The green. A space between the houses of our street. It doubled for the wild west, the western front, the beaches of D-day, The seven seas of the pirate era, and the Jungle of Tarzan. The tree in question was an oak tree with two trunks. It was a relatively easy tree to climb. Me and Stephen Blackwell, would climb up the tree pretending to be Tarzan and cheetah. Due to my diminutive stature, I was always cheetah. He would stand on a large branch about ten feet off the ground, and make the Tarzan call.
As the chimp I would climb to the top of the tree and swing from one half of the Oak to the other. I though that this was a dare-devil leap of huge proportions, but it was probably only a leap of a yard. Still, I was very small… So it was brave as far as I’m concerned. One time when we playing cowboys Steve was standing on his calling branch, when I shot him with my cap gun. At the b of the bang, he fell the ten foot out of the tree and rolled on the ground, then remained stock still. For an awful moment I thought I had actually shot him somehow. I moved up close to him… He didn’t move. I began to panic. What if he was really hurt? I looked back up to the limb of the tree. It was a death- defying fall. My eyes began to tear up… What have I done? He grabbed me by the foot and pulled me to the ground.
“Don’t Shoot me til I’ve done my Tarzan Call. You bugger. He sat on my chest and started to pummel my chest with his fingers. This was a play fight. He still hurt, but it was good-natured pain infliction.
“We were playing cowboys!” I reasoned.
“I know that dummy! but I like to do the Tarzan call!”
The same tree had been there before the houses of our estate were even built. The tree had probably been there when my Granddad had been billeted at the barracks during the war another twenty years back in time. These were our proper trees. They had planted many more trees on the green, but they were just saplings, with stakes holding them up. They were no good for climbing, and were just put into use as goal posts when we played football.
This tree was a focal point for the first ten years that I lived in Lichfield. It was as much a play mate as my friends. I would climb it and sit at the topper most branches thinking, when no-one else was out to play.
Then it became it’s opposite. It became the instrument of my brother’s death. He died by hanging from the very limb that Steve had used to make his Tarzan call. He had been swinging on a rope swing, which had a noose at the end, to sit in. He slipped through the noose and it hung him by his neck. Suddenly, this tree which had been like a cherished friend to me, now became an object of hate. Every day I had to walk passed that tree. Everyday had to relive the moment when I saw my brother lying beneath it… Blue! Perfect, but blue… And Dead. How could death be so close? I wanted to kick him, to scream…
“Get Up I know you’re only play acting… ” But he wasn’t play-acting. He was for real. It was the real deal. Nothing ever made sense after that. Nothing has ever made sense. Your senses cannot fathom the veil between life and death.
The tree has gone now. It’s thick trunks taken by a chainsaw. I mourn it’s passing. It had no malevolent intent. It had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
COPYRIGHT Dale Beck 2018
ANOTHER PIECE OF HISTORY -1974