Recently, I recollected playing on playground swing sets during my early school days. Sometimes other kids beat me to the swings, and the line for a turn was greater than my patience could bear. I’d scamper over to the slide that towered over our asphalt empire and join the folks waiting there. It required more time to climb the ladder than it took to shoot to the scooped out dirt belong the bottom of that old metal treasure, so I knew I’d get a few thrills in before the bell called us back to our seats.
Height and speed loving youngsters dutifully waited their turn to climb that towering slide. If they were lucky, the well-worn metal undulated in the middle, which added a little lift to those jetting down on cotton clad fannies. Other slides were straight shots to the ground and anyone zipping down with legs pressed together to increase speed had to be ready for the sudden landing at the bottom that often propelled them to a gravelly face plant.
Under teacher supervision, we followed the one at a time rule. After school, on weekends, and during the summer, we learned physics by risking our lives. Someone would walk up the incline while another daredevil whizzed down the slide through legs or had a head on collision.
That adventurous equipment offered other challenges. How many youngsters could form a train to race down its slick metal? The person serving as the engine had to press both legs hard against the narrow sides to stay in place until everyone was in line. At the bottom, participants landed in a giggling dog pile or sometimes a crying mess if someone landed on someone else’s hand or finger.
One time, only my brother was available to play. I had the brilliant idea to put him in front on the slide and tell him to hang his cowboy booted legs over each side. Before we started down, I put my arms around him and pushed off, anticipating the crash landing at the bottom. Imagine my surprise when he swooped out of my arms and over the side while we were still near the top.
Once at the bottom, I expected to see him Humpty Dumpty-like on the pavement. Instead, I found him hanging upside down with one booted foot caught in the side-stabilizing bar. I tried to reach him to tug him out of his shoe, but this was a tall slide, and I was a little girl. I tried pulling him up from the top but that hurt his ankle too much. Finally, I left him dangling while I dashed to get our parents. Thank goodness, we lived within a block and my dad was able to lift him out of that trap into my mother’s arms.
To this day, I can’t look at one of those old slides without feeling hot or freezing metal against my back side or seeing a vision of a little boy in cowboy boots dangling upside down, hollering for help. It’s a wonder my brother ever let me talk him into climbing trees or diving into swimming pools after that adventure.