While big round bales are picturesque and practical, they fill a hay barn to the roof and leave little room for adventurous farm children to play. The old square bales could be made into forts and once a few passage ways were cleared we kids could set up the rope swing and entertain ourselves for hours. As I reflected on this topic, I sent myself back in time to when I was eight:
The wind whipped through my hair and the rope burned my hands as I soared out over the hay. The golden bales looked inviting, but I knew it would not be comfortable to sprawl onto them. They were just the same colour as a lion’s mane though and if I swung fast enough they would blur and become a herd of lions waiting beneath a tree, ready to slash me to bits. “Ayhaaaaaaaeeeyaa…” I bellowed in my best Tarzan yell. I swung, escaping the lions and the shouts of warriors.
The warriors were my brothers, stranded ten feet away on a clump of bales. “It’s my turn now. Let go!” they both yelled.
“Tarzan no let go,” I hollered back, freed at last from my never ending role as Cheetah the Chimp, or worse, Jane, who only sat around and waited for Tarzan to rescue her. At least Cheetah could hop from bale to bale and screech. But Tarzan was the one who got to swing on the rope, and I was finally Tarzan.
My arms had begun to ache a bit, but I wasn’t losing too much of my arc. Soon I would just be dangling though, if I didn’t get another good push off the bales. I jerked backwards and flung myself towards the barn wall. “Walls of cliff,” I thought. “Tarzan need push. Him go faster.”
“Get off. It’s our turn!” yelled my brothers once again. By now they had grabbed a long stick and were trying to reach the rope as I swung by.
I sailed way out past the bales and tried another Tarzan yell. My arms were screaming now, but there was that cliff looming before me and I pushed hard with both legs and sent myself flying through the jungle air. Suddenly the rope seemed to catch fire and my hands to burn. The pain shot through my clenched palms and too late, I tried to wrap my legs around the rope. The lion’s heads below me disappeared, and all I could see was quicksand, deep black and slimy. Desperately, I tried to hang on, but my arms had given out. I dove, quite smoothly of course, for Tarzan is an excellent diver, through the air and landed with a painful plop, right in the quicksand.
For a few seconds, I tried to continue the Tarzan game, but then I realized I couldn’t breathe. I fought to sit up and clear my vision, and my hand wiping across my face was brown and slimy and stinking and…I had landed in a winter’s worth of cow manure. I stumbled to my feet in full wail, and staggered forward. My shoes stayed mired deep in the muck. “You guys did that,” I shrieked. “You knew that would happen. Now I’m all covered. Stop laughing. It didn’t hurt anyway. No! It’s still my turn. Let me go again!”
“No,” they yelled and snorted with laughter. “You have to be Cheetah now!” Dave gave Chris a forceful push and the ropeswing looped out over me as Chris grinned down, beating his chest with one fist and sounding just like Tarzan.
I stumbled out of the barn, stinking and sobbing, and I groped my way to the house.
“What on earth happened to you?” gasped my mother.
“The boys pushed me in the cow manure,” I howled, and stomped across the kitchen, swaggering a bit, just like Cheetah would have done.
I fear the days of the ropeswing in the barn are long gone but then again all those round bales piled together in a field must be calling to some imaginative kids…