|The Jump Rope
Copyright 2020 by Kathryn Lynch
of World War II required manufacturers to produce various products
which were purchased by the US government for exclusive use as troop
support. During those years, very few products were made for
children for use as toys. Adults too old for the draft who had any
skills in woodworking sometimes hand carved trucks or cars for the
neighborhood children. Others put packaging material and imagination
to good use. Jump ropes with wooden handles was a popular item, but
these were expensive and difficult to find.
two years following the end of the War, my Dad had been mustered out
of military service and our family was complete. Dads who had been
older “boys” before the draft were now expected to
operate as full fledged “men”. The large influx of males
into the working market was difficult for those whose military
training did not transfer well into the civilian world. Our family
struggled financially for several years. We were poor, but I never
realized this until I was much older.
with a wooden car which a neighbor had made for us. It was pulled by
a piece of twine hooked onto the front “grill”. As it
rolled noisily over the floor, it wobbled much as a car with a flat
tire because the wheels were not perfectly round.
I also had a
jump rope, an old piece scrounged from who knows where. It had knots
at each end to keep it intact. One had to hold a large knot in each
hand in order to jump. With each jump, the rope twisted upon itself
and then it had to be untangled. No more than two or three jumps in
a row were possible. I stubbornly persisted in the process until I
was considered a “Jumper” at school. Jumpers had to hold
and spin the school jump rope at recess, but this allowed a short
period of jumping in the middle as a reward. Many school jumpers had
jump ropes at home with carved, finger fitting handles set for
subsequent practice jumps. I knew that these ropes were expensive so
I never asked for one.
I was often
asked by my Mom to pick up one or two food items at the little store
at the bottom of the hill. The obvious route followed a sidewalk
down hill to the store and back up the hill the same way. Immediately
adjacent to our house was a patch of heavily forested
woods. I was not allowed to play in the woods, so instead of the
sidewalk, I often took the well worn path through the “gully”
on my way to the store.
So it was,
that on a beautiful, sunny Spring day, when I was nine years old, I
felt the urge to travel through the woods. Just a few steps into the
gully, everything changed. All of the city noises ceased, to be
taken over by singing birds and the sounds of running water. Wild
rabbits and abandoned backyard chickens meandered about. Bits of
pollen flew randomly with the breezes. Butterflies rode the winds
with an unspoken purpose. At the lowest point between the hills, a
stream covered by water lilies gurgled its way to the West. I knew
from past explorations that the stream was full of snails, frogs,
dragonflies, mosquitoes and edible fish.
traversed the stream on an ancient cement overpass. Remnants of an
old railroad remained through vine-tangled tracks which were
difficult to see but which ran the length of the overpass. Railings
on each side were about 24 inches high made of cement with holes in
certain patterns for decoration.
particular day, Mom had told me not to use the gully for travel to
the store. I replied that I would not, and promptly did it anyway. As
I entered the overpass, I could see a rope tied to the railing with
both ends over the side. It was a beautiful rope, about three
quarters of an inch in diameter. It would make a wonderful jump rope
if I could free it and take it home. I approached this task as a
naive nine year old girl without any tools, working under the burden
of profound undiagnosed nearsightedness.
appeared unused, simply hanging over the side. I managed to pull the
surplus up onto the bridge. However the rope was firmly tied to the
cement railing. The other end was over the side and holding firm to
some kind of large weight. As I pulled, the bundle began to swing
back and forth. I could make out a round bulbous object. And
suddenly my naivety and my nearsightedmess gave way to the
realization that there was a dead guy hanging on the rope.
I ran as if
all the terrors of hell were nipping at my heels, arriving at the
store, winded and pale enough that the storekeeper inquired if I was
all right. He was the father of a schoolmate so I had to keep my
awful secret to myself. I got my Mom's groceries and determined to
return home on the sidewalk. As I began the return, I could see the
flashing lights of an ambulance, police cars, and a firetruck next to
the woods. Someone else had found the dead guy. I was filled with
curiosity about the action in the gully.
So it was, I
slipped into the woods and made my way up the trail. When I reached
the overpass, a few men remained taking measurements, pictures, and
cleaning up. To my shock and surprise, the rope lay on the ground, a
long beautiful jumping rope knotted and tangled at one end. When it
appeared that no one was looking I began to drag the rope up the
trail. I expected to be stopped at any moment, but I made my way
back to the house without further incident.
Dad cut off
the knotted end and placed a new knot at each end. The rope was
about 50 feet long, and it was MINE! At the school, we now held a
double rope and perfected the art of double dutch. I was able to
join the jumpers by timing my entry to the noises made when the ropes
hit the ground. Once in, the jumps had to be in a rhythm. It was
not necessary to have good eyesight to move with the pattern.
I never told my
Mom or my Dad where I got the rope.
of the rope was
always tinged with guilt over acquiring it at a moment of
never found out about
the dead guy on the rope but I thought about him every time I jumped. I
will always wonder how he could hang himself in such a beautiful
and peaceful place.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
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