Appalachia Games

Memories of Swinging on Grapevines

girl swinging on grapevine

The other day I noticed a grapevine just at the top edge of a long slopping bank deep in the woods. I grasped it tightly in both hands and pulled to see if it might hold me. The vine held tight, but as I looked off the bank through the trees I lost my nerve and let the grapevine swing back to its place.

When I was young I loved to swing on grapevines. I was a little scared then too, but once one or two of the other kids tried a grapevine out and I knew it wasn’t going to come unraveling through the trees I’d take my turn.

The best ones we ever found for swinging were between here and Pine Log in the Coleman Gap. There was a good trail. An old road bed led the way, it was easy to follow, even for us kids. The grapevines were on the high side of the road bed allowing us to swing out across the road into the trees beyond.

Days of wonderment: walking to swing, fussing along the way, arguing over some insignificant fact one of us brought up, and listening to each others tales. We always knew the way home would be filled with stories of our daring swings and a fuss over who swung the farthest and who went the highest.

Tipper

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17 Comments

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    June 15, 2019 at 11:56 am

    Tipper this swinging from grape vines I was the big Tom boy and would swing with the boys across creeks and streams and I don’t remember one breaking with us. This makes me so home sick. texas I wonder never had a grape vines only those in gardens Come to think of it I haven’t seen those. I need to write a book growing up in Those NC mountains . I will always yearn for the NC mountains of home.

  • Reply
    Roy Pipes
    June 15, 2019 at 8:06 am

    I also have lots of memories of swinging on grape vines.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 14, 2019 at 4:30 pm

    Me and Ken both have an older brother Harold. Maybe it is the same Harold. But I don’t remember having a brother Ken. My memory is getting fuzzy with the onset of old age so who knows. I’ll treat him like a brother just in case!

  • Reply
    Tmc
    June 14, 2019 at 12:46 pm

    We had one that swung out over our favorite swimming hole, lot of memories around that place.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    June 14, 2019 at 12:36 pm

    Tipper,
    Another time before Church, Hal, Ronnie, and Lanney, came up to the house and Me and Harold decided to go up to the Twin Falls. They were Mason brothers and liked our one-legged Preacher from Robbinsville, cause he always talked and a lot to little boys. His last name was Hedrick and he had a large family that sometimes came with him. We liked all his family. I think his first name was Leslie.

    Anyway, we made it to the Twin Falls and found a large Grapevine that would go out over the Falls. After several turns of swinging out over the Falls, it must have been 20 to 30 feet above the
    ground, we all 5 of us decided to get on. We knew it was almost time for Church to start, and for the last time we took off. I looked up after we got out over the Falls and it come loose. It slowly let us down, but there was stuff a falling. We skedaddled out of the way quickly and went home, I recon the Good Lord looks after little boys. …Ken

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    June 14, 2019 at 11:59 am

    Tipper,
    When I was a kid, me and Harold and usually some friends use to go into our laurel thicket in back of the house and swing on Gratevines. (At least that’s what we called ’em.) The bank was steep, and we found a large Grapevine that swung way out, where you could lite in trees. Harold took a hatchet and chopped the top out so we could land more easily. We’d take a run-a-go and 2 or 3 of us would lite at the same time. We never thought of our swing breaking or coming loose, the Good Lord watched over us. I guess we were 30 feet from the ground, but this was Fun. All my older brothers knew this, but we didn’t tell Mama, and we usually waited on Daddy to go to work.
    Memories of a past are Wonderful. …Ken

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 14, 2019 at 9:48 am

    My most vivid childhood memory of a swing wasn’t of a grapevine but a kudzu vine. There was an old scald back up in the head of a holler where Daddy had planted kudzu in an attempt to control the erosion. The vines had spread to the trees surrounding the sore spot and were climbing up into the trees. We had to keep them cut to prevent damage to the trees. They also made excellent swings.
    The best one I remember was a tall poplar on the steepest part of the patch with a kudzu vine the size of my wrist up in it. We cut it off and tested it. It held. The tree must have sixty or seventy feet tall and the vine was free for about fifty of that. The mountainside was at least 45°. All we had to do was lean forward and lift our feet and we were off the ground. We could a few running steps and we were in space.
    But that got to be mundane quickly. We began to climb farther up and away from the tree. We would run down the mountain in a circle as fast as we could before we lifted off. We swung out way over the holler in a big arc and came back a good distance from the tree on the other side. Then we’d throw the vine back around to the next person.
    I swung and threw the vine back to Harold. He grabbed it and proceeded up the mountain, higher and farther than anyone had gone before. He ran, he launched, he slipped, he fell! In the middle of a huge arc centrifugal force overcame friction and he lost his grip. He fell a good thirty feet and landed flat of his face in the mass of kudzu at the very bottom of the holler!
    Everyone ran to him! We roll him over. He’s not breathing! What are we going to do? He’s dead! We begin to pray!
    It seemed like several minutes but was probably less than one. His chest is heaving! He’s sputtering! He’s spittin out dirt! He’s alive! We sit him up. We git him up. We all go home alive!
    Think we learned a lesson that day? Yes! Don’t turn loose of the vine! Did we go back to swing again? Yes, the next day. All but Harold, he was too sore. It was a week or more before he did much of anything.

