Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Demise Of Rope Swings ... Rise Of The Nanny Nation

Last week I posted about tubing along a North Georgia river. In that post, I lamented using up all the film in our cheapie waterproof camera before discovering a sweeeeeet rope swing along the bank.
Emma, Junior, and I swung, swooped, and plunged a few times before moving on down the river in our tubes and I remember commenting as we drifted away, that it was pretty rare to find a rope swing anymore.
"Why?" The kids wanted to know.
"Lawyers." I answered, knowing that they were only part of the problem ... but they are such easy targets ...
In the interest of fairness (to lawyers), I added a bit of explanation.
"People are quick to file lawsuits over the slightest scratch even when it was their choice to partake in an activity with some obvious risk. Rope swings used to be pretty common, but private landowners are scared someone will stub their toe and sue them. You can't really blame them.
Certain types of lawyers feed on and encourage that mindset, just look at their advertisements."
(On the way through Atlanta, I had noticed a lawyer billboard that read, "TURN YOUR WRECK INTO A CHECK!" )
We drifted away from the rope swing tree and soon the swooping was a pleasant memory.
It still bugged me that I had not gotten any photos as it was an excellent swing with some decent air time, plus, as mentioned above, such a rare thing.
I resolved to find the land access point ... there had been a guy sitting in a lawn chair at the swing and a clearly improved trail down to it from the gravel road.
Two days later, on the last day of our cabin in the mountains stay, I went out on an errand run. Along the way, I decided to seek out that access trail, thinking the kids could get one more swing and I could shoot photos from the bank with the REAL camera.
After crossing a wooden bridge and cruising past it once on the gravel mountain road, I found it.
Only ... someone had cut the tree down since we had swung. There it was, lying in the deep bend of the river ... the yellow rope swing floating in the half-submerged branches.
Who had done this?
The land along the river is a mix of private and National Forest properties and I had assumed this was National Forest land due to the trail and some fishing reg signs posted higher up near the road. Even though our government land management agencies have a HUGE nanny complex, (I worked for the NPS for 8 years, they are scared to death you might get a bruise or step off the trail)it didn't seem like them to drop a tree over a rope swing ... especially not like them to drop a huge tree across most of a river channel and just leave it.
Maybe this shoreline was private property and the landowner, fearful of lawsuits had given up taking down ropes and so decided to take down the tree. We had assumed it was still National Forest land and certainly there were no signs to prove otherwise.
I gazed at the downed tree, feeling mad, sad, and a little guilty for probably hastening it's demise by swinging on it earlier in the week. At the same time, I was glad that the kids had gotten to enjoy a truly fine rope swing over water at least once in their life. It was a mix of emotions.
Was the rope swing safe?
Define safe ... safe as in, there is no possibility anything could go wrong, short of a freak asteroid strike?
No, it wasn't.
It was a length of fresh polypropylene rope tied to a tree branch at one end and tied to a stout stick handle at the other. For the best airtime, you stepped up onto a boulder and leaped off, trusting the rope to carry you over ten feet of steeply sloping bank before arcing you out over a deep hole in the river.
You certainly could have gotten hurt.
You certainly could have chosen not to try it, as some in our party chose.
Calculated risk and personal responsibility.
The idea of filing a lawsuit over hot coffee I spilled in my lap, my kid falling off a monkey bar at a playground, or any other activity I chose to do, is alien to me.
The cutting of this tree, instead of simply cutting the rope, is a perfect example of lawsuit mania and the nanny over-reaction it invokes.
Disappearing rope swings, the removal of playground monkey bars, no diving boards at swimming pools, ... no wonder so many kids stay inside and play video games all day.
Virtual thrills are still allowed ... for now.


Doug Taron said...

We used to have a rope swing at one of the gravel ponds that adjoins the Fen. It suffered a similar fate. I feel your pain.

TenMile said...

Virtual thrills are still allowed ... for now.

Kansas Attorny General is running TV advertisements for all parents to learn the ratings and only buy those programs rated safe for your kids - by the State appointed judgment boards.

Good thought on your part though.

lisa said...

Unfortunately things are going to get worse rather than better. Its like land owners haveing 4 wheelers and snow mobilers going across our property with no permission and getting hurt then they sue us!! We have to have posted signs up and sometimes that doesn't even work with the law!!

kevin said...

What's the difference between running over a skunk and running over a lawyer?

You don't back up to run over the skunk again to just make sure.

Miz S said...

Don't even get me started on this topic. Let's just say I agree with you.

Pablo said...

My guess is that this was on private land and the landowner has probably removed dozens of ropes over the years. He or she finally solved the problem I'd say.

I agree about the personal responsibility point. I'd also guess that most of the people who'd used that swing over the years were fortified with liquid courage from a can or bottle. That's certainly the case for most rope swings I've seen on Ozarks streams (which are spring fed and cold year round).

A woman I know was pregnant and was in a traffic accident in her 8th month. She wasn't hurt, and her car was barely damaged, but she sued for injuries, payment for the delivery bills a month later, and disability while she was out of work (though she was still collecting a paycheck). That was robbery in my view. But maybe karma has caught up with her. She was recently in another accident, only this time it was her fault. I told her I hoped the people in the other car didn't use it as an opportunity to sue her blind.

fishy said...

