big and heavy to clear the ground in the flip and never got the hang of it. The bar was too low. Hell, she was probably in some gymnastics class out of school and learned it there. Anyway, it was cool as hell to watch. I never could quite get it though, but had fun tryin'.

We spend so much time out on those bars that I developed huge calluses on my palms from all the swingin'. This was WAY before I was usin' those palms for any other, more sensitive, secret activities, or even thinkin' about that stuff. That was at least a few years off.

One day, while I was swingin' from one rung to the other out there at recess, the callus on my right palm came completely off. It just hung there, floppin' around and freakin' everyone out. It was like a huge blister had pealed away and the skin just hung there. For whatever reason I don't remember bein' too freaked out myself, and I don't remember it hurting too much ether. I just went to the nurse and she wrapped my hand in a bandage. I walked home after school and everyone who saw it freaked out, but it wasn't a big deal. It seems now that it healed very quickly and I was back to my old monkey bars in no time.

Well, I hope you're gettin' some sort of fun from readin' this stuff. If not, fuck it! I'm enjoyin' the tellin', and the further remembering that comes from the tellin', so you may have to put up with a little more of it for a while. Anyway, cheers.

3 comments:

Mushy said...

Was this pre-scheduled or are you back?

I am enjoying reading your memories and remembering a few things myself.

I remember this girl in the fourth grade who was like the one you described, and a real good looking gal. I used to love to watch her on the monkey bars because she had huge calf muscles that stood out when she swung across. I wanted to play doctor with her in a bad way!

~Fathairybastard~ said...

Pre-scheduled.

Glad you liked it, but nobody else seems to give a damn, so I may not take the time to do any more.

Mushy said...

It's summer time...I guess.

...and some folks just don't like to read over 100 words!