    PS: Harold turned 70 this year. He seems to be healthy except for a touch of asthma. The last time I talked to him he still had a little soreness in his chest.

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    June 14, 2019 at 9:40 am

    The woods and their paths were my favorite place to be. I grew up hearing stories that did not end well when children swung on grapevines, so I grew up avoiding that pleasure. That was probably the only dangerous pleasure I missed. It was not unusual to climb a tall tree, and that came in handy later in life when I was chased by a dog. Apple trees were my favorite, because on the hottest day you could climb easily into its branches and have air conditioning and a midday snack of whatever type apples were growing. A fallen tree made a great hideout. Youth has a true magic we lose as we get older. I wish I could go back and chance that strong grapevine I passed each day on my way home from school.
    I have often wondered how I escaped being bitten by a snake. Children don’t climb trees anymore, and most are deadly afraid of bees and bugs. I am often called upon to squash a spider or get rid of a “wasper.” No problem for I am a pro, because I learned all these skills in early childhood.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    June 14, 2019 at 9:20 am

    Thanks for some good memories! I spent a lot of childhood roaming through the woods & pine thickets and we were often swinging on grape vines.

  • Reply
    Dee
    June 14, 2019 at 8:39 am

    Grapevines or ropes tied high on a tree and swinging from a high place was really an adrenaline rush. Our boys told us years later that they would swing out on a rope and drop into the creek during the summer. Creeks and woods seem to hold special places in my heart and our children.

  • Reply
    Shirl
    June 14, 2019 at 8:34 am

    Swinging over a creek while holding on to a grape vine for dear life had to be the most exciting memory from my childhood. We never told our parents some of the dangerous things we did while spending the night with our cousins.

  • Reply
    Sanford England
    June 14, 2019 at 8:14 am

    Thank you so much for the memories. My wife and I were talking about this just the other day.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    June 14, 2019 at 8:00 am

    I liked swinging on grapevines too and would always pull on them as hard I could before swinging. If they didn’t unravel they were usually safe. My favorite place to swing in the woods was where someone had tied a huge rope to a stout looking limb high in a yellow pine. You were swinging down hill so you would be really high off the ground. What an adrenaline rush. I suppose if kids were turned loose like we were and got hurt, social services would be called.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    June 14, 2019 at 7:39 am

    We used to build tree forts in the woods and usually had a grapevine to use as a ladder. We would climb up and slide down. I had more than one brushburn from sliding down with shorts on.

    • Reply
      Jeanne
      June 14, 2019 at 10:50 pm

      Swings of many varieties were hours of fun for me and my brother. My first memory was swings my Dad made on either side of Moms clothesline poles. Two on each end. Together with the big sandbox, we enjoyed outdoor play with many neighbor friends. In first grade the playground had the “high swings” and the “baby swings”. Well, no matter your grade you wanted to conquer the “high swings”. It was when I didn’t move fast enough when someone jumped off, that I got a hard wooden seat smack in my forehead. Yup, stitches and I still have the scar. My youngest son, his brother and cousin were having a lot of fun on a tire swing up behind the house. Like your grapevine stories the swing went out high over a hillside. Youngest son lost his grip, with the goofing around, and fell hitting his head on a rock. Has had a 6 inch scar on the back of his head for 40 years now. Not all swing stories end happily, but we surely had fun.

  • Reply
    Sheryl A Paul
    June 14, 2019 at 7:33 am

    Here in FL there are massive grapevines. Kids used them to swing out over the river. I even then had a fear of heights. So never me althoug I longed to swing

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 14, 2019 at 6:57 am

    Wonderful memories, Tip. I loved swinging on grape vines. I could swing as far and high as my nerve would allow and that was pretty much as far as the vine would go. I loved the woods as a kid they were always my best friend. All the places, well almost all the places, we lived had woods and some had grapevines, and that’s where I spent my time.

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