Monday, June 13, 2005

Home, you idiot

A funny thing happened on a bicycle ride with my 11-year old son Sunday.

We live a short distance from an undeveloped park of eucalyptus trees on a brush-covered hillside. There are rough dirt bike paths between the trees, and this week lots of frogs have hatched. (The frogs figure no farther in this story).

Although we had been on a bike ride there earlier in the day, my son and another buddy begged to go again late in the afternoon and off we went.

Up and down the hills. Over the four-bump "course", over a few dirt piles, finally arriving at the rope swing at the top of the hill.

I stayed back about 30 yards to watch what the boys would do. They, of course, grabbed the end of the rope, which had no seat attached, and swung down the hill and out into space, just hanging by their arms.

Now, I imagined that if the grip loosened, the unintended trajectory would trace slowly down the hill, about 3 or 4 feet above it, and intersect some 20 or 30 feet beyond the end of the rope. Small chance of an injury, but a good chance of a lesson.

So I stayed put.

Soon, a stick was found and tied to the bottom of the rope, making a tee handle to swing from. An improvement in fun, but the potential trajectory and lesson remained.

Then, to record the fun they were having, the buddy pulled out his -- get this, all you old timers-- pulled out his cell phone to take pictures of the daring swing.... A nice touch of modern technology in 11-year old hands, I thought. They took pictures, and laughed about how to make the next picture even "better". Where to start, camera angle, etc. I moved a little farther, behind a tall bush to stay out of the pictures.

Now, enter the villains, a couple older boys, maybe 13 years old, walking up the dirt trail with their skateboards (oddly, a long, long ways from the nearest skating surface). They never saw me, so their natural behavior was unaffected by parental oversight.

Without a word, almost disregarding my son as he took the swing from his hand, the taller of the two boys took a few rides... backing up the hill, running down, and then off into space.... inpressively higher than the younger boys had gone.

Then the shorter of the older boys took a few rides.....

The idea of giving the younger boys turns never seemed to cross the older boys' minds as the taller one again took the tee handle and swung into space..

And then, justice was served with a loud CRAAACCCKKK!

The trajectory I had imagined was traced beautifully, albeit a little higher and a little farther downhill than I had imagined, and the intersection with the hill included the sounds of breaking brush, dry grass, twigs, rocks, and there was a small cloud of dust.

Up got the flyer with a slow hop and a bit of a limp..... while the shorter showed his contempt for the swing by untying the remnant stick and flinging it as far as he could down the hill.

"Where are you going?" asked the shorter henchman of his taller boss.

"Home, you idiot!" was the answer in a stifled, pained voice, and off the villains went, down the trail.

Wanting to bolster the confidence of the younger boys, now that the others were gone, I emerged from my hiding. They laughed about the older boys. I said I thought it was a little rude for the shorter one to have tossed the handle-stick down the hill, and as a measure of their confidence, I asked if they wanted to get the stick and use the swing a few more times.

"Not now that it's cursed!" they both quickly agreed.

And home we went.