The Curt Series, Chapter 2

Jumps and Rungs


Curt and I got the idea at one point to see how high we could jump off things without getting hurt. I’m not sure at all how that idea fits into any hierarchy of needs or the drive to eventually propagate.

His house had a big porch. Two big tiers of concrete blocks were at the side of the front steps, with the front sidewalk passing underneath. We dared each other to jump off the first block and clear the sidewalk and land on the grass.

No problem. Then the dare turned to the second tier. That involved a little more trepidation, because we had to clear the lower block and the sidewalk both. And we made it, but just kinda barely, with pins and needles in our ankles, and we were congratulating ourselves on surviving. But we knew we could do better.

As the days passed, some of our time was spent jumping off that second tier until it finally got boring. But what next?

Ah. His porch had a brick railing. It was higher than the second tier and farther away from the sidewalk. This took some inner fortitude, not to mention a general draining of intelligence and lack of awareness of consequences. But we made it. And once again as time passed, we kept at it. Then that got boring.

We were out of challenges. We went to one of our meditative hangouts, where we’d climb a telephone pole next to his garage and sit on the garage roof. Then the thought occurred: We could jump off the garage roof. It overlooked his back yard, and at the bottom of the garage was Curt’s mom’s garden, about 10 feet wide, that we’d have to clear.

We stood at the edge, looked down, and I can’t remember Curt’s words exactly, but they were to the effect, “Dude, I’m sitting this one out.” He climbed down the telephone pole (just getting up and down that thing carried its own hazards in the form of nasty splinters) and walked around to the edge of the garden to wait and watch me, presumably until he would drag my broken body off to my house and deposit me on the back porch steps.

I jumped.

It’s anticlimactic. I made it fine. Except… well, the ankle-sting that we were used to by now was more like a lightning bolt through my feet and lower legs, until it dulled to a low-grade fire. I said, okay, that’s enough now.

That was it. That was as much as we were going to do. Stupidity had carried us this far, and we finally let it go its own way.

We went over to my yard. My yard had a mulberry tree that had perfect places for us to sit in and, when in season, eat mulberries. But on this occasion, we went to the old broken-down swingset in the yard that the previous homeowners had no desire to take with them. It had a ladder on it, just two metals rails with six metal rungs welded between them, bolted to the top of the swing, and then at some point, the bolts on the swing failed, and it came down. What good is a swingset ladder with no swingset, no support?

And Curt and I were seized with the prospect of a new challenge. We took the sad ladder over to his place, with the idea that we would see how high we could climb on it, free-standing.

The answer was one rung. But we kept trying. One would fall, and then it was the other’s turn. I was older, my balance a little bit better, and I was making the better strides. Up to the second rung, fall, try again, fall, again and again, and then I was on the third rung. And then I got called home, and he kept practicing, and he surpassed me.

We ultimately both won. By the end of summer, we could both make it to the top rung and hold on there, squatting, carefully balanced on the ladder, not graceful, not accomplished, but hey, we were there.

That summer was a lesson, if we cared to heed it, that if you put your mind to it, and practice (and practice)(and practice), you can do just about anything.

Except at some given height, you’re going to need a parachute or something.

(Next: Summer of ’69 – no, ’70)

— Grandpa

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