The Swinging Life

Jun 1, 2005
Outside Magazine
Gold Cup 2 Eye

It was just an old rope swing, tied to a pecan tree on the banks of a lake in the Ozarks. But when I stumbled upon it, and grabbed the knot and swung out over the water, what came back to me with a whoosh was my seventh summer, probably forgotten or pushed away because that was the year my mother died.

My old man had nearly brained himself trying to install the heavy rope on the limb of an old box elder. Unwilling to climb up, he'd elected to weight one end of the rope with a claw hammer, which he heaved heavenward in the hope it would sail over the limb. Finally, to my amazement, it worked. He tied a spent Firestone to the rope with a double square knot, installed me inside, walked the boy-bearing tire to the apex of the slope, and pushed.

"What should I do?" I screamed as I soared out toward the water.

He yelled back in his East Texas cracker twang, rich with mules and chiggers. "Y'all figure it out."

The thing that came to addict me wasn't just the wild ride and the plunge into the creek; it was that you could apply an infinite amount of torque to the rope by winding up the tire before liftoff, coiling it like a spring. Then, standing on the tire, spinning like a dervish, the test was this: Could I marshal the timing it took to dismount at a point that would deposit me in the water instead of the brush?

In another game, my best pal and I would swallow a Fizzie-kind of like prehistoric Pop Rocks-then wind up the tire, working it like a posthole digger. As the carbonated confection began bubbling in our bellies, I'd climb into the tire while my pal climbed on top. Once airborne and spinning, it was mano a mano until the loser barfed.

But what I liked best was simply the compulsive, solitary act of swinging, pumping my legs for hours to keep the tire in motion. It was the best way to take myself somewhere else.

Deck Shoe Revival
Remember these babies? Sperry Top-Sider plates the eyelets on its handmade Gold Cup 2 Eye deck shoe with 18-karat gold, which won't corrode or rust. Meanwhile, memory foam molds itself to the shape of your sole, while padded deerskin uppers softly cradle the rest. $150;

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