The swing set was on a hill overlooking the crystal water of Canandaigua Lake.
Nothing fancy at all.
Two swings suspended by thin chains.
We had learned how to swing in the city, in the playground, fifty feet from the jungle gym.
We had left being pushed behind.
We knew how to walk back wards as far as our legs would take us and then jump on the swing. Thus we gained momentum.
When we swung back to the start position, we would cross our legs as the momentum reversed. When we reached the limit of backward momentum we would stretch our legs straight out.
This initiated and accelerated the forward motion taking us higher faster.
We called this “pumping”.
When we really got going, we’d stretch that chain out to its maximum and our height was nearly as high as the balancing bar on the set.
Twelve feet high.
Now this was the same swing set that my father had used when he was a boy.
He knew all about it.
He told us about the leap of death.
When the swing had gone forward as far as the swinger dared to take it, the leap began.
With legs outstretched, the swinger released from the swing and flew into the air with all the momentum that physics would allow. Regaining balance in the air, the swinger would drop to the ground and land on both feet.
The further the drop, the more deathly the leap.
The first leaps were tentative but as confidence grew so did the risk and the thrill.
We learned to launch ourselves into motion on that hill above the lake.
At first release on that hill above the lake, it looked as if we would fly all the way into the lake.
We knew what we were doing and we were fearless.
We were kids having fun.
Then my father told us about the ultimate.
Skinning the Cat.
To Skin the Cat meant to gain so much momentum from your pumping that the swing went all the way over the top of the swing set.
After skinning the cat, a leap of death was the coup de grace.
My father claimed he had dome it.
Thinking of the possibilities, we tried all summer.
Although there were many leaps of death
Nobody ever skinned the cat.
Finally on the last day of summer, we convinced our father to get on the swing.
He got on the swing and took off.
He took it higher than we had ever seen.
So much power...so much grace..so much skill...so childish.
When he had gone higher than any of us had gone...he took the leap.
He landed perfectly.
Like a father should.
“what happened to skinning the cat” we asked.
“Wait until next summer”