Trees, Bones, and Traction

I was recently inspired by my great friend, Caz Greenham’s blog post, Growing up in the fifties… Really, you should read her memories. Go here and read hers first, I’ll wait.

Wasn’t that a nice post? Now you’re back I’ll tell you that my growing up days were eerily similar to Caz’s. Thousands of miles and a year or two apart, yet quite alike.

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

Summers, out of school, and free, free, free! I think I’ve told you I had three brothers and a sister. I, and my brothers Tony and Michael, were all born a year(ish) apart so naturally we were thick as thieves and always up to some mischief. Honestly, I don’t know how Mother survived. We were up at the “crap of dawn” to bolt down something for breakfast and then out the back door like a shot!

There were caves to explore, trees to climb, and empty swimming holes that needed to be populated. Growing up in the country, surrounded by hills and forests we were in constant danger from imaginary dangers. Today it might be wild Injuns while tomorrow it could be the same African natives who fought with our hero, Tarzan.

There was an abandoned house just a few minutes’ walk from our place. It was falling down, nearly and filled with ghosts and field mice. But, thanks to the movies we occasionally saw at the Allison Theatre in Piedmont it was populated, or surrounded, by Indians, Nazis, and sometimes Elliot Ness and his gang of thugs after our illegal whiskey.

One game we never tired of was “riding trees down”. In this game, you must choose a tall, slender tree that will bend willingly after you reach the top. Pine trees were the best. We’d each choose one and climb as close to the top as possible and begin to sway back and forth, going further and further down with each swing. When the tree finally bends near enough to the ground, we’d jump off and watch it snap back to its (somewhat) original stature. Up to that point I don’t think we’d ever ridden anything more daring than a small Ferris wheel at the carnival, so this was a truly thrilling ride!

One fine summer day we were climbing trees just for the view. For that we chose more sturdy trees with thick, strong branches. Tony chose a sweetgum tree. The sweetgum, for those of you who are uninitiated, is fairly loaded with ammunition in the form of spiky green fruits, not quite as large as a golf ball, but every bit as hard.

This particular tree was fairly slim and Tony decided to see if he could ride it down. Back and forth he swayed, getting the best ride ever thanks to its great height. I thought I heard the tree groan and make a tiny cracking sound. Before I could open my mouth to sound the warning, the tree-top snapped and down went Tony, still riding the tree. Suddenly his left arm was caught in the crotch of a branch and we heard another snap. It was the sound of his arm breaking.

Michael and I got down from our trees in what seemed like milliseconds and saw, to our horror, a point of jagged white bone protruding through the flesh of Tony’s arm, just at the elbow. To say we were freaked out would be an understatement of monstrous proportion! But, we managed to half-carry, half-drag him the 200 yards or so back to the house.

Luckily, Dad had just arrived home from work and both he and Mother ran out of the house to see what all the screaming and hollering was about. Mother’s face blanched as all the blood rushed from it. Dad’s face hardened and his lips compressed into a thin line. Neither of them asked what happened, they just sprang into action. Mother ran into the house to throw on some pants. Women didn’t go out in public wearing shorts in those days! Dad started issuing orders. He and I lifted Tony into his truck and off they went to the Emergency Room.

The hours passed like days as we waited for them to come home to bring us some news. Finally, we heard Dad’s old truck lumbering down the driveway and rushed to the front door to wait for him. He sat down at the kitchen table and told us that Tony’s arm was broken at the elbow and he’d have to stay in hospital for awhile because he needed to be in traction. Of course we hadn’t the slightest idea what “traction” was, but we had a very rude awakening the next day.

I’ll never forget walking into that room in Baptist Memorial Hospital in Gadsden, Alabama that morning. Tony looked so tiny, lying on the white sheets of that hospital bed. His arm was encased in a plaster cast up to his biceps and there was some sort of steel apparatus with a rope attached to it and iron weights at the bottom, near the floor. So, this was traction!

Mother then explained that our brother had spent the evening before in surgery having a pin attached to his bones in order to hold them together to heal. He would be in that hospital bed, struggling with those weights and sometimes excruciating pain for six weeks. I spent nearly every day and night with him, as did Michael. Our youngest brother and sister weren’t allowed visits because they were under twelve.

My poor little brother was finally released from hospital… in time to start back to school! He had though, become somewhat of a celebrity as he walked through the front doors in a cast that covered him from shoulder to waist! That was a rough summer. I think it was around 1966 or 67.

Stay tuned for more memories… seems the well of anecdotes has filled after writing this.

