When I was a boy, we had a tire swing behind the house, but Grandpa Hamilton had the best tire swing ever.
Ours was about as good as my dad could manage — a length of rope around the limb of a modest red oak in the backyard.
But, it was no match for Grandpa’s. His was a sturdy old tire suspended from a high limb in an ancient oak at the far edge of the yard. That towering oak must have been an old-timer when Grandpa and Grandma’s house was built in the late 1800s, and the limb bearing the heavy, hemp rope as big around as a bushel basket.
Were it still standing, that oak might not look so imposing now, but in the eyes of a 10-year-old boy that tree and its twin seemed to tower like Redwood giants. Even the lowest limbs were too high for a boy to climb and the trunk too wide for two men to reach around.
And the swing of that long rope took us so high it threatened to launch us into space before returning us home.
I’m not sure when or how Grandpa managed to hang that swing so high above the ground. Maybe he was a young man. Maybe most of my eight aunts and uncles played on it as children, too. As far as I knew, it was always there. Even when I was older, remnants of the rope remained.
No school playground ever compared with that of Grandpa’s design. An old, brass bedstead anchored in the ground even served as a jungle gym.
The old tire swing and bedstead were gone by time I began taking my own kids to Grandpa’s house, replaced by a more modern, tubular pipe swing set and sliding board — yet in the shadow of those towering ancient oaks, Angela, as a toddler, spent hours on that swing set, just as I had on Grandpa’s tire.
As soon as Dee and I had a backyard with a suitable tree, Angela had a tire swing outside her own back door. Some years later, when Martha and I had grandkids and a similar, suitable tree, it should have come as no surprise what appeared one day at the end of rope lashed to a limb of our walnut tree. That old tire served us well until we were given a second-hand swing set to take its place. Now, it’s gone, too. Martha says it’s time to hang another tire in the walnut tree.
Curiously, our swing story kind of parallels what happened with Grandpa’s swings a couple of decades earlier;
But, I’d never claim anything I did was as good as that old tire swinging from Grandpa’s towering oak — not unless I could see it from the eyes of a 10-year-old.
Jim Hamilton is a freelance writer and former editor of the Buffalo Reflex. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. © James E. Hamilton, 2020.