At 16 Erich was always fun. Eager to do anything. Eat it, lick it, climb it, kiss her… Well you get the idea. So anyway, Erich had recently watched a nature show where monkeys would get the tree tops swaying back and forth and use that momentum to help propel themselves to another tree. He was telling me all about this while we were hiking around the mountains that surrounded the edge of town where we lived when we happen upon a lone pine tree standing straight up, on a steep slope. So naturally what does my friend do, he climbs to the top.
At first his attempts to get the tree to sway did not work. However it did not take him long to find the right position and that tree began to sway. I didn’t think it would work at all simply because the trees in South America and Africa are a little different than a North American Pine. But here he was swaying back and forth like a wild animal, whoopin’ and hollerin’ like anything.
Pain is a relative thing. Sure we all feel it, but to varying degrees. What bothers one person is nothing to the next. And Erich was no stranger to pain. So when what happened next, happened next… Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
There was plenty of good momentum going now and there were creaking noises coming from that young pine that were starting to make me nervous. I was about to suggest Erich stop before something bad happened when, something bad happened. The tree yielded to Erich’s weight and bent toward the ground—the uphill ground—and provided the perfect opportunity for him to let go and jump off. But that’s not what I witnessed. I watched the tree top almost touch the ground—the uphill ground, the close ground—and then straighten right up. As if to say, “You are done young man!” But as the tree did this my friend was powerless against the physics that he put into play and was launched into the air like a rock from a catapult. This would not have been so terrifying if it weren’t for the fact that he was going to fall downhill.
This fall was going to be about twice the height of the tree if you take into account the distance he was thrown up from the tree top and the slope of the ground. I say going to be because in those first few seconds that’s what it looked like. But we both quickly realized Erich was headed off the cliff edge at the bottom of the slope. I screamed internally, he screamed out loud. Then, I watched my best friend fly past the safety of solid ground and off the cliff we had both failed to notice earlier. Erich was gone.
It took only a moment to gather my wits and run to the cliff’s edge and behold a sight I will never forget. My friend was suspended in air. He was floating! I called out, “You’re alive! I can’t believe it, you’re alive! Are you OK?”
“No.” Came the response.
“Wait, are you floating?” I asked, finally beginning to comprehend what I was seeing. Then, I began to laugh.
You can call it whatever you like. I call it a miracle. You see there had been a sheep fence along all that edge, but over time, and without maintenance, the ground had eroded away but parts of the fence had remained intact. It was hanging over the edge and had acted like a net, a net made completely of barbed wire. And it was holding Erich in place like a hundred rusty thumbtacks.
We did some calculations afterward. The tree was about 20’ feet tall. From the bottom of the tree to the base of the slope, an additional 20’. Add about 3-5 feet after being flung. Then tack on about a hundred foot drop off the cliff. And you get a totally terrifying experience. Like I said before, you can call it whatever you like. But I will call it a miracle.
So, I told you this story so I could tell you the next one.