In my recent post about Ro’s “tree thing” I introduced the big shagbark hickory behind her childhood home and mentioned it was always her first choice as the “safe tree” when they played tag. Over time the kids referring to it as “the old hickory” evolved into an actual name: Old Hickory.
Well, there’s another story associated with Old Hickory that could certainly be understood as a precursor for who Ro grew up to be. First a little background…
Every Fourth of July Mike Delahanty hosts a big picnic / barbecue in his backyard; he works on it for days. There are always loads of family members, friends and neighbors, often three dozen or more. And at least a dozen are kids; Tuck’s and Ro’s cousins or neighborhood playmates.
One year, when Ro was eight and Tuck was ten, their cousin, Dick Junior, who was twelve, issued a challenge to see which one of the boys could climb the highest in Old Hickory. He even made a big deal that there were no girls allowed.
Of course, that was like throwing the gauntlet down in front of Ro, who immediately started up the tree, with Dick Junior right behind.
They climbed and climbed, and pretty soon most of the cousins were gathered around the base of the tree, most rooting for Dick, a few for Ro.
They climbed and climbed, getting really a long way up, maybe forty feet…
Which is when Dick Junior suddenly stopped, wrapped his arms around the trunk and held on for dear life, looking down at the other kids with this “Oh, shit!” expression.
By now Ro was a dozen feet higher than Dick, standing on a big branch at least fifty feet up, holding on to a limb over her head with her left hand and her right hand on her hip, looking down at Dick Junior with this expression of, “Well, come on. Aren’t you going to challenge me?”
Some of the kids down below were pretty merciless, yelling up at Dick about “not chickening out” and “don’t let that girl beat you!”
The kids yelling caught the parents’ attention, who came over and added their own brand of shouting – “Oh my god!” and “You get down here, now!” kind of stuff.
To figuratively rub salt in the wound, Ro climbed down on her own, getting lots of scolding stares from many of the adults, like somehow the challenge had been her fault, but also a few congratulatory slaps on the back from her brother and some of the cousins.
Two of the men had to climb up to coax Dick Junior down.
(C) 2017 Dave Lager