Jim Tony Michael 1962 001


About Ol' Big Jim

Ol' Big Jim, has been a storekeeper, an embalmer, a hospital orderly, a medical biller, and through it all, a teller of tall tales. Many of his stories, like his first book, New Yesterdays, are set in his hometown of Piedmont, Alabama. For seven years, he lived in the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, Amman, Jordan where he spends his time trying to visit each one of the thousands of Ammani coffee shops and scribbling in his ever-present notebook. These days, you can find him back stateside, still filling notebooks.
This entry was posted in Random Musings, Wright Tales and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Trees, Bones, and Traction

  1. Children's Author Caz Greenham says:

    Good morning my dear friend, Jim from across the pond. I’m delighted to see that I’ve inspired you to write about your Memory Lane, too. I loved it, and we really did have similar times. I appreciate the mention, here. I’ve removed the comments box on my blogs, all due to spam. And now I never get any… the downside is of course no one can leave me any comments. I certainly feel the buzz in your writing, Jim. Energy floweth! I loved reading about your life, and maybe between the two of use many more will do the same. I love travelling back in time, and I know you do too. Maybe we’ll write a book about our Memories…that would be interesting, and I’m sure our readers would love it. Hope that also gives you some inspiration for a future e-book. All my best wishes, Caz.


    • Ol' Big Jim says:

      Thanks Caz! Your friendship and writing are a constant inspiration to me. I’m still working on that second ebook, and I could definitely see us collaborating on one! Thanks for stopping by Dear, and do come again!


  2. Children's Author Caz Greenham says:

    Thanks Jim…. have a fabulous Friday, and a great weekend. By the way, before I go… Jim’s Cook Book would be great! I following your cooking posts, and love the photos. Hope that also triggers inspiration…or maybe a cooking blog…


    • Ol' Big Jim says:

      I wonder whether you’re psychic? I’m actually working on two cookbooks, and have been for a couple of years. One is for Middle Eastern food and the other is for Southern (USA) food. I’ve tentatively titled them “Jim Eats Arabia” and “Jim Eats Dixie”


      • Children's Author Caz Greenham says:

        Wonderful…I reckon we are connected somehow in the mystery of the psychic world, Jim. Go write… I’ll be the first to download a copy.


      • Sheila Burgess Lusk says:

        Put me down for 1 of Jim Eats Dixie!!


  3. ,,,bonus! two of my best pals’ blogs in one..Caz and Jim… how the memories mingle… we all have them… great reads, both… and a word to Caz, if I may make so bold… my dear Caz, I understand what you write about no comments section due to spammers… I think you may be losing the opportunity to mix even more with our wonderful writers’ family… perhaps another angle can be found to excise the spammers?… intercommunication is part of our internet life blood… LUV YEEZ both …cheeers …


    • Ol' Big Jim says:

      A hundred thousand thanks, Seumas! And, I agree with you about the comments. I live for them! I’m able to keep it away simply by moderating every comment. That way I flush the spam away to where it belongs! Come back again, Seumas!


  4. Pingback: Trees, Bones, and Traction « Hello and welcome to Caz's Devon Blog Diary ~ It's Blogalicious!

  5. Sheila Burgess Lusk says:

    I always like reading your stories, but it’s all the sweeter for me because I can put a face to most of the names. I can only recall seeing that look in your father’s face once, maybe twice. It’s one that stays with you. I’m glad I didn’t know the tree riding game back then, for I’m sure if have broken a few bones, too! Love always, Sheila


  6. gwpj says:

    A great post, Jim. Brings back a lot of memories of my own growing up back in the 40s. My pals and I would go down to the army camp nearby (I lived in Seattle), where we were welcomed by the soldiers and fed by the cooks. Our mothers, of course, were not permitted entry to the camp (the guards shut them out). Naturally we were stuffed by lunch time. The only race I ever won in my life was once when my pals and I chucked firecrackers off a cliff onto the street below. Walking down through the woods afterwards, we came out on the street to see a police car and angry neighbors. “There they are!” a homeowner shouted, pointing at us. My friend George Snider was on the tracks team. I blew past him like he was standing still, ran all the way home and climbed to the top of our cherry tree. “I didn’t know you could run that fast!” George exclaimed a bit later. “I can’t,” I replied. Wonderful what motivation can do, isn’t it? 🙂


  7. Norma Wright says:

    I must say I enjoyed this in one way and not in other’s that was a bad time for poor Tony. In fact after the first surgery the x-rayed it a couple days later and had to do surgery again to get the bone just right. He had a wonderful doctor that took great care of him. months later when all the cast were finally off and Tony could not hold his arm out streight he said that most likely he never would to which Tony replied “just watch me” He insisted on carring water from the spring with that arm and any thing else he could carry until on our last visit to the bone doctor he showed what he could do then the dr said you told me you would. of course it was not completly streight but almost. A hard year for us all, with you & Michael watching out for him at school and everything else we had to do. Love you son and change any of this that you want to. Mother


  8. Norma Wright says:

    Yes we did and by the grace of God will get thru this one somehow. love you


  9. Great post, Jim. Great story too, and well written. Nicely done. Very nicely done.


  10. Reblogged this on T. W. Dittmer and commented:
    Big Jim Wright tells a story of his growing up years, and gives a pointer to another great story of childhood memories.


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