As a child, I spent countless hours climbing trees. My cousins and I were still mastering the art of walking when we could be found climbing my Aunt Sue’s red leaf plum trees in her front yard. They were perfect for learning low altitude maneuvers for toddlers like ourselves. Though we were no more than 3 or so feet off the ground, we thought we were in the clouds.
Of course, as we aged we would seek new heights. My cousin Chris and I had a favorite pine at his house where the limbs provided perfect rungs for us to scale to the top. When I say top, I really mean top. We would go as high as possible without causing the top to lean and break, often he on one side of the main trunk and me on the other.
At my grandfather’s house was a huge magnolia tree. Its vast array of limbs provided not only easy steps but plenty of cover and handholds. My friend Bobby and I experienced our first hunting from a tree there. We would pick various limbs where we could sit and wait comfortably, with our bb gun beside us. After a few minutes, we would often spot and shoot at an un-expecting bird that happened into our range.
Just before hitting our teens, Bobby and I were playing in a field where the trees had just been clear cut. There was one particularly large and long tree that was leaning at a 45 degree angle. Bobby got the bright idea to climb all the way to the end and have it double over bringing him close to the ground. The tree had other ideas. Perhaps the tree was upset from being cut down, but it only gave way slightly before dumping Bobby to the ground below. The fall of about 20 feet left Bobby unconscious and I was certain he was about to die. I was recently reminded about that day and how I ran nearly a mile to the closest house with an adult inside. We called the ambulance and his parents and they met me back at the field. Bobby woke up as he was being placed on the stretcher and only suffered a concussion and broken collar bone, but to a 10 year old, it was a life threatening and changing moment.
It is funny how now as an adult, life has come full circle. I again enjoy climbing trees. The purposes are still much the same. The objective is to get high enough to enjoy nature without nature realizing you are observing. While in the stand this last weekend, I saw one deer which was way too far away. However, I spent several hours enjoying watching a cardinal clan flitter from ground to tree to shrub. Much like an aquarium can bring solitude and peace, sitting there with God’s creatures undisturbed brings inner reflection and comfort.
Still, just like with Bobby, the potential dangers are there. Remember this season to use a safety restraint system if using a tree stand, particularly climbing stands. When someone goes up, they never expect to come down the quick way. However there have already been reports of falls, and they often end up far worse than a broken collar bone and concussion.