“Know Your Roots” by Chad Robert Parker

My oldest brother had to climb an extra five feet off a 35 foot extension ladder to splice our rope swing back into itself, over a perfect huge overarching branch. We braided the bottom of the rope adding four or five knots for hand and footholds.

After a while we knew every trick there was: like how to swing around neighboring trees, land on platforms, or fly upside down. We were running out of ways to one up each other. That’s when my brother started practicing pole vault maneuvers. I just had to find a way to outdo him. Big mistake!

I admired my brother’s obstacle. He had tied another rope across two trees at the far end of the runway. Then he hoisted himself upward and over, swinging and vaulting himself out toward the forest. Gravity would take over and he would fall safely into knee-deep mud. Soon he had raised the rope—his bar—to as high as running speed would allow him to go over.

The only way to exceed him was to climb up, wedged between two trees, as high as someone could reach the swinging rope up to me. I measured everything perfectly (well almost): the rope swing, the rope standard adjacent to me in the distance, and where I would have to hold to whip myself over my goal. As I jumped into swinging I remembered the giant root poking out of the ground at the midway point. There was no backing out. I tried to hold myself perpendicular to the ground while holding at the very bottom of the rope swing. Bam! My tailbone smacked directly on that root and I bounced across the ground to an inglorious halt, writhing in pain. It hurt to sit down for the next year.