Rope swing and an old ‘gum’ tree

A rope swing and an old “gum” tree make good partners. I can tell you this because I knew them both.

At our farm, we had two driveways or lanes that led off the Piercy Road onto the farm where I grew up. If we took the one coming from the North, we passed a large “gum” tree that stood beside the fence along this lane.

I am sure that the tree had an official name, but we called it “gum” because there was a rubbery like substance that oozed from its trunk in various places — sort of resembling chewing gum. It wasn’t noxious at all, just interesting to us kids because we could shape and play with this gummy substance. One more way of entertaining ourselves.

But that wasn’t the best feature of the old tree. You see, it had one branch that was grown just especially for a rope swing. And our Dad saw to it that one was hung for us two sisters to enjoy on many a summer’s day.

Once the rope was wrapped and hung, Daddy made a wooden seat about 18 inches long with notches cut in each end where the rope fit tightly. Juanita and I would take turns sitting on the seat and “pump” with our whole body, legs extended, to go as high as possible. This took a while but it was worth it, accompanied by an occasional shove on the ground with our bare feet.

There were times, too, when Juanita and I both would be on the seat. Since I was the oldest, I would sit down first, facing in one direction, and Juanita would sit on my lap, facing the other direction. This combined effort really gave us the pumping power to try to touch the upper tree branches.

If we got bored with sitting, we would stand up on the seat in the same positions and fall back as far as our arms would stretch and see how high we could go, one gradual pump after another.

But there was no matching how high we could go if we could convince Daddy to push us. We thought we were going to touch the clouds–or fall out of the seat trying! At times, we were sure we were going to flip all the way around the limb, which, of course, was impossible. We would always beg him not to stop because there was no match for those strong arms of his.

When company came, we kids, at some point, always ended up at the gum tree swing. We sisters didn’t realize at the time that not every kid had a rope swing. Ours was a special treat.

Each kid would take a turn–pump, pump, pump–swinging as high as possible and then jump out, without falling when we hit the ground. This feat took some practice and brought on one mishap when our cousin literally “hung” herself running to catch the swing for her turn. Years later, we all laughed picturing her as the seat caught just under her chin and lifted her off the ground. But it scared us kids to death at the time.

There were times, too, when I went to the swing by myself. Then, it was easy, slow swinging. … And dreaming, letting the warm summer breeze push me. Time stood still and hours passed. Like all kids, not a care in the world, just swinging, with no idea what treasured times those were.

I have since thought that this childhood memory that my Dad gave me is what compelled me, as soon as I was married and had a home, to insist on a porch swing. We bought our first one at a neighboring farm auction. The second one was made by another acquaintance and still hangs on my porch today, some 40 years later. I just gotta have a swing!

A few weeks ago, I drove by the farm, long ago sold and now grown over in every direction and hardly recognizable. The only visible sign of the gum tree was a jagged, rotted stump. One would never know how alive it once was and what unmatched joy its one perfect branch brought to this farm girl.

I consoled myself as I slowly drove on by, reminding myself that the tree may be gone, but my childhood memories are still very much alive. I’m ever so thankful for that gift from my Dad.