These trees were made for climbing

Disclaimer: look not for reason or moral in this story. It is just a piece of my day. It's a daylog.
"I work with kids". Thus I have begun a few daylogs, and thus I begin this: I work with kids, age 5.5 to 14 years. I like my job. I get paid for playing games, drawing, painting, running around and having fun... Not bad, when you think about it. I also get paid for dealing with troubled kids and parents, and for trying to navigate through confusing and sometimes nonsensical rules and regulations obviously only created to make my life - and everybody else's life - more difficult (insert deep breath here). But that is another story.

Lining the playground around the house where our institution is located, are a lot of trees. Some of them are rather tall and have a lot of nice, stout branches placed appropriately along the trunk; just right for little hands to grab a hold on. These trees were so made for climbing.

Just last week I was standing by a window, looking out through the topmost branches of the tree outside. I wasn't looking at anything in particular, just resting my eyes. But it slowly dawned on me that I was in fact seeing a child. A small girl, aged 6, perched on a pretty slim branch, grinning like mad and waving - not to me, but to a fellow climber in the next tree. They were some ten metres off the ground, sitting in trees that leaned out over our fence, so if they were to fall out of the tree they would land in the middle of a busy street (well, not really in the middle of, but close enough). A little lower, but on the way up, was a boy. He had a determined, slightly apprehensive, look on his face. It was clear he was not about to be outdone by girls.

What does an experienced paedagogue do in these circumstances? I don't know what most would do, but I'll tell you what I did: I turned my back to the window and sedately descended the stairs from first floor to the ground floor. In my thoughts I went through the things I would have to do when I found the kids on the ground; first aid, calling for help, getting a new job (probably as a clerk in a 7-11)...

Outside kids were screaming around in 'Moon-cars' and on roller skates, or just generally screaming in a 'I am having so much fun can yall hear how much fun I am having' kind of way. I dodged a few attempts to run me over, stopped to pick up a boy who had just taken a nose dive over the handlebars of a bike (nothing serious, and nothing a cuddle and a "That was a spectacular stunt, honey, well done!" couldn't handle). I walked around the house to stand under the tall trees. No kids lying on the ground, which was good. Sounds of giggles from the treetops, which was also good.

I looked up and saw three girls and a boy, clinging to what looked like twigs, dangling their feet in the air so high above me. A shoe came tumbling down, and more giggling could be heard.

"We are up here", they called. "I know", said I. "But maybe you shouldn't be quite so high up?"

Silence ensued. I picked up the shoe. "One shoe is no good", I called. "Kick off the other one too". Another shoe came bouncing off the branches.

"Do we have to come down?"

"No...", I said calmly. "But if you fall down, you have to go to the emergency room by yourself, 'cause I have work to do, and so do the other grown ups".

Slowly they climbed downwards, until they were just three or four metres off the ground. The smallest of the girls looked thoughtful. "But if we all fall down, we can go together, right?"

I pulled my trump card: "Yeah, but then you won't get ice cream. We are getting ice cream later, because it's Friday you know. Anyway, you should climb the trees out front; then you can see when it's ice cream time."

Needless to say, this did the trick. They made ground contact and swarmed off to perch in other trees, not nearly as tall, and not leaning over a busy street. I stood for a while looking, remembering my own tree climbing days. I could - and would - go as high as possible, hanging from branches that ought to have broken, standing on twigs that wouldn't have held a large bird... Always competing with the other kids for the best and highest place to sit. And never, ever worrying about falling down. Injuries and bad things happened to other people, we all knew this, my friends and I. And we were never really proven wrong. Not until the world of hurt that is known as 'The teenage years' hit us, that is...

I talked to the kids' parents when they came to pick up their kids. They, very wisely, said: "Well, kids will be kids", and so we left it at that.

There is no moral to this story. The trees are still there, the kids have been cautioned, but climb them still. They don't fall down, just as we never fell down. Somehow bad things still happen to other people. I so wish this would be true everywhere, always.

Last Month

He died at the end of June.

I knew him to talk to him, which I did last when I ran into him in February at the UWO Athletic Banquet. I worked with his mother. I directed his long-time girlfriend in a play. Just some kid you see around.

