Friday, August 14, 2009

When I was 13, I made an elevator in our weeping willow.

TL 1976

I know, at first glance, this seems, well, a made up thing, but I have plenty of witnesses. My dad loved to go antiquing. Many where the times that we'd end up in some old building with that same moldy smell and tons of old stuff. One time, it was a different situation. He had heard of a barn that was going to be torn down and he was welcome to anything in it. Most of the movable stuff was already gone, but he spotted two big wooden hoist pulleys hanging from a beam a good 25 foot off the ground. He got someone to climb up and cut them down, and he put them in our basement, unused, for a few years. They where wood, thick and strongly built to lift heavy loads of hay bales and stuff. All rounded edges and a nice smooth surface with a patina from the years of who knows how long, wonderful craftsmanship went into them. They probably where hand made. Like many things people have then loose track of, I wish I still had them. Ah well, that's why we have memories, to keep the cool things from our past alive.
One day I was reading an encyclopedia, (Ah yes, the Google of it's day, 20 books, from A to Z, explaining everything we knew about the world. I have always been one of those people to read in the bathroom, I mean, it's quiet there, and I seem to have this compulsion to always be working my mind on something, anything. I'm even that way about my computers. They are either rendering an image, de-fragmenting the drives, or scanning the system for viruses of male-ware. I almost feel bad for my puter that I get... it almost never sleeps. Amazing how long this laptop has lasted! I think I got it in 03 or so, and it hasn't had more than a week of sleep. Getting back to the Encyclopedias... they where old, from 1963, but they still knew more than I did. I would grab one each day and read sections in the John, soaking in tons of information. I loved it... I've always had questions, and here where the answers!) So one day I'm reading what must have been 'E' when I ran across how elevators work. At first I had always thought they where simple devices, a winch of some sort would just pull the car up or let it down. There is more to it than that... they showed a picture of a cutaway view, and it had this thing called a counter weight. I recall thinking, why do they have all this extra stuff? Well, in simple terms, imagine a teeter totter with one person sitting on the far end ( the elevator car) and you holding the other end of the board. Trying to push down on the board would be hard, unless you had a person of similar weight sitting on your end, the counter weight. In an elevator, the counter weight is on a set of pulleys, sliding up and down next to the car, and has enough weight to just balance out the car itself, thus the motor lifting the car only had to lift the weight of the people in it, not the extra thousand pounds of the car. What an interesting concept to me, like a riddle figured out.
Then it occurred to me... we have pulleys... but where do we hang them? Ah yes, my Weeping willow! Counter weights? I had some weights from a work out set we could use for the basic weight, and hang a bucket under that to add or subtract weight to match the person using it. The car... well, I figured we didn't need to build some big box to stand in, just a chair to sit in, so we grabbed one of the back patio, aluminum chairs. These chairs had two tubes as arm rests on each side that I took the end caps off of, then using thick electrical wire (brown), I threaded it through the arm rests and up about 4 feet to join in a big knot... it form a pyramid of cable above your head. We soon found out that we need something to hold it down when there was no one in it, so we used this 6 foot long bar, pointed at one end, a loop at the other end that was designed for a dog stake. I'm not sure where we got the rope, but we had two different sizes, and only enough of the bigger stuff to hold all the weight.
So, we had all the parts, and when I say we, my next door neighbor Jense Bogenhine helped out, we set out to make it. The pulleys where different from each other, one having one pulley, the other had 3. I climbed way up in the tree, (maybe 20 feet) to a place that had an open area under it, yet the branch was big enough I thought to hold it all up safely. At that place I tied up the 3 pulley block. Then, about 10 feet over, we found another big branch to which the single pulley was tied up to. We pounded he stake in a few different places till we found one spot that didn't have big roots in the way. Then we tied the big rope to the top of the support wires on the chair, led it up to the middle pulley of the 3 pulley block, then over to the single pulley, then down to the weights. We then tied the smaller of two ropes to the top of the chair cables, up to the 3 pulley block, then back down to hang near the chair. We put enough weight in the bucket to counterbalance me in a way that I only had to lift maybe 30 pounds. I sat in the chair, Jence unhooked it from the stake, and I grabbed the smaller rope, and began to pull down on it. It worked! I was soon 15 feet off the ground, in the midst of the tree, calmly sitting, slowly turning, and taking in the view. I lowered myself back down to the ground, feeling pretty good about it all. We had it like this for maybe a week till we realized the Jence had a much bigger weeping willow in their yard, within view of the road. This time we where able to go about 27 feet in the air.
Now, I have to give Jence the credit for the next innovation. He removed the chair and smaller rope, attaching a 2 inch dowel rod about 1 1/2' long instead. By grabbing the rod with both hands, we could jump high. Really high. I'm talking Steve Austin, the 6 million dollar man high! We felt like we had Bionic strength! We spent many hours jumping and swinging around on this set up. What a cool feeling!

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