Pecan Park Reverie: Taking Mental Pictures

Those big trees with ascending limbs were a lot of fun.


During the early post-World War II period, we had a game we played as Pecan Park kids that required both a tall tree and a soft landing spot underneath. We called it the “taking mental pictures” game.

Our perfect spot for the game turned out to be the big elm tree in the back yard of the McGee house. The McGees lived right across the street from the McCurdys. The McGees also were one of very few childless couples in the block, but they never seemed to mind us taking our games onto their property without ever asking permission.

We liked to play a game we invented called “Taking Mental Pictures” in the McGee’s back yard because of the big elm tree that grew there. In the moments prior to each game we played, the nightmare elm called to us like the “Siren of Stupidity”.

“Taking Mental Pictures” was an easy, if not intelligent game to play. And we played it with daredevil abandon to any risk involved. And here’s how:

One at a time, we climbed up the McGee back yard elm tree trunk, about four feet up from the ground, and then we took the first long ascending lower limb that jutted out toward the middle of the back yard. One at a time, we each started moving out on it like tight rope walkers with a little a little help from the smaller steady-branches that descended into our moving field of vision. At all times, we had about four or five climbers in the tree – and everyone else, the watchers, seated in a semi-circle on the ground around the target jump area.

One catch: If you weren’t willing to be a jumper, you weren’t allowed to stay in the yard and be a watcher.

Back to the actual point of the game:

When an individual jumper reached the approximate middle yard area, where the carpet grass below was very soft during a normal summer rainy season, he stopped at about 15 feet up from the ground and gave notice that he was about to jump. (Note: Only guys played this game. We would have accepted girl players, but the girls on our block chose to leave themselves out of the mix. The easy explanation: Remember what we said. – This wasn’t an intelligent game.)

The “jumper” gave notice to the watchers: “be ready”. It was time to take mental pictures of what someone from a great height looked like jumping from the sky – without having any film or Kodak camera with us as “watchers” to preserve their short moment of flight or descent, however best you might choose to describe it.

By closing our eyes quickly and leaving them completely shut at our own chosen moments during the jumper’s descent, we watchers learned that the mind captured a still shot image of the person jumping. Arm and leg positions were frozen differently in each mind. Sometimes the jumper’s expression was clear. They were all like individuals photos. We simply couldn’t show them. We had to hold them in our minds and try to describe what we saw to each other – without the help of technology.

Amazingly, I don’t recall any serious energies resulting from this little exercise in free play.

Oh well. Too bad we didn’t have smart phones in our day. We might have been smart enough to not be jumping out of trees from leg, arm, and neck breaking heights.

Besides, today’s Mr. and Mrs. McGee couples wouldn’t want to risk the liability of allowing their neighbors’ kids to risk harm to themselves on their personal property. Had a kid been injured or killed today playing the “mental pictures” game under these same circumstances, some lawyer probably would quickly make an “attractive nuisance” case against the McGees for owning an elm tree that was so alluring to the kids that it caused them to trespass onto the grounds for the purpose of jumping from the elm tree’s branches.

Any current legal opinion on the inherent liability problem that would exist today for property owners from an injury that occurred under these circumstances will be most welcomed as a comment upon this column.


Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle



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