Indian summer

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Rick Ryckeley

When we kids on Flamingo Street started playing that Saturday, Goofy Steve looked normal. At least as normal as Goof could. But by the end of the day, he had turned beet red from head to toe. Guess for this story to make sense, I really need to start at the beginning … a beginning that starts in the middle of the hottest Indian summer ever to heat up Flamingo.

It was as predictable as Down the Street Bully Brad being bad. Indian summer is the week in the middle of winter when daytime temperatures soar. The year Goof turned red, Indian summer arrived during the second week of January, raising temperatures into the mid-80s.

Saturday morning my three brothers, Neighbor Thomas, Preston Weston III, Bubba Hanks and Goof met in our backyard for an adventure of vine swinging. After watching the latest Tarzan movie, we wanted to swing from vines just like he did. And the largest vines were dangling from trees that lined the edge of the Haunted Forest. Everyone knew it wasn’t safe to enter that forest, but we thought by staying on the edge, we’d all be safe and no one would get hurt. We weren’t and someone did.

Up beyond the swamp in our backyard was a huge fishing lake. Fed by three springs, the water was crystal clear and cold, even during Indian summer. Along the right side of the lake, a pathway led around to the far side and the edge of the Haunted Forest. That’s where Tarzan vines dangled from trees and was our destination for the day.

Even though all of us had watched Tarzan on television swing effortlessly through jungle trees, none of us had actually tried. Someone had to climb the giant oak tree, crawl out on the lowest limb, grab hold of a vine, then leap while giving a mighty jungle yell. It took a double-dog dare, but Goof “volunteered.” Dressed in a tank top, shorts, and flip-flops, he finally started to climb.

The oak tree looked impossible to climb. It was so large it would’ve taken my three brothers and me holding hands to reach all the way around. Holding onto a thick hairy vine growing up the side, Goof dug in his fingers and started to scamper up the tree just like a squirrel.

After inching out slowly, he bravely stood on a large limb, holding tightly onto a muscadine vine. With a mighty Tarzan yell, he jumped off the limb and started to swing. His yell turned into a scream following him all the way down to the ground. Seem the vines growing in the jungle are much stronger than the ones dangling from trees on the edge of the Haunted Forest.

Goofy crashed to the ground hard, landing in a bunch of briars, but he was okay … until later that day. After lunch he started to itch, by 1 p.m., he started to scratch, and an hour later, he started to turn red. By 4 that afternoon, every exposed inch of his skin was redder than his strawberry red hair.

We all learned some life lessons that day. Accepting a double-dog dare can sometimes get you hurt. While trying to swing through trees, if you use a muscadine vine, it will break. Constant dunking in the freezing cold waters of our fishing lake will not help to stop itching. Smearing sand, mud, and an entire jar of peanut butter on skin does nothing to stop itching either.

And what was the most important lesson we all learned that day? Don’t hold onto hairy vines while climbing up trees. Especially when those hairy vines turn out to be poison ivy.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]