“It was my junior year at Castle (1967-68) and the gym teacher told us that the rope climb awaited all. It looked like 200 feet from the top. “I don’t like heights, but when my name was called, I thought if I didn’t look down that I could do it.”
“I jumped up and started my ascent with my legs wrapped around the rope so tight that it was hard to move forward.
“When I finally made it to the top, I made the dreadful mistake and looked down. Wrong move. I knew that I would have to let go with one hand to touch the beam at the top.
“With sweat pouring, I quick-as-a-cat slapped the beam and began my descent. That was when my problem started.
“Big Tom was a massive figure who could break me and the rest of our class in half if he wanted to. Tom’s hands were twice the size of anyone at our school. Tom was a super nice giant as I would find out later.
“He was the anchor on the rope so it wouldn’t swing for the climbers. About 20 feet from the floor, it suddenly happened.
“The dreaded passing-gas attack. The whole class burst out laughing. Tom, however, wasn’t amused and started swinging the rope with me on it. I was afraid to come down, knowing that he would probably put me out of my misery. I held on up there as long as I could, but finally came down to meet my fate.
“I just knew he would kill me, but he just smiled and shook his head.
“That was my first and last climb to the top of Castle’s gym.”
From Nick Smith:
“They made us climb the rope in the ninth grade when I was a kid in upstate New York. I wasn’t very strong, and I wasn’t very brave. The athletes in gym class didn’t have much trouble with the rope. Those who didn’t play sports were usually the ones who only made it up a few feet.
“I don’t know why, but I suddenly became very determined to get to the top. I realized that the important thing was making it, not how long it took. I made up my mind to be like the little tortoise that could.
“Inches at a time I pulled myself up. Everybody in the gym got all quiet like they were seeing something special. I tried to think about everything else but the rope. I thought about going to the beach the previous summer and how warm the waves felt. I thought about all the ice cream I ate at the end of the pier.
“Finally, I looked up and I was almost to the top. My arms were shaking. If there had been five more feet of rope, I would have been a failure. But I had just enough in me to push the buzzer the physical education teacher put at the top.
“I climbed down only slightly faster than I went up. I’m not saying I got a standing ovation, but a lot of kids clapped. Two periods later, I had history class. The teacher congratulated me for defeating the rope. Word sure spread fast.”
– Garret Mathews
Viper LT Rope Climber
530 West Colfax
Palatine, IL. 60067
Office: 847.963.8969 x1103