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.