Sunday, June 27, 2010

Trampoline Adventures

There are certain stories that I tell that I know people don't believe. You can see it in their eyes and their half smiles. I am sure those people's thoughts range from a polite "It's funny what tricks the memory can play." to a point blank "He's a liar!" However, unbelievable as they may seem they are true. In most cases there are a host of witnesses that saw it all happen that can support the facts. So, as I unfold this first story I ask you to have a little faith. It is a little outlandish, but truth is stranger than fiction.

My Nana wanted a sower curtain. That's really how it all began. The little trailer her and Papa lived in had shower doors rather than a curtain. Personally I always liked the doors better, but to each his own I suppose. I had wandered across the street to Nana and Papa's just as Papa had finished removing the old doors. I was six or seven years old at the time and I looked at everything from the "could this be a toy?" point of view. I decided that I could make use of the doors and I asked Papa if I could have all three. He told me that I could and a few minutes later they were all in my back yard.

These doors were plastic and aluminum. I am sure they weren't considered the highest quality doors in the world, but they were very light. I had no trouble in lifting them and could have pretended they were giant shields or some such mundane thing. However, I had other plans. They had a crossbar that you used as a handle to open and close them when they were shower doors. If you grabbed one by the handle and held it up over your head you could just imagine using one as a glider.

At least, I could imagine it. I have always been obsessed with flying. Anytime during my childhood when I thought I had something that might fly I would try it. Dad actually built us a hang glider years later, but that is another story. These doors struck me as ready made gliders. All we had to do was get them off the ground. That was the real trick, however. We didn't have a hill with a steep enough drop off to get any height and we certainly couldn't jump high enough to make flying possible.

Well, we couldn't jump that high unaided. After a few minutes consideration I decided that we could get high enough if we used the trampoline. To start with it was around three or four feet up and needless to say it was sheer drop from the edge to the ground. That alone was a good beginning. When that was added to the fact that I could bounce about six feet on it the trampoline became an obvious way to launch these gliders.

Jim, Joshua and I took the idea and began to put it into practice. We would bounce as high as we could while holding the edge of the “glider” down. Obviously, you couldn't bounce very well while trying to hold a glider up above your head. When we hit the high point of the bounce we would flip the shower door up and try our best to fly.

We now come to the point of the story that some of you may find hard to believe. After just a few tries we developed a technique. We could bounce as high as we could and throw the glider up and actually catch air and fly. Now, I admit that we didn't go far. We started our flights at maybe the ten foot mark and we glided slowly to the ground covering maybe fifteen feet of distance. At that point we ran into the chain link fence that ran around our back yard.

Mom and Dad had put the fence up so that Josh and I could play without Mom having to watch us every second. It was your standard five foot job chain link deal. They didn't feel like barbed wire around the top was necessary, but they might have been wrong. In any event, this was the obstacle that cut our flights short.

We were enjoying our brief flights, while at the same time lamenting the fact that we couldn't get those few extra feet when Marcus Stevenson happened to see what we were doing. Marcus was one of the older kids in the neighborhood. We was four years older that Jim and I. He was tall for his age and a knot of muscle wrapped around a few low diameter bones. He was light weight, but still very strong.

After watching us for a few moments he decided to speak:

“So, you guys aren't very good at that.” He said as he watched us.

“Well, we're doing what we can. We're flying anyway!” I replied.

“You ought to fly over the fence.”

“We can't.”

“I could.”

“Then do it.”

Marcus would try almost anything and he certainly didn't let challenges go by unanswered. After our little exchange he walked around the fence and into the back yard. We gave him one of the shower doors and he began to bounce.

He could bounce much higher than we could both because he was heavier and because he was stronger than we were. In fact I wasn't sure the doors would hold his weight, but he wanted to try. Higher and higher he went and then he threw his shower door up and began to fly. I remember being surprised to see him gliding along holding a shower door above his head. Of course, I think that sight would surprise most people.

I was very young and so parts of this story are a bit fuzzy. I don't remember how many test flights Marcus took before he decided to make his play for the fence, but I can see that last flight in my mind even now. He bounced higher than he had during all his short glides and then threw his mighty glider up at the peek of his bounce. I can still see him in my minds eye heading for the top of the fence slowly getting lower and lower.

I was trying to decide if he could make it. I was sure that he couldn't, his legs were just to low. Then, right before he hit the fence he jerked his entire body up into a ball. His legs flew over the top. I couldn't believe it, he was going to make it! Well, that's what I thought for a split second. As it happened he didn't quiet get over the fence. The bottom of his pants caught the top of the fence and he had accidentally flown to close to a tree that grew on the other side.

As soon as his pants caught he knew he was going to fall. He immediately let go of the shower door and actually managed to grab on to the tree before he fell. So, there he was with his butt stuck to the top of a fence hanging by his arms out of a tree. We burst out laughing as he hung there twisting his rear end trying to get the fabric to break free.

