Sunday, June 21, 2009

Writer’s lack of strength sends her back to where she began

Growing up, I lusted to be a good fence climber, like my playmates Leslie and Christine. Those girls had it down. With such ease, they ran to greet fences, encountering them with all the skill and stamina of well-trained athletes.

One at a time, Leslie and Christine climbed fences with caterpillar-like moves inching higher and higher along straight, unforgiving planes of sometimes splintering wood.

Winging their way up and over, their arms and legs bulged, their necks bent skyward, their hearts fixed on making it.

How do they do that? I pondered, watching my friends with hope in my eyes, wanting to be like them. Where did they learn to climb fences like that?

I was not a climber, so fence lines always stopped me. Romping around town in those early days my childhood summers, I did my best to avoid them.

However, to no avail, after hours in the afternoon sun, chasing through woods, down sidewalks, over bridges, under railroad trestles, through creeks, around bends, fences certainly presented themselves as monsters preventing my passage.

Even though, I summoned every ounce of courage in an attempt to face down those barriers, ultimately my short stubby legs just would not go there.

I observed with frustration and a sense of failure as my friends scaled over the top. I saw how they grunted and groped with arrested energy. I listened as their feet landed victoriously on the other side.

I wished for a miracle, some sort of Pentecostal healing of my inability. But no such luck or blessing was bestowed upon me.

"Come on, Paula," Christine and Leslie hollered breathlessly. "What’s the hold up? Let’s keep going!"

"I can’t," I yelled back dejectedly. "I just can’t do it," I repeated with my feet firmly planted on the ground.

Although on the quiet when no one was around, I swallowed hard and tested my climbing ability. Gripping tall fence posts with my quivering fingers, positioning my toes as insufficient adhesives, I moaned under the weight of my own weakness.

On those occasions, even though I made it up a foot or two, my lack of physical strength sent me falling back down to where I began.

As June faded into July, I secretly wondered what qualified Leslie and Christine. With such ease, they greeted fences with all the skill and stamina of well-trained athletes. Yes, I do admit, I wanted what they had.

2009 © Copyright Paula Damon. A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her columns have won first-place in National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women Communications Contests. In the 2009 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contest, Paula's columns took three first-place awards. To contact Paula, email, blog with her at and find her on FaceBook.

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