It's time to share some childhood stories about my best friend Kyle. I think about him everyday and what he thinks about me and my life. Plus, I wonder how he would be living his life if he hadn't left my house that day.
I wrote a long story about The Blixt Boys, "The Day My Life Changed" one year ago to the day. If you have not read it. STOP and go back and read before you continue. PLEASE!
I can remember the day well. But before that I want to tell some stories about some of the things we did. It's hard for me to really decide which story to tell. Do I choose this story for this year or do I wait to tell it next year? Not sure. I guess it really doesn't matter so which ever I tell it's new to you. But, for me it's like yesterday.
I can see walking through the trees and jumping the barb wire fence that leads into Jason Nolan's back yard. Now, Jason's yard is not a small city yard. Most of you who know me have heard stories about Chapman, a small town of about 1000 people in Central Kansas. I was one of the few who lived in "TOWN". Kyle, Kerry and Jeff Blixt lived up the road from me and had a nice home on the hill. Behind their home was a small grove of trees that was perfect for building tree houses. I can remember four trees that grew perfectly to be ideal corner posts to build, what I consider, one of the best tree houses I have ever seen. It had 3 different levels. Yes, separate floors to a tree house. Its hard to believe but those boys could build. Looking back it seemed liked it was impossible to be apart of the "club" but as mentioned in my last story I had been accepted and I was family to these great brothers.
We would spend hours and days in that grove behind the house. Whether it was shooting birds, riding motorcycles, driving Bobcats or kicking each others' assess. Plain and simple, it was fun. Many of our outings would end with a trip to the Getty. I hope some of you Chapman readers remember the Getty. The Getty was the rival gas station of the Fina only 90 ft away (30m for my Euro readers). These two gas stations were always raising and lowering prices to get the customers. Back in 1984ish I can remember it dropping to 83 cents a gallon. Wow!! Where are those days? OK back to the story. We would go to the Getty and have a plan. Kyle, Kerry, myself and others would walk in and say hello to Cat Daddy, Dave Graves. Dave if you are reading I am sorry. We had a plan every time to steal, grab, borrow or whatever you want to call it as much "chew" as we could. Yes, chewing tobacco. Not smokes, not candy, not beer but chew. Happy Days was our choice of pleasure not for the smooth minty taste but because we had to refill the cans we stole from Leroy, Kyle, Jeff and Kerry's Dad.
Our plan was to go to the back room and play video games for a little while and stuff quarters upon quarters in to
Ms. Pacman and Galaga. When the time came for the "move" we would always take turns on being the "one". Now you have to remember this is somewhere close to 1984 and the time when if your game "ate" your quarter the guy working, aka Cat Daddy, would come back to the back room and unlock the machine and open it up and get your money back for you. However, we would plan it that more than one machine was "eating" our quarters. Thus giving "the one" more time. Yes, I am sorry mom. Often I was the one cause i was the fastest. (Yes, I used to be fast before the beer so shut up). Kyle was always so good at keeping Dave in the back room. He would stand in front of him and keep him from coming back in the main area. I would grab rolls of "chew" or whoever was up next to do the deed would stuff them into our pants and run. If you are not a chewer you probably don't know that rolls of chew can come in packs of 5 or more. Yeah, 10 to 20 cans at a time we would grab. We would take turns doing the job and sneak out the door and meet out back to walk up the road past the Meyer's house and back to the trees by Jason's and the Blixt's home. Never being caught...til now.
We'd divvy up the cans making sure to replenish Leroy's stash and head to the Bag Swings!
OH the bag swings. They were the center point of our life. It didn't matter whether it was sunny, rainy, snowy or sleet. We were there. Being crazy fools. This place was just next door to my house. Remember the story of me climbing the radio tower? Yeah that's the same place, but just down in valley in "Witches Hollow". These bag swings were not pieces of elaborate engineering. They were made of a long piece of 3 inch rope, a burlap sack and hay stuffed inside then tied to a tall cottonwood tree. Dennis Weinhold, the father of my friend Caleb, was a local horseman who made it for us. He cut, chopped and dug out the area to allow us to have the time of our lives. It was one of the highlights of my childhood.
We would spend hours upon hours of jumping, diving, falling, bleeding and laughing. Plus, laughing some more were spent in that pasture. It was the meeting point for our club. I am sure to this day you can find knives, throwing stars and other weapons buried in the ground not far from there with our names on them. This place was a boys dream. The swing was set up to swing down into an old dried out creek bed with a flush grouping of hedge trees in the back. We would have to clear out the hedge apples every time so we wouldn't land on them The rope hung about 50 feet from the the large branch and would have to be pulled back up the the stand, made out of an old walnut stump, every time to beging the day. The soil at the bottom was made of pure lovable sand. Soft to the touch and about 1 foot deep. When you hit it from 12 to 15 ft off the ground. It was like landing in soft butter. POOF!
We would have contests to see how far we could jump to the bag. It was all about distance. Imagine. Push the bag out, let it come back and then wait.....JUMP. If you caught it easily it wasn't far enough. Looking back I can see that the declining slope was about 12 degrees decline and thats was pretty damn steep. So if you missed you rolled and tumbled for about 20 to 30 feet (9 to 10m) with a 12 foot free fall before you hit the ground. But, if you have caught on to the reason why I write on this day you don't need to ask who who was the best.
Kyle, was and in my mind will always be the craziest and most daring person i have ever met. He wasn't always toughing and stronger but he had more determination than anyone. He was not the biggest kid or the strongest but had more mental strength than most 12 yr olds. If he said he was doing it. He was doing it. So when i came to that creek bed and the bag swing it all about being the best. This place was surrounded by tall cottonwood and hedge trees. The tree our swing was tied to was in the middle of the small clearing. It must have been about 120 years old with a base the diameter of 10 men, okay 10 kids. But none-the-less it was big. A giant to some and a monster to this day. But, on the right side there was the second bag that was added. On that side of the tree there was a tree on the opposite end. Bare, while and dead. Lifeless but strong and willing to support anyone who dared to climb. Kyle would climb to the first stable branch and wait. I would stand on the wooden perch or Kerry or who ever else was next and toss the bag to him. Often it would take several tries for us to whip it around at the right angle to hit Kyle at the perfect point. The bag would swoop down, two feet off the ground and the knotted end would brush the soft sandy bed and then swoop straight up to it's pinnacle of about 30 to 40 ft and it would just come to him like a dream. Then he would leap. I am sure not once he would even think about it. I can still see it so clearly. He would just step off the branch and cling to the rope and glide back to the stand waiting for us to join him on his ride. Never worrying about being hurt or falling. He knew it. He knew he would never miss. The bag wasn't but inches away but if he missed the rope he wouldn't land on the sloping hill and roll to the bottom of the soft milky sand pit. He would drop straight down about 40 ft (13m). But, when he came gliding up to the stand I would always jump off the stand and join him on his joy ride until so many others piled on and we crashed to the ground from the weight. Laughing and screaming. I can feel the sand in my face as I hit the ground. It's like I am there now.
Not many made the jump. But those that did will always remember the Bag Swings. I will always remember the Bag Swings.
I will always remember my dear and loved friend, Kyle.
I will never forget February 27th.
Kyle died of a gun shot wound February 27th, 1986. He was 12 yrs old. He was a powerful soul and still to this day drives me to be who I am. Much of what I have done in my life is to carry on what I think he would want me to do. Telling stories of our lives together with family and friends and sharing the joy we had together.
I know many more people have stories of their friends and family but I ask you to share them. Not for me but for you.