All the king’s horses, men |

All the king’s horses, men

When I was a kid, my father hung a 20-foot rope swing between two tall locust trees, a project involving pulleys and a grappling hook, which I remember clearly although I was only 4 (do not ask me what I had for lunch today).I loved the swing, quickly learned to shinny up the ropes, grew calluses that made my hands into virtual hooves with opposable thumbs and, when I reached the top, could loosen my grip and zip to the ground without a trace of rope burn.There was no TV in those days; amusements were hard to come by and had to be invented, so we escalated the swing. It wasn’t the X Games, but we were satisfied with lesser perils 65 years ago.One of us would sit on the splintery, notched wooden seat, another would grab the seat and run around and around until the two ropes were tightly coiled, then jump back and let go. The swing uncoiled at a dizzying speed and you’d just have to hang on until it stopped, then stagger across the lawn, almost puking but laughing: “Do it again!”My favorite swing trick, when I was eight or nine and could pump the swing by myself, was to get the swing going as high as possible, so high I felt my feet could touch the clouds, and then launch myself into the air – flying. Most of the time I landed like a cat, but if I missed, I knew how to roll. If the swing seat fell off with me, it might bonk me on the way down.I had never been on a Ferris wheel then, but after the war was over, my parents reluctantly took us for a brief visit to the county fair – past the girl in the iron lung to remind us to be terrified of polio – and onward to the Ferris wheel, where I felt that same stomach-lurching on the descent that I thought I had invented with the swing.When I was 10, I graduated to two personal 50-foot ropes named Tillie and Jane. Jane was my fire escape rope out my third-floor window, where I would practice hanging upside down with my feet in loops; Tillie was my outdoor rope, my access to the big maple and oak trees, swinging in the upper branches, looking down chimneys.”You’re walking like an old lady,” my daughter Hillery said a few years ago when we were tramping through the woods in Leadville to her alpine cabin. We walk like old people because we’re afraid we’re going to fall down and, if we do, we’ll splinter like Humpty Dumpty and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men won’t be able to put us back together again.During the cold snap a couple of weeks ago, trotting out to my car to go to work, I stepped on a slice of black ice. My feet flew out behind me, I landed on my arthritic hands and glass knees, and jammed my arm bones up into my rickety shoulders, thinking during this slow-motion event, “NO! NO!”I was not badly hurt, but it was a setback for my back and shoulders when I have been making such good progress with Patty Bennett and her muscular activation technique (MAT – highly recommended).It could have been much worse. I could have broken a hip, the old person’s dread.When my mother died at the age of 99, I found the remains of Tillie rotting in a corner of the basement, and my tears were for my mother, for the ropes and for me, who used to fly but is now afraid to cross a patch of ice for fear I’ll shatter.Su Lum is a longtime local who never understood that life goes by so fast. Her column appears Wednesdays in The Aspen Times.

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