Tuesday, October 25, 2011

" CONAN , DUKE a rope swing and a machete "

CONAN and Duke the rope swing the swamp and a Machete.
Ahhh..youth. when I was a kid growing up in Bay shore NY…I had pretty much the time of my life. We always had a swimming pool and the house we lived in had a huge crooked tree in the back with a giant branch that was overhanging a stream and beyond that stream…a swamp. I recall countless hours pushing off the tree hanging onto the rope and swinging all the way around the tree in a wide at least 30 foot circle…over the stream and landing on the other side of the tree like Tarzan. The property was on a down grade at the back of the yard near the stream so when you left the crooked trunk of the tree you were swinging between 4 and 10 feet off the ground in certain places…I even did it one handed from time to time. My dog Duke used to stay by my side and watch me and wander around our yard and pee here and there but he always stuck right near me and never left my side. Duke was a part Collie part German Sheppard mix and he looked like a Sheppard but had the coloring of a Collie. He was a beautiful mix of a dog….he was a Mutt…but he was Gorgeous. Smart too…just like a dog from the movies…he was that smart.
For ten years I used that rope swing every single day it was joy to me. Absolute joy. But that was not my only way of passing the time. The Swamp…it was a means of escape…a chance to go on adventures…quests and journey’s to long lost lands and ancient cities of gold.
I was 12 years old and I swiped a machete from my Dads tool shed and headed off into the swamp and started hacking away at the sticker bushes and vines and all forms of flora and fauna. I was carving trails. It became a Sunday ritual. During the week I’d play street Hockey or softball with friends but on Sunday’s it was the Swamps. Now the swamps were made up of little islands about 15 to 20 feet wide and practically circular and there were little connecting and intertwining inlets in between the islands and some of them were as much as 3 to four feet across and you either jumped it…or put up planks or built bridges to get from one to the other. Some areas were too mucky to bother with but for the most part this network of streams and mini islands went on for 2 miles behind mine and all my neighbors houses. Funny how it was shaped though. 2 miles long but about 400 yards wide. It was actually on the map as Sampawam's creek.
So Duke and I would go back there and I would play CONAN or TARZAN and I’d hack away at vegetation or some thin tree and imagine I was battling a horde of Demons or battling against the Murderous minions of YILDIZ! Or perhaps I was fighting off a dozen angry sub human ape men.
Either way…I was having a ball. Oh and the tree’s…there were downed tree’s all over the place..it was like something out of HUCK FINN!
It was a perfect playground and I was never more at home than when I was swinging on that rope or off on an adventure with Duke and my Dad’s machete. Of course…being 12….I should not have been running around with a machete. But nobody knew…except Duke. He wasn’t gonna rat me out he’s a dog.
It was not always safe either…one time I pushed over a rotted tree and a swarm of yellow jackets came out and stung me in a couple of dozen places…the dog was ok. I had to go to the hospital for that one. But another time two guard dogs from the neighboring factories came charging me and Duke…I ran calling Duke but the two of them gang attacked him and he got bit on the ear…but then he got a good grip on the neck of one of them and that dog yelped. I didn’t know which dog was crying so I charged at the dog fight ready to whack a dog with my machete if I had to but the other two dogs…ran. As if they were being called. Not because they were scared. I grabbed Dukey’s collar so he would not chase them and we went home. Of course I had to lie about how Duke had a bite on his ear and say the stray dogs came into our yard and attacked him. We never went into that area of the swamp again…to avoid the guard dogs.
Then there was the time I climbed a tilted tree ( just because it was there ) It was about a 50 foot tall tree and it was on a 45 degree angle…so I climbed it. I got pretty much to the top and DOWN IT WENT! Now I had ridden trees to the ground before but this tree DECIDED to swerve for some reason and I fell off and landed flat on my back and got the wind knocked out of me and I passed out. I don’t know how long I was out but I woke up with Duke licking my eyes and face. I guess it helped to revive me. When I got up off the ground I was wobbly but ok. I went right home. That was enough adventure for one day. It was time for CONAN to go home. Shaken and stirred I headed home. This time around when I got home my feet were both muddy as hell. That mud stunk boy…the stinkiest mud ever. I actually threw out my sneakers. I had learned from past experience that once you got your sneakers muddied up with that gunk…they were done. There was no saving them.
A few years later Hurricane Gloria tore through Long Island and knocked my Tarzan tree down…my childhood was gone. I was 18 now and Duke was an old Dog…I came home from work some months later and he was not on the lawn waitng for my arrival as usual. My parents had taken him for the big sleep as chronic arthritis pretty much crippled him and he could not even stand for more than 3 or four minutes before the pain would exhaust him and he’d just lay down. It was time
My heart was broken…I cried like a baby. For weeks I’d go in my back yard and stare at the swamp while visions of past adventures swirled around in my mind. Duke was certainly the best dog ever.
Once that tree was down and my dog was gone…I became an adult. When my grief was passed I was a new man…an official adult and looked at life and the world in a different way.
I turned my attention to my then girlfriend at the time and work and making money so I could buy Conan comics and go to concerts and take her on dates and buy her an Engagement ring…but that……is another story.

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