The Art of Climbing

Climbing trees is an art, not a skill. I’ve known fellas who could scale trees better than house-cats.

Take for instance, Dee: that boy could climb using only his arms, no feet. It was stupefying. Me? I couldn’t do a single chin-up. Boys like me, with chubby legs, were built for helping their grandmothers bake cookies.

Dee, spider-monkeyed to the top, then screamed to me. “Bet you can’t come and get me, titty-baby!”

To which Titty-Baby responded, “I’m coming up there to wipe your ass with a boot.”

I got a running start and leapt into the tree. Soon, I was frighteningly high up. When I made it to Dee, he said, “Good luck getting down, cookie-boy.” Then he disappeared down the tree.

You see, no one explained disembarking a tree was fifty times harder than climbing it. But, this is especially true for boys with fat little faces. So, I sat straddling a limb until the sun went down.

My father’s voice startled me. “What’re you doing up there?” Without awaiting my response, he climbed the tree like an acrobat, flinging skinny legs over limbs. He made Dee look like a joke.

“How’re you so good at climbing?” I asked.

“I’m an ironworker,” he said. “I climb things for a living. When I was your age, I was overweight. I couldn’t climb worth a damn.”

“How’d you learn?”

He sat next to me and looked at the stars. “Oh, I suppose I grew up, and I had to climb big things, like all adults do. Without anybody’s help. Somehow, I learned. And you will too.”


He wasn’t talking about trees.

And neither am I.