My take on this post is how blessed you and the kids were to have the experience before the fall. Indeed, if they just cut the rope, well then another rope could have taken up the position. Cut the limb the rope was attached to? I reckon that depends on if the height above ground prevented easy access. A shame.
I once had a lawyer neighbor how had a vanity license plate which read " ISUE4U ". Truth is, it annoyed the bejeebers out of me everytime I saw it .... I actually once had the strong inclination to ram the rear of his Alpha Romeo but resisted for obvious reasons.
Interestingly enough, he got his big "start" by suing a small family owned bed and breakfast in the Florida Keys.... because he dropped his 2 year old son off the balcony railing. Even more interesting is he brags about this event, mostly about the size of the award, even in the presence of his brain damaged child. Parents of other children in the neighborhood had to sign a waiver to play in their yard, swim in their pool, visit in their house.... very Skunkish behavior.

Florida Beach Basics said...

sad story, but glad you and the family had such a great trip. school starting soon in your neck of the woods? starts here tomorrow (Brevard County) - every parent I know is throwing up their hands in relief!

kathy a. said...

um, not all lawyers sue for stupid things... for some reason, the particularly idiotic lawsuits reach the news, and people forget that

i wonder if there is some other story behind the tree? sure would be easier to cut the rope.

i'm not all that familiar with laws affecting waterways, but there's a good chance it's illegal to dump an entire tree into a river. if stuff gets caught on the tree and causes flooding upstream, mr. chainsaw might be looking at some real difficulties.

kathy a. said...

whoops, people forget that sometimes they are necessary to stop truly dangerous behavior, is what i meant to say.

who wouda thunk it?? said...

I noticed a paint mark on the tree, did you notice it there when you were playing?? that poor tree might have been marked for doom before you met it. I am sure you made an old tree very happy to provide your family with such enjoyment

SophieMae said...

Dern, what a waste! When we were kids, we swung on a rope over the creek at the end of my Grandmomma's street. My teen-aged uncle broke his arm down there once. It never occurred to them to sue over something that was his own fault. It annoys me no end to see drug and lawyer commercials on tv. Oddly - sadly - there's one drug that is still advertising while lawyers are telling users they can sue over problems with it. Go figger.

Cathy S. said...

I know of what you speak. We encountered this same thing every year at Rainbow River. Our kids would swing up a rope and then, take it down when they left because they knew it would be gone when they came back. Funny, our friend who is an attorney went with us one year and egged on by my kids went all the way to the top of the swing tree to jump. He knew better, but his pride kept him climbing. He ended up landing on his butt and cracking his tailbone. Thankfully, he is a good friend and didn't sue us, but I guess you could say it was justice.

Kathy said...

That sucks! We just had a discussion like this a few weeks ago, brought on by a neighbor who borders our yard. He's always got something to say if my kids even breathe near his yard. Folks down the road won't let them ride bikes near their driveway...what if they wreck and land IN my yard, I have been asked by them. Sheesh. Insanity. (It's not usually the native Alabamians who are that way, oddly enough. Seems to be the folks who moved here from elsewhere.)

cinbad122 said...

Well there is no problem with that in Belize! On our cave tubing adventure, there was a rope swing & people were having a BLAST doing it. Me? Nope! On a tour & we had to get back to the ship. Just made it...second to last tender!

edifice rex said...

Sheesh! That would make me sick too! well heck, it does make me sick and I wasn't even there. Maybe there was some other reason for cutting the tree but it seems odd. The thing is, the cutthroat lawyers couldn't be successful if there were not a group of people willing to jump on that "your going to pay for something stupid I did because I'm a sorry slug" bandwagon. And good people, because they are good people, don't embarrass and ostracize these people for being blood-sucking ticks. It's sad that this small, but growing, group of people ruin things for everyone else. Sorry about my mini-rant.

Thunder Dave said...

Lawyers and insurance companies are at the top of my list, but then PC (which is killing everyone's sense of humor) is bringing up a close third and is possibly related to the top two!

Rant on my friend I'm right there with you on this subject!

Freste said...

Good for you that you got one of the final joys out of that swing. That kind of fun is good for the soul.

In our neck of the woods, the wisdom is "do not walk too close to the edge of the cliff because the edges are soft and can give way." Since you can't remove a cliff, wisdom and choice still exist here. For now.

Is there another seat on your bandwagon that has my name on it? I hope so.

roger said...

better safe than happy.

Nancy Ortiz said...

The "assumption of risk" doctrine passed out of the law almost a hundred years ago. Yeah, as a practical matter, those wishing to stay in one piece abstain, but as a practical matter, the world is full of fools, intoxicated ones at that.

I did all that stuff when I was young, including playing Tarzan from a second story window with a rope over a concrete patio. It never loses its charm and we can all mourn the demise of the poor tree. Whose only fault was being in the wrong place. And, yeah, the owner better clear that water way. Boy, I hate to imagine what a really inspired PI lawyer could make with *that* little attractive nuisance!

Floridacracker said...

Thank you for all the thoughtful comments.
I think we have some consensus here, with room to wiggle on a few points.

In the interest of time on this pretty day, I will just make a general comment instead of essentially the same response to almost all of you.

I have to say this though, ...

Fishy ... I think I would have to throttle that guy. You are to be commended on your restraint.

Kathy A and Annie,
Not bashing all lawyers, but there's some sludge in the lawyer gene pool and it stinks. Also, lawyers who file these types of suits need willing accomplices so even the creeps are only half culpable. They need that "victim" too.

Interestingly, I'm in Barnes and Noble right now and a Blue Ridge travel magazine is promoting water fun in the southern mountains. The first thing I opened to was a picture of a great rope swing over a river in VA with a bunch of teens waiting their turn.

There is hope as long as there is rope.