Bent Trees at Garden Creek
At the place where Garden Creek runs into the Catawba River, and where Highway 70 splits from Highway 221/226, due east of the river and northeast of the 221 bridge, is a small mountain. It has no given name that I am aware of, but though it is small in reality, it is forever big in my mind. We called it Grandpa's Mountain.
I spent a lot of years claiming that mountain as my own. I knew it from bottom to top and from one end to the other on the river side. On that mountain I was Daniel Boone, Davey Crocket, and a dozen wild Indians all rolled up into one. If it could talk I would have probably been worn out more times than I was and probably grounded for life…
Many youthful adventures were there to be had, and being who I was, I tried as many as could possibly be crammed into my days on the river there.
On one particular slope there was a stand of trees. They were small, young trees that had grown up where the earlier timber had been pushed off. They were tall and straight and narrow, and growing on a very steep bank of about sixty or seventy degrees. I mentioned that they were straight. Were. Fast forward thirty two years or so, and people would probably wonder why those trees are bowed so far over and grown that way. Blame it on genetics…mine that is, along with my brother Roy and Johnny Justice.
You see, they were half way up this steep bank, or a little higher and we were on top. I don’t know who thought of it, but I don’t think it was me, but what better way down than to take the elevator? And what better elevator to a boy than one that (a): was natural, and (b): was a bit risky, and (c): involved a lot of cheap thrills? (This was in the day when cheap thrills weren’t so immoral and were easier and cheaper to come by.)
I want to think Johnny was first to go. He ran, jumped and grabbed the top of one of the saplings and it oh-so-gracefully bent over, and over, and over, and lowered him to the ground far below. Awesome! Cool! Unbelievable!!!! Roy went next, with very similar results. He landed far down the bank with only a slight drop and no harm. Now it was my turn.
I was more than a little bit scared that I would miss the tree and crash to a bloody and battered ending in the valley so many feet, no it was yards, no I think it began to look nearly a mile down for a minute there. Johnny and Roy were starting to make fun of me. The minutes creep by like hours. The sun visibly moves in its course through the sky…I run…I jump…I panic…I flail and grab…and I catch my tree! Yeeee Haaaaw! And in a long graceful arch, I too, glide over and to the ground. What a rush! Eat your heart out Tarzan!
Well, we stood there a minute and looked back up that steep bank and there was only one thing to do. No we did not go home and laugh about it. That would have made sense. We scrambled and dug and scratched till we got back to the top so we could suspend any common sense we might have cultivated up until that point, and do it again. And again. And yes, again. In the end we resorted to climbing the larger trees until we got high enough for them to bend under us. That did not hold the same thrill as the jumping to them and risking our necks.
After about three jumps the trees would not straighten back up completely and that tree had to be abandoned for a fresher tree. It seemed like we jumped five or six times each. Maybe it was not that many. I only remember we were tired and scratched up when it was all said and done. And happy.
The last time I remember looking at those trees, they were still bowed from doing elevator duty. I wonder if the woods on that mountain have ever caught someone’s eye because several trees turn outward from the slope in a neat arch on one very steep part of the bank. I am very surprised we weren’t hurt or maimed or killed, but we came through whole and functional. I think.
James Lee Frady (c) 2/22/2009