Two men try to outsmart a rope

At my parent’s home in Oregon, there is a large walnut tree in the front yard. This part of Dundee was built where a walnut orchard had been, and several of the original trees are still there. Prior to their moving in a few years ago, a swing had been hung from their walnut tree. The chain was rusting and the seat had lichen growing on it, so I thought it would be worthwhile to replace it. Using a thick rope seemed more appealing than a chain, and a wooden seat would be more comfortable than the rubber one (with lichen).

So we all set out to the local hardware store. On the Fourth of July the only place open is Lowe’s. Naturally my Dad and I have to traverse the entire length of the store before we can find the rope. Big hardware stores are nice in that they have almost everything, but finding what you want is a exercise in frustration. Anyway, we find some polypropylene rope and get a length of 25’, which should be more than we need. Right next to the rope are clamps and thimbles and the like, for connecting ropes together and making loops and such. Of course, being men that like to build things, we decide we need to use clamps to make the required loops in the rope.

Back at home, I dismantle the old swing and Pop starts hanging the new one. He looped the rope over the branch, had a length of it hanging down, on which the seat would rest, and then looped back up and around the branch again. To hold the loops on the branch, he pinched the ends together with the metal clamps. We each took turns testing it out, and deemed the swing functional.

Now Baby enters the picture. I sit on the swing, with Baby on my lap. We take one swing and THUMP! Thankfully my ass is soft enough to take most of the force of the impact, but my wrist hurt a little. Baby, of course, appears to be fine. The metal clamp had spread apart and the rope slid out, causing a critical failure in the swing system.

So, back to the drawing board. It’s not long before I remember that there are these things that ancient people would tie using rope, and they called them “knots”. I had tied a few myself, in Boy Scouts. This was sufficiently long enough ago that I couldn’t remember anything but the names of the knots. Thanks to the Internet, I found a few good knots, and one in particular that would do the job very well, the Dutch Marine Bowline. After studying the graphic and trying to imagine it upside down so I could apply it to the swing situation, I managed to tie both ends of the rope around the tree branch. First came the one-man test, then the one-woman test, followed by the man-and-baby test. All tests passed with flying (or swinging) colors.

In conclusion, two men, and some arguably unsuitable technology, could “knot” outwit the rope.

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