If you grew up back when the TV only had 4 channels, a phone was something that hung on the wall and any boy under the age of 13 had a collection of green, plastic, army men; then perhaps you recall a cheap toy that consisted of a 3 inch tall plastic paratrooper connected by strings to an 18 inch plastic parachute.
You could buy these things at just about any dime store or dept. store. Once you had managed to entangle the mass of string and plastic in a tree, you could remove the shredded plastic and replace it with a thin piece of cloth like a handkerchief. There weren’t any plastic grocery bags yet, so plastic foil was not the ubiquitous item it is today.
Once you had found a source for handkerchiefs or some other thin cloth, the making of these parachutes could be sourced entirely with stuff you found around the house. Mom’s sewing stuff was a good source for thread or string and Dad’s haphazard collection of nuts and bolts always contained a few items that were just right for weights.
Inventive kids would soon discover that a slingshot could propel the ‘chutes high into the air, over strategic locations like the roof over your friend’s house or over a fence into some grumpy, old guy’s yard.
We were about halfway through our walk this morning when I glanced skyward and saw that a piece of my childhood had parachuted in from the sixties! It was one of those situations where you see something and it takes a second to register in your brain because your brain is busy thinking about bills, a needed oil change, an upcoming Dr. appointment and a new recipe for pumpkin pie. I saw it, but I kept walking. Then I had to turn around to see if that was what I had really seen. It took me few minutes to get my eyes on it again. Yep… there it was, a homemade parachute toy, stuck in a tree.
I haven’t seen one of these in years! I’m sure it’s a lost art among children today. With all their facebook and tumblr and instagram, smartphones, x-box and all the other stuff an old guy like me doesn’t even know about; how on earth could we expect a kid to know how to make one of these ancient parachute toys?
How did it get here? What strange atmospheric conditions could explain the sudden appearance of such an anomaly? The only explanation I can come up with is that some weird current of air has held this thing aloft for 45 years until it finally came to rest in this tree.
So, there I stood, attention riveted to a moldy hunk of cloth hanging in a bare tree in the middle of January, but my mind was drawn back to a warm spring morning when everything smelled like moist dirt. My dog circled the tree below me and barked merrily as I climbed up to rescue the paratrooper from the clutches of that evil tree. Funny… that you have to be in your fifties to truly appreciate the glorious abilities of a nimble nine year old, isn’t it?
I was finally jolted from my reverie by Kaia who was growing impatient with my fixation on this stupid tree which was obviously devoid of bird life so what the heck was the point anyway? In a move utterly characteristic of an attention seeking retriever she placed her nose between my palm and leg and tried to get me to pet her. My brain was still in 1968 as my hand glided over her head and down the side of her neck. It was at that precise moment that my brain was yanked unceremoniously back to 2014. The cause of my sudden awareness was the fragrant and gelatinous ooze that coursed through my fingers as my hand passed over the right side of my dog’s neck.
You see, Kaia is a conneseiur of all things stinky and gelatinous. On this particular morning she had taken advantage of my inattention and used it as an opportunity to apply a liberal dose of otter poop which is like Chanel #5 to Kaia. Otter poop is a somewhat rare but extremely schtanky substance that can often be found near any body of water that contains otters and crayfish. The presence of crayfish remains is a fairly reliable identifier when one is attempting to determine the source of said poo. Further meditation on the essence of otter poop can lead one to imagine that these crayfish are at least partly responsible for the extremely fragrant nature of this particular brand of poop.
While Kaia finds the scent of otter poop to be a delight; I consider it to be only slightly less offensive than patchouli oil. It is perhaps needless to say that I was able to avoid my mind wandering on our trip home. The pungent otter poo scent kept my thoughts firmly anchored in the present with only some brief forays into the future where I imagined driving my truck into a giant lake of Dawn dishwashing liquid.
I’m so glad we own a groom shop! I think it’s time for a bath!