Appalachian Food Heritage

Climbing Trees In Appalachia

climbing trees

I’m afraid of heights. As a kid I was too afraid to climb trees and I still am. Not my girls-they like to shimmy up any tree they see, never wondering how they’ll get down.

The Deer Hunter wasn’t afraid of climbing either. He loved to visit his grandfather’s pig pen when he was little. There was a big old apple tree that grew beside the pen and he liked to climb it to pick the apples. The Deer Hunter would climb the side of the pen, climb onto the roof, and climb into the tree.

His father discovered his climbing adventures and warned him to stop, because the tree was too high to climb safely. As most kids would do-The Deer Hunter took the first opportunity to climb the tree again. Only this time he found out how dangerous it was-he fell out and bent his arm backwards under him-literally hearing it break.

He told Miss Cindy and Papaw he was running down the bank and fell on his arm. After a night of suffering, he fessed up the truth of falling out of the tree and hearing the crack of the break. They took him to the local clinic-where the janitor (it was a weekend and the docs weren’t in) ended up setting the break and putting a cast on his arm.

Wild Fox Grapes grow along the banks of the Stamey Branch Creek that runs through our mountain holler. They make delicious jelly and are free for the taking-a true gift from nature. The only problem-the grape vines grow high in the trees.

As a boy, Pap, would help his Grandmother, Carrie, (I called her Big Grandma) gather the Fox Grapes each year. He would climb the trees to reach grapes that couldn’t be gathered from the ground.

handful of grapes

Pap said they used tow-sacks to carry the grapes, because buckets were hard to come by. His mother and grandmother would can the grape juice, and sometimes the whole grapes to use during the winter months.

fox grapes by creek

On one grape gathering expedition Pap lost his prize possession. He fell out of one of the trees, landed in the rocky creek bed, and broke his pocket watch.

Pap had ordered the watch from Sears & Roebuck, it cost $1.95. He said he was proud of the watch and was so disappointed when he fell and broke it. His Uncle Wayne tried to fix it-but couldn’t. I ask Pap if he got to order another one, he said no he never did get another pocket watch.

I’ve never fallen out of a tree-because I’m too chicken to climb one in the first place. How about you ever fell out of a tree?



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  • Reply
    Vera Guthrie
    August 17, 2010 at 9:25 am

    I loved climbing trees when I was small. Funny thing is I had to be barefoot to climb. If I had shoes on I just slid down the trunk. My favorite tree to climb was a Mimosa or a Pear Tree. The most fun was going into the woods and climbing a little sappling that was growing tall and skinny and once you got so far up the sappling would bend and your could ride to the ground. Then you could bounce uuppp and doowwwwwnnnnnnn until it broke. If you were real brave your would climb the sappling and bend it backwards to the ground. I guess a kid’s version of bungee jumping in some respect.

  • Reply
    August 17, 2010 at 9:10 am

    One summer I discovered I loved to climb one of the trees in the backyard at WWR’s house. It was easy to climb, and had lots of different places to sit and contemplate the mysteries of life. The next summer we came down, we arrived at night. First thing the next morning, after breakfast, I ran out the back door on my way to the tree. It was gone! WWR had cut it down. I don’t think I ever climbed another tree. OK, maybe a couple others…

  • Reply
    August 25, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    I fell off a swing and broke an arm as a very small child. Have always had a fear of heights/unsteady ground since then. Can’t get beyond the third step of a ladder without feeling woozy!
    Those grapes look delicious.

  • Reply
    September 8, 2008 at 8:09 am

    I fell out of a tree once, which was practically the last time I climbed a tree. My mother told me not to climb the tree anymore…but I disobeyed her and while I was jumping from limb to limb I lost my grip and fell, breaking my collarbone. While in the tree I would imagine I was Wonder Woman or Jane of Tarzan fame. I still long to climb trees to this day…a fun thing to do, for sure.

  • Reply
    September 7, 2008 at 10:22 am

    Pap once told me about how sad he was a s boy when his new pocket watch flew into pieces against that creek rock. I’m sure $1.95 was hard to come by back then. It’s now almost mid September, and believe it or not, those big fat grapes are still dropping into my yard by the dozens. Strange that they grew so well this year in the drought. Maybe dry weather is good for them?

  • Reply
    September 3, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    This brought back many memories of my growing up.

