Reading the Eagle Tree by Ned Hayes got me to thinking about climbing trees. Not wanting to do it, God no. I’m 74 years old, and that’s a wee bit too old for that kind of shenanigan. But remembering and thinking about the logistics of it, how to get from one branch to another without scraping the hell out of my arms and legs. It was a year or so ago that I read that book. But sitting on my patio just now and looking at the trees, I starting thinking about it again. I could limb that one and that one, if I was younger. What would my wife think if she came home and saw me perched high in an oak tree? She’d probably think I’d lost my mind.
But what about these two big ones in our side yard? No way could I tackle them.
I was a great climber when I was a kid. My dad said I was just like a monkey, and that pleased me greatly. I remember home movies of me and my brother waving from high in the gum tree in our front yard in Tupelo, the house on Woodlawn, I think, not the one on Magazine—meaning we must have been eleven or twelve years old. And I remember climbing the giant magnolia on the bank of Gordons Creek in Hattiesburg a few years later. I truly believed I was the only kid in the world who could climb that one.
For a long time after reading the Eagle Tree I looked at trees while riding around town and thought about which ones were climbable and which weren’t. The thing that struck me was that most are seemingly impossible because the first branches don’t branch out until way past where they are reachable from the ground. How in the world are you supposed to climb a tree if you can’t reach the first branches? Scamper up like a money? Like a lumberjack with a rope and spiked shoes but without the rope and spikes? I wish I could ask March Wong about that. He was the hero of the Eagle Tree. He might have been the best tree climber there ever was. He could tell me how to do it.