First we heard about the accident, the SUV that ran over a median and into his car. They closed the roadway for hours. He was in critical condition, with severe injuries to most of the left side of his body. When he finally regained consciousness he had no idea what had happened. But the e-mails keeping friends and well-wishers up to date kept improving with his condition. He'd need a year of surgery and an indefinite amount of physio, but he would gradually rebound.

Three weeks after his accident, almost to the day, an embolism took him out. He was nineteen.

The lines ran long at the visitation.

There's no moral to see here. Move along.

Last Week

My two-day visit back to the home town went as expected. I took my mother various places; she's getting worse and I suspect she won't know us by next summer. Fragments of memories and personality drift through her conversation. She continues, however, to knit and play piano. She has her old piano in her room, and she often plays the one in the lounge. Either draws a small crowd of residents. She enjoys it, though she seems to tire out after two or three numbers.

We watched part of O Brother, Where Art Thou? She likes the music.

We drove to my aunt and uncle's new house on Sand Bay. I got caught up on family stories. Their front window features a great view of sand through trees and the water’s edge. I gathered some Lake Superior sand for Chiisuta.

Back in the city I saw one of those cymbal-crashing wind-up monkeys at Value Village, the kind that were once part of childhood and now seems to be associated with creepy movies. I didn't buy it.

Every morning the trucks drove through town carrying impossible oversized pieces. One transport pulls a single blade the size of the usual trailer. They're assembling a massive wind farm near Prince Township. My brother the engineer has a key role overseeing this project. It's impressive and amusing to see the least-communicative member of my family quoted all over the local media as general manager of "wind operations."

I caught one of my niece's soccer games. A cousin played on the opposing team. They were assigned to each other and during calls and such kept pushing each other and laughing about it. We wondered if the ref would call them on it. Soccer's big at their house, and it seemed I couldn't step inside without seeing the World Cup, usually in prerecorded replays.


I was sorry Jenny and Jeremy had to change their plans, and couldn't make it up Saturday to Sunfest. We had a good day even though the act I most wanted to see couldn't get into the country and the alternative booksellers weren't there this year. I hung around with Singularity Girl and her current. Most amusing moment: Jamaican-born Pat translating Lazlo's between-song patter for her, after she heard a statement about "rights" as one pertaining to "rice." They left to see Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, and I slept under a tree and listened to the music and the crowds until my wife came 'round. Some kids played some kind of Star Wars-themed game, which seemed to involve declaring themselves characters and then climbing all over the World War II "Holy Roller" tank. The M.C. at one stage wore a long robe which is traditional somewhere in the world and kept using a line about being hit on by guys because it's the local Gay Pride week. No one laughed, but he kept using it, apparently possessed of the notion that the joke would get funnier at some point. We stayed until the crowd became viscously thick, around 8:00.

We have to decide today whether we'd rather watch the World Cup from the very start or see the Pride Parade from Sunfest (the route runs alongside the park). Dang cross-programming.

S.G. leaves for Sarajevo this week. She's nervous as hell about the flight and about a return to the place of a childhood that was interrupted by siege and shelling.

Some journeys home are more difficult than others.

I just read Dimview's daylog, posted at about the same time. The nearly-identical lines are a very odd coincidence.

UPDATE (5:45 EST): Went to Sunfest for a bit, caught the tail end of Pride. Headed for nearby Kool's. Two guys left shortly after arrival, providing seats at the bar. Watched the rest of the nailbiter World Cup. Saw the spontaneous Italian Pride parade. Italian and French and Gay Pride flags look surprisingly similar. Gave Roy copies of the photos I took of him awhile back. Walked home. Actual sequence of events may not resemble sequence in which I've typed them in this update.

Oh yeah.

So this guy walks up to the bar and orders a pitcher of Kilkenny. The woman working bar asks how many glasses they need.

THIS GUY: We already have glasses.

WOMAN WORKING BAR: Are those the same glasses we served the 50 in?


She grimaces, turns and gets new glasses

WOMAN WORKING BAR: Is three enough?

