Thanksgiving memory. 1955
It was the Friday afternoon before Thanksgiving, 1955, and school was out for the holidays. I had a whole week to be a free range child, riding my horse, swinging in the trees like Tarzan or just playing around the farm. The weather was changing and the day so cool that it made me race through the pasture, roll in the grass, and leap like a deer. If there had been a hill I would have rolled down to the bottom laughing all the way.
My birthday would be the day after Thanksgiving, and I was excited for I was turning 12 even though I wouldn't be having a party because of the holiday. Besides, what few friends I had would be with families anyway. But I didn't care a whole lot, I enjoyed my own company. I could play for hours by my lonesome and with a whole wonderful week to be free from the classroom, I looked forward to taking advantage of it.
Early Monday morning,before the birds began to sing, I heard an unusual noise outside. I quickly brushed my teeth while falling all over myself getting my clothes on. I rushed outside, forgetting about breakfast, because I needed to see what was happening. A rather large truck was backing up in our pasture lane on the side of the house. Three muscular men began unloading some strange rather large pipe contraption, welded together in the shape of a U. It was huge, over 12 feet high. The camellia bushes were blocking my view so I ran to the sycamore tree and climbed out on a limb to watch. After laying the pipes down near the house, two men took out their post hole diggers while the third extended his tape measure and began marking two spots on the ground. They began to dig. After the men dug the holes they stood the pipes up into the holes, making sure they were straight before pouring concrete into and around the pipes. The U shaped contraption appeared even higher standing so erect. There were shoulder forged eye bolts attached to the cross piece at the top. What could this be? My mind began to imagine several things.
Now, I was a country boy, growing up around farm animals, so naturally, I thought it had something to do with animals. I stretched out on the limb, thinking, but all I could think of was they were erecting a scaffold to hang a hog after we butchered it...but why so close to the house? Shouldn't that be in the barn lot?
The last two years my daddy had hung the hogs on a rope attached to a pulley on the barn roof.
Why would he want to butcher a hog so close to the house?
Maybe these men had their directions wrong. Maybe they should be at the barn. I ran to tell daddy, but mama said he was out hunting with his best friend and promised to be home for Thanksgiving dinner. Mama said I shouldn't worry, it was a surprise and I would find out later. “They are placing it exactly where it should be,” she said as she gave me a pat on the back. “Just wait, you will see.” Maybe it was to be some strange hitching post for my horse that I lived on every breathing minute? I was puzzled.
The men left after smoothing the concrete around the post and attaching supports to insure it stayed level. They stretched a note across it saying “Do not Touch”. Bummer. I guess I would have to wait. Early Wednesday morning the men returned. They brought a smaller pipe with two chains attached on each end. This did not make sense. After taking the supports loose and making sure the pipes were secure, and not moving about, they attached the two chains to the larger cross pipe, measuring to make sure the two were level. The men called me over and asked me to stand underneath and hold my hands just above my head. They then adjusted the chains so that the pipe fit in my hands. I told them it wouldn't be high enough and should be higher because the hogs would drag the ground and the dogs would have to be watched carefully so they didn't get into the meat. Besides, it would be harder to skin and burn the hairs off the hogs if they drug on the ground. After a few laughs, the men assured me it was not for hog killing. However, they did agree to raise the pipe high enough that I had to jump up to catch it. When they were finished, I grabbed the bar and began to swing.
Suddenly I realized what this hog killing contraption really was. It was a trapeze.
A real trapeze like in the circus, just not as high off the ground. It was my birthday present!
I ran to tell Mama how much I loved it. With a smile on her face, Mama hugged me and said she had watched me on too many occasions swing from tree limbs by my knees, letting go at just the right moment to swing to the limb below. She had watched me do acrobatics on the swing set, swinging and flipping over the top bar then landing on my feet. “This is the perfect gift for such a gymnastic boy,” she said.
I had never received so glorious a birthday gift. My very own special trapeze. One of the first things I did was attach a rope to the bar before moving the swing set closer so I could stand on the top of it, retrieve the trapeze bar and swing. I swung freely all day long, like a trapeze artist, my legs arched over the bar in a back bend, or swinging by my knees as high as I could. At the highest point I soon learned to let go and flip to the ground, landing like a cat on my feet.
The next day was Thanksgiving and I already knew what I would say I was thankful for. That night I helped mama make the cornbread dressing and prepare the turkey before bed time. I pulled the cover over my head and closed my eyes tight but I still could not sleep. I tossed and turned all night, dreaming of the wind blowing in my hair while I swung upside down, legs locked into place ready to catch the girl swinging toward me, or my solo act where I did a triple flip into the air to land on the top of the swing set while crowds stood clapping and shouting my name.
My birthday came early that year and I was thankful.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
Note: I was swinging upside down, on the trapeze,Thanksgiving morning when daddy came home with a wild turkey he had shot. He proudly took it in to mama and asked her if we could have that wild turkey instead. Mama, who had been working hard for two days getting the meal ready, looked at that undressed turkey and exploded. After Mama finished her tirade Daddy decided the wild turkey could wait another day and placed it in the freezer before making himself scarce.
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