During this time Marcus's older brother Terry had walked down to our house. He stood there looking at Marcus stretched out at full length hanging from his arms and butt and laughed for a while. After much begging Marcus convinced Terry to get him out of the tree. Terry reached up and plucked Marcus down like a ripe fruit. (Terry was another of the huge kids in town and much older than me.)

That was the end for the shower doors really. We continued to play with them. However, we never managed to achieve anything like that again. Marcus had done what you could do with them. Now, I feel certain many of you are thinking “No way!”, but that is, in fact, just how it happened. Life's like that sometimes, it does unbelievable things.

Even though the shower doors were put down shortly after that it wasn't the end of our trampoline adventures. One thing many young boys love is danger. They love to feel that they could be mortally wounded at any time by the great risks they're undertaking. It's one of the things that makes adventures adventurous. I explain this so that you can understand our motives for doing what we did next.

Dad had bought us a set of monkey bars while we still lived down in Moncks Corner. It was a dome made out of a number of interconnecting pipes. Each of these light metal pipes was flattened on each end. These flat ends were bolted together to connect the pipes and make a dome. Now, Dad had taken the monkey bards down and brought them with us when we moved. However, he never got around to putting them back together again. So, one of the things we had around the backyard was a pile of metal pipes flattened on each end. (This is important to keep in mind.)

Joshua, Jim and I, along with other kids in the neighborhood loved to trampoline fight. We would get on and bounce around kicking and hitting each other trying to knock on another off of the trampoline and out into the yard. It was a game we loved. One day we decided that it would be more fun if there was a real chance that the looser would really get hurt. We talked about how we could do this and once we decided we started working away. We had decided to make the “Trampoline of Death!”.

A little while later Mom came out and found us fighting on the trampoline. It had been surrounded by pipes driven several inches into the ground with their flattened edges sticking strait up. The ground around the trampoline looked like the back of a metal hedgehog.

“Stop right now! What is this!” She screamed as soon as she saw what we were doing.

“It's the trampoline of death....” I replied.

“What on earth possessed you to do this!?!”

“We were trying to make it more exciting!”

“It could kill one of you!”

“Yea, that's why it's exciting.”

Needless to say that didn't pacify Mom. She was as furious as any loving mother would have been. The next little while was filled with us pulling up pipes while being yelled at. Thank the Lord no one actually had to get hurt for us to learn our lesson. Having thought about how dangerous it actually was we repented and decided not to be that fool hardy again.

That's not to give you the idea that no one ever got hurt on the trampoline. We still loved to fight and knock each other to the ground, but we were generally careful and most injuries were nothing more than scrapped knees. However, there was one exception that I feel I should include.

Jim's sister Summer had come over to the house to play with us. She was several years older than us and usually didn't bother playing with us “little boys”. On this particular day my cousin Chris was over at our house. That may explain why Summer was over there. In any event, they decided to play the trampoline fight game. As most of you remember young boys and girls often fight in order to flirt. Well, as I have mentioned in other stories, Chris was a colossus who didn't know his own strength. He had been bouncing Summer around like a rag doll and finally decided to give her the dreaded double bounce.

Some of you may not know what a double bounce is, so I'll explain it. When bouncing on a trampoline you extend the springs when you hit the mat. You then bend you legs and jump up just as the mat has thrown you as high as it can. To “double jump” someone you have to hit the mat right before them. You push the mat down so that when they hit the mat it goes even lower. Then you pull your legs up as quick as you can. The result will be that the trampoline hits them with all the elasticity of both “bounces”.

This is what Chris did to Summer. She was much lighter than him and shot into the air maybe twelve feet. It also threw her almost off the trampoline. Almost, but not quiet. She landed on her side of the edge of the trampoline. The edge of our trampoline was a rectangular steel bar. It was, at least, as solid as a rock. The results were simple. She was rushed to the hospital.

Chris was mortified. He had possibly broken a twelve year old girl's ribs and it was a girl he liked. That's what young love is like... It's dangerous... The long and short of it was that we were no longer allowed to trampoline fight. Well, not when any adult knew we were doing it. Summer lived through the ordeal and learned a little bit about life.

I was told that it had, in fact, broken one of her ribs, but I'm not certain that it's true. We were young enough that the terms “hurt” and “broken” were often interchangeable. I do remember that she didn't play with us again for weeks, but that could have been simply because she didn't want to take any unnecessary risks.

We moved not long after that and Dad never put our trampoline back together at Lake Drive. I suppose he had learned his lesson. Jim's mother didn't learn the lesson, however, and a few years later she bought a trampoline. There are more stories that revolve around that particular mat, but I will leave those for another day. For the moment I feel I have shared enough of our trampoline adventures.

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