Thursday, May 29, 2014

Of Goats and Pens.

I grew up in the woods, a small farm in rural Lee County, Mississippi. The only neighbors were my grandparents, the only children to play with my younger brothers. Company was rare way out there. Hell, if you saw a vehicle you didn't recognize, you knew immediately they were lost. No one came down our road that didn't live there, and everyone was family. All my friends from school lived in town, and I was a good 10 miles outside of town, so I had to find things to do with my brothers. Bear in mind, this was a time before the Internet, before cell phones and text messaging, even before most gaming consoles (except for Pong, which we had, and the original Atari, which we also had in my early teens), so we spent our summers outside, going on "Grand Adventures" and discovering new places in the woods where we would make our "camp" for the day.

We were blessed with pretty vivid imaginations and got along together for the most part. We were masters of making the most of what we had, which was very little.

We were out one particular April day when Derek and I found a rather large Muscadine vine growing up the side of a pretty tall oak tree. This vine was probably an inch and a half in diameter, perfect for a "Tarzan swing," as we called it. We promptly snuck in to Daddy's toolshed for the axe to cut it from the ground, making our swing. We spent the majority of the summer swinging on that vine everyday, letting go at the apex to see just how far we could fly!

This was also the summer my Dad decided to invest in a couple of goats, and the fence he put up went right across our "swing path," leaving us to get in the goat pen to get on the swing to swing out of the goat pen, only to start the whole process over. The problem-solvers we were, we quickly started climbing over the fence, which broke it down to the point the goats kept getting out. Daddy happened to look out and see me climb (more like step at this point) over the fence and came screaming!

"Dammit, y'all quit climbing on my damn goat pen! Get out of there! What the hell are y'all doing? I'm gonna beat every one of your asses 'til you can't sit down!" God, I can still hear it. Of course, our first response was to go running into the woods. Except for Daniel, he just stood there holding the vine, because it was his turn and he wasn't gonna give up his turn.

It was about this time Daniel realized he was about to get the beating of his life, so with a running go, he launched himself into what I still say was the most perfect vine swing I have ever witnessed before. Perfect form, speed, and height. He let go at the perfect time, sending him a good 20 feet on the other side of the fence from Daddy, who was standing there a little wide-eyed himself. I suspect it was the most perfect vine swing he'd ever seen, too.

Well, I'm guessing this kinda pissed Daddy off, but he was not to be outdone. As the vine came swinging back, Daddy grabbed it and positioned himself to follow, all the time still screaming, "You little shits! Wait 'til I get ahold of you!"

I think it might be prudent to point out that my Dad used to be a smoker. At this point, he had been quit for a couple of years, and, as any former smoker does, had gained a little (read lot) of weight. This was also late in the summer, early part of September, and the vine had been cut loose from the ground since the middle of April, so it had dried out juuuust a little bit. As he started on his way, you could hear the snapping in the top of the tree. We immediately turned around, curious to see how this panned out.

Remember the goat fence I mentioned earlier? The one that split the swing path? Well, the vine snapped out of the tree, and Daddy fell about eight feet to straddle the goat fence. The fence was nothing more that your typical roll of dog pen wire or chicken wire, so it had a good bit of give in it. But what Daddy didn't have in his favor was his choice in pants, or lack thereof. This day, he chose a pair of cutoff jean shorts. The fence wire ripped the skin off the inside of both legs on top of him humiliating himself in front of his children. We were all doubled over laughing when Mama came running down the hill to check on him.

Everyone but Daniel. He hit the ground running and never looked back.