Knowing they would hear me or Happy St. Patrick’s Day to my favorite Southern Irishman

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 8.58.31 PMTree house logic is clear and simple. Some trees are simply well suited for tree houses, and some are not — I have built tree houses in both types of trees.
Pounding nails and steps into trees were regular occurrences throughout my childhood. To be clear, my tree houses were not masterpieces like those you might find on Pinterest. In fact, my tree houses usually amounted to a single plank stretched between two limbs. Even so, the planning and engineering required was exhaustive.
The steps did their job. They served simply to get us to a limb. From there, if the tree was right, we were off.
Building tree houses was more fun with friends, but occasionally I built alone — especially when I was, as we said back then, “out in the country” at my grandparents’ farm and no cousins happened to be handy.
There was a pecan tree directly across the road from my grandparents’ home that was not an ideal tree for a tree house, but that didn’t stop us. I vaguely remember being a part of a cluster of cousins fighting to hammer 2-penny nails through four boards of various lengths and widths to serve as a ladder up the truck of the pecan tree.
I was toward the tail end of a dozen cousins born within a six-year span — which translates in tree house speak to, “For several years the steps up the side of the tree were too far apart for me to use.” I couldn’t reach the next one up to climb any higher.”
But time passed.
And you know what happens as time passes, I grew. And as I grew, my cousins did too. By the time I was tall enough to climb the steps up the pecan tree, they had lost interest.
Which is how I came to spend as much time on my own in that tree as I did. The first time I realized I could get up the ladder, I was five. I was alone and I climbed far higher than I should have.
Anyone who has ever climbed higher than they should have in a tree knows the problem there. I suppose it boils down to Newton’s Universal Law of Gravitation, doesn’t it? As I was going up, gravity was going against me and kept me stable. As I began to go down, several things happened, starting with:
– I had no idea how high I had climbed until I looked down, which brought my new heights into quick perspective.
– Gravity was happy to assist in the process of getting me down the tree.
– I recognized the possibilities gravity offered.
So I did the only thing I knew to do.
I started hollering. As loud as I could. I knew only two people might be able to hear me — and they were both inside the little house on the other side of the road. To my great relief, they eventually opened the front door and came out on the front porch. I don’t know if that says more about their hearing or my hollering.
Even way it’s impressive. I just did the math and realize now that my grandfather would have been 77 years old, when I was five. This tree was about 50 yards from their house, and they heard me yelling and came to see what was wrong.
Finding me took a while. I kept yelling, “Up here. Up here. In the big tree.”
Once they spotted me, they crossed the road. My grandmother stood at the foot of the tree and my grandfather began to climb the steps my cousins and I nailed in to the tree’s trunk.
If I close my eyes just right, I can still see him balancing on the branches through the leaves of that tree, helping me get down.
I am so grateful that I grew up knowing that if I hollered loud enough somebody would come.
And they did.
Even though he was born and bred in the South, my grandfather was an Irish storyteller. Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Papaw Greer.

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