A swing in the woods

Alabama Living Magazine

When I was growing up, I loved swings. Who didn’t? Kids and swings go together like Clearasil and pimples. 

For me, it began on the playground, where I would swing so high that the legs on the metal frame would pull out of the ground.  That gave me a kiddie rush that was almost equal to eating a dozen Pixy Stix. 

Backyard tire swings were even better. For so many of us who grew up in the south, a tire swing was a big part of our childhood. 

We had one. My dad found an old tire, and married it with a length of heavy rope. After looping it over a limb on a perfectly located hickory tree, he tied the ends securely. Soon my sister and I were gliding high – up and back, up and back.  So simple. So perfect. With a little effort I could almost touch my feet to the eaves of our house. 

And what a bonus it was if there was a swing in the woods. Back then, the woods were magnets for 12-year-olds. Not so much today. Nowadays, all those trees would affect their phone service. But I digress.  

My friend Steve had one near his house. It was well worth the 15-minute bike ride to go visit him because we headed to The Swing.  

If there was a Heisman Trophy for  swings, this one would’ve earned a trip to New York City.  To get there, you walked through a path flanked by pine, oak, sweet gum and blackberry briars, until you came to a clearing. Then it stood before you in all its glory.  A large pine grew out of a steep incline, and someone with no fear of heights attached a cable to its highest limb. A bicycle tire rim bolted to the opposite end of the cable served as a handle. 

It was huge, scary and magnificent. 

Once you gathered your courage, you ran until your feet left the ground, and the swing catapulted you in a semicircle around the tree.  You felt like the stone in David’s slingshot as you flew over a sea of privet hedge at the bottom of the cliff. There weren’t enough Pixy Stix in the world to give you this kind of high. 

Kids from all over knew about The Swing, but not everyone tried it.  It looked dangerous – and it was. Because of the angle of the tree and the slope, you could easily attain heights of 20 feet on your ride, over 30 if you took off fast enough. And you had to deal with centrifugal force when sticking the landing. As a result, some boys wouldn’t take the risk. Being called a chicken was a small price to pay to avoid a trip to the hospital.  

I couldn’t resist the lure of The Swing, so I used it regularly. But I always began my takeoff  well below the highest starting point.  As a result, I didn’t fly as high as I could, but 20 feet was just fine. 

Not Steve. He always headed to the top. As a result, he went higher and faster than anyone else.  In addition, he added twists and turns that made it look like a gymnastic routine. Steve was sailing through the air like an Olympian, while I was happy if I landed without getting strawberries on my knees and elbows. 

Recently I reached out to Steve and asked him if he remembered The Swing. After all, it’s been a while since we played in the woods together.  He did. In fact, a few years ago, he went back to its original location, and sadly found an apartment complex where it once stood. 

I knew that already. Like Steve, I had also gone back to find The Swing. I may not have become a college gymnast like Steve did, but it was a wonderful part of our childhoods. 

Along with Pixy Stix.

Joe Hobby is a standup comedian, a syndicated columnist, and a long-time writer for Jay Leno. He’s a member of Cullman Electric Cooperative and is very happy now that he can use Sprout from his little place on Smith Lake. Contact him at


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