Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Papaw Made me 10 Feet Tall
Todays toys come with a price. Whether that price is the cost to the pocket book or loss of social skills for kids as they strike the iPod pose, neck and head down, eyes unblinking and the screen of their little game inches from their noses. Back in the day, we had toys, they were just different. They required balance, skill and some risk taking. My Papaw was a railroad man but he was also a gifted carpenter. He would surprise us kids at times by going to the shed then dragging out a sled he threw together. If I were a bettin' person, I would bet it was because he wanted us out of the house, it worked every time. I loved the things he would make but one of my favorite was when he made stilts. Now I have looked at those metal ones in stores and shiver at the thought that I didn't inherit his gift for looking at scraps of wood and junk that had piled in the corner of his yard only to see it was actually a sled, a pair of stilts or a wagon. I have some scars from this, as from other adventures as a kid, but this was an art form itself! Papaw wasn't going to tell us how to get up on the little blocks for our feet, nor did he tell us to put on our shoes to prevent more injury. Papaw was big believer in, learn from mistakes and the learning sticks. He also gave us the extra challenge of a 2nd pair of blocks if we dared to try to go higher. Tony, my cousin, tried to get on the stilts from above, standing on the porch and putting first one foot on a block, then the other. I am sure I got way too much pleasure from watching him fall forward, sideways and even backwards onto the concrete porch as I watched and evaluated what would work best for me when it was my turn. Being of the personality that never learns from her own mistakes, I certainly didn't learn from others mistakes. I fell forward, sideways, backwards and had blood dripping down one leg from a missed foot hold. Eventually, I just took those skinny boards, more like sticks, to the middle of the yard, planted one in the dirt and held the other loose and close. I went on the lowest block and hopped. To my shock and the amazement of the other kids, I was up on the stilts. Now what? I realized quickly, as I was falling to earth once again, if I wanted to move, the foot hold had to stay in contact with my shoes. My next jump up onto the foot blocks resulted in wrapping my arms around the top of the stilts like my life depended on it and pulling hard while keeping my foot planted on the block. I made it a few jerky steps then down I went again. Egged on by the other kids making fun of me, even though not one of them had the success I finally had. I set my jaw, planted that left stilt into the ground and up I went again. It was just me and trees. I blocked everything else out. Lift and forward right, lift and forward left, repeat. Before I knew it I was at the edge of the yard. I turned around and ignored the kids yelling for me to fall, much like a pick up game of baseball when they yell "Batter, batter, batter, swing". I hopped up on first set of blocks then, mostly because I was mad, I went up to the second set of blocks to walk back. I kept my eyes on the sky and in my mind, was as tall as the house, as tall as the tops of the trees, and I was much higher than the bruised egos of my playmates! I finally realized it was okay to fall forward, that's how I had to exit the stilts. Let them start the fall forward then I jumpped, both feet planted on the earth at the same time. Without a word, I hopped down and tossed those stilts on the ground, a gesture of "dare you" to the next kid. I heard a quiet tap tap tap in the backgound of arguments about how I always seemed to have beginners luck. I looked at the window in the front of house and saw my Papaw's crooked smile, he gave a quick wink and dropped the curtin back in place. It was like he knew I would be the first one to defeat gravity that kept slamming us into the ground with each try. Don't get me wrong, today I like my electronics. If I tried stilts I would break a hip. Electronic have kept me in touch with family and friends in all parts of the country. Even my older brother is learning to use a computer although he is refusing to buy one yet. He goes to the public library where I am sure they still use DSL. But I miss that childhood feeling, knowing that from a few scrapes of junk, my Papaw could take an hour out of his day to make me feel ten feet tall.