Originally posted May 17, 2012
The older boy cousins were playing on the hill behind the house while Mom and Aunt June were canning the fall harvest. The girls were helping the women or playing jacks and jumprope in the front yard. The younger boys were playing tag using the old pine tree at the corner of the house as base. When they got tired of that, they played marble. The girls and young boys were in view and earshot of the moms, but the seven older boys were on the old rock cliff. There was a small cave to recede into if anyone looked up to find them.
They were more like seven brothers than a mixture of brothers and cousins. They spent so much time together helping their dads dig coal or bust rocks for the roadbed. When the men were away at their jobs, they were together as they were today. Where you found one the other six were not far behind.
Every boy in the county carried a pocket knife for who knew when you might need to cut a string or want to whittle some chunk of wood into nothing in particular. Oh, there was the occasional game of mumbly peg but that’s as dangerous as it got. If one got a cut, everything was done to hid it from the women so they wouldn’t take the knives away.
Today’s game evolved from dares, you know. Soon they became double-dog-dares and that challenge couldn’t be left undone.
Tim quips, “Ever ride a sapling?”
Charlie says, “Nope. I don’t guess so. How do you do that?”
“Well, we pull a sapling down at the top and tie it off with some rope. Then you get on it and hold on tight when we let the rope go,” explains Jake.
“How many of you have done it?” asked Matt.
“All of us five have,” chimed in the five older ones.
“Want to give it a try? Or are you scared?” Joe wondered.
Charlie and Matt look at each other for a long long time. Finally, unable to figure our how to get out of it and not wanting to be branded cowards, they shrugged their shoulders and said, “Sure, why not?”
JR, being the oldest, reached for the tallest sapling he could pulling the top down while Tim tied it off. Then they went over a ways and found another one repeating the process.
“OK. Climb on. Frank, you pull the rope on this one and Russ, you pull the other when we say go.”
Reluctantly, Charlie and Matt climbed up and grabbed hold as tight as they could.
“Ready, Set, GO!” the call went out. The ropes were pulled. Charlie held on tighter and tighter. Matt’s hands were sweating and he tried to readjust loosing his balance. As the sapling fling forward, Matt went flying through the air landing in a pile of soft underbrush. They all ran to him as fast as they could to see if he was hurt. What they found was Matt lying there laughing so hard he couldn’t talk. They finally understood between the burst of laughter that the only thing he was saying was, “I was flying.”
He had a few bumps and bruises but they didn’t admit to their moms how he got them. One of those sapling’s switch would have been used on them for sure.