The Battle of Morgan County

In 1863 Cofederate General John Hunt Morgan was ordered by General Braxton Bragg to march his regiments north to Louisville, Kentucky and threaten that city in order to pull Federal forces away from Tennessee, where Vicksburg was being successfully besieged by a Union Army under Ulysses S. Grant. Morgan had been a Kentucky business owner who became an effective guerrilla leader against the supply lines of Union forces in the Army of the Tennessee led by General William Rosecrans. Morgan was more ambitious and against orders crossed the Ohio River to enter Indiana pillaging and burning as he went. Morgan's raid was known as 'The Great Raid' or 'The Calico Raid' depeding on which side you were on.

Slowed down by weather and pursued by Federal cavalry, Morgan turned east and entered Ohio, hoping to bring the war to the heart of the Union. He caused quite a panic, but soon Morgan was on the run, pursued by strong Union forces He brought his force to Bluffington Island on July 18 where he hoped to cross the Ohio back into West Virginia. But he had tipped his hand. General Ambrose Burnside commanded the Federal troops in Ohio. Burnside anticipated Morgan and sent 2,500 cavalry, the militia and a gunboat to stop him. Morgan was defeated at Bluffington, Island losing a third of his force to capture in the next few days before turning north in hopes of entering Pennsylvania. That led him up the Muskingham and to pass through Morgan County on his way to eventual defeat and capture at the Battle of Salineville. Morgan's raid was as far north as the Confederacy ever got.

My friends Hugh and Joelle live in Morgan County. Hugh's family grew up in Morgan County and he has a beautiful home witha 1/2 mile driveway that winds around a hillside and passes through a pine forest. They are wonderful hosts, and it is always fun to come out there to drink some beer, eat wonderful food and converse.

This weekend happened to correspond with the annual re-enactment of Morgan's entry into Morgan County. Morgan county is dominated by the towns of Malta and the larger McConnelsville, which stand on either side of one of the only bridge in the area spanning the Muskingham River. One assumes Morgan headed that way because of the crossings. The area is very hilly, sparsely populated with agriculture the biggest industry.

Small towns remember their past. The military is popular in Morgan County, and with few jobs many of the kids join up when the finish school as their best economic option. McConnelsville is a pretty small town, with lots of gingerbread-rich victorian homes. It's a place where oid buldings remain in use, and Morgan's raid was the biggest thing that ever happened in the county.

So they re-enect a battle. Men and women dress up in period clothing, right down to woolen underwear. They carry period rifles, and artillery caissons holding period guns were distributed arond the twon. There's a tent campsite with approprate tents for each of the combatants. They sell memorabilia and many of these people are living experts on the period. I spent an enjoyable evening talking to one of the surgeons who explained who they perfromed amputations, with only ten minutes per patient. They didnt' use whiskey and a bullet, they did use chloroform. Which seems merciful.

The re-enactment took place on the propety of a local doctor. His house is built on a depression beneath a ridgeline that forms a natural ampitheater. At the very peak sits a real log cabin with a commanding view of the area. In the depression re-enectors have built a permanent set with a fake bank, hotel, railroad station (complete with a real caboose and tracks) and more. Eight cannon were unlimbered. Hugh and I even helped them push oen 'Union' piece uphill near the log cabin. That was the first and probably only time in my life I ever helped emplace a gun. They began with a lecture on local Congressional Medal of Honor winners from that war, and then they fought it out.

The cannon were loud, and it seems like they had as many artillerymen as infantry. I suppose the big guns are a lot more fun to operate and they certainly were loud! A smoke ring two meters across came from one 'rebel' piece. Infantry scouts came forward, reloading and firing their pieces in the traditional way. Then the two forces formed up and shot it out. In the end, the Union 'won'.

Or did it? Ohio was a very prominant part of the Union, but more people wore gray than blue. Re-enactors are also very reluctant to die, because you have to stop 'shooting' and what fun is that? Some did fall, mostly Union, which made it pretty strange since the Union eventually won. But at the end both forces lined up, and let a few volleys fly into the crowd. It made for quite the photo op.

Thus ended the fake Battle of Morgan County, fought by a hundred for the sheer fun of it. I had fun too, and the brats were tasty and cheap. The soldiers probably had more fun than anyone, and they did a decent job of simulating Civil War tactics. We had fun, and then I went home to say my goodbyes to my gracious hosts.

In the real Civil War, no battle was fought in Morgan County. But who cares when the modern battle is so much more fun?

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