  • Reply
    Jennifer in OR
    September 1, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    You’ve hit on one of my great loves, trees and climbing them–well, not any more, but as a child this was one of my favorite pasttimes! We had a poplar tree out front that I climbed most every day it seems, and watched the clouds or mountains.
    I did fall out of a tree once, not that one. I was playing tag with friends –IN THE TREE– and along came a bee and scared me to death. I lost my footing, and down I went. I was actually knocked unconscious briefly and woke with a pounding headache. Nothing broke, but maybe that began my fear of heights that I have today. 🙂

  • Reply
    September 1, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    Hi, your words just made me smile. I loved climbing trees when I was a young girl. I would sit in the tree and sing, then wait for the wind to blow the leaves pretending it was applause!{: blessings, Kathleen

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 1, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    The Deer Hunter was a beautiful child, like Chitter and Chatter.
    As a child I climbed any tree I could. In Texas we had a mimosa tree in the yard. I was in it all the time. My mother didn’t think too much of my tree climbing but she couldn’t keep her eyes on my all the time. Ha Ha!
    They accused me of being part monkey when I was little. I would climb anything trees, rock piles, dirt banks, cabinets, unattended ladders, anything!
    Isn’t that what being young and agile is all about?

  • Reply
    August 31, 2008 at 8:46 pm

    I LOVE climbing trees, and I’ve never fallen out of one.
    I can’t believe those grapes are wild. They look wonderful!
    I’m loving the “Nearer My God to Thee.” I’ve been listening to it as I read this post.

  • Reply
    August 31, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    I swear I can smell those beautiful grapes! What a fun post. I too am afraid of heights. My heart leaps whenever my daughter shinnies up a tree. Children must do what they will do….but sometimes it’s hard to watch!

  • Reply
    petra michelle
    August 31, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    Hello Tipper! Yikes, I can definitely relate to your fear of heights. Spent my honeymoon in Niagra Falls and couldn’t climb to the top of the tourist’s tower. I panicked! Perhaps, I was in awe of the power of the
    Falls. Grew up in a large city, so children were discouraged from climbing trees, unfortunately. I think that’s why I so enjoy your blog, Tipper, because there’s definitely a country girl inside.
    Perhaps having been born on a farm in Germany. Hope you had a wonderful weekend, Tipper! :))

  • Reply
    Mark Salinas
    August 31, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    I do enjoy your posts! Wow! Thank you! 🙂

  • Reply
    Carolyn A.
    August 31, 2008 at 7:11 am

    I used to climb, but the only thing I climb now is the ladder and only if I really need to. My older brother, however, fell out of a tree and broke only his finger. He didn’t want to tell my parents, but the finger was crooked and he had to.
    My younger brother didn’t fall out of a tree but was pushed off the preacher’s garage roof and broke his left arm and right leg. Boys play rough in the city.
    I wish I had wonderful stories to tell with pictures like you do, Tipper. Did the girls get those grapes? xxoo

  • Reply
    August 31, 2008 at 6:37 am

    I’m not a tree climber but Razor is. Speaking of grapes, I have some Concord grapes for you . . . do you want them?

  • Reply
    The Texican
    August 31, 2008 at 6:28 am

    Great stories. I have blocked many memories where pain was involved. I have fallen out of trees more than once and jumped out of several more. I have picked and eaten many wild grapes. The jelly always makes it worth the effort. Pappy

  • Reply
    August 31, 2008 at 1:20 am

    I used to climb a huge ole Elm tree in the back yard, it had a perfect crook to sit back and read or day dream. When I brought an abandoned baby raccon home, daddy built her a box to sleep in, in the “reading” crook.

  • Reply
    noble pig
    August 31, 2008 at 1:16 am

    I just love that timepiece, it’s so beautiful Tipper!

  • Reply
    August 31, 2008 at 12:21 am

    I can just imagine the misery of your Deerhunters until he fessed up to falling out of that tree! Poor guy!
    When we were kids, we built a three-story tree house deep in our woods. A neighbor boy was part of the construction crew as well. We had a rope swing as an alternative way to get out of the treehouse. One time I fell with a thwaaap from the rope swing and just knocked my air out. The last time we were all on the third story of the treehouse together (keep in mind the age of the builders – 8 to 14), the third tier fell on to the 2nd, the 2nd onto the 1st and dumped all 4 of us onto the ground. No broken bones, but we were all pretty sore and bruised up for a few days.
    I still climb tree’s to this day…LOL!

  • Reply
    Stacey Huston
    August 30, 2008 at 11:48 pm

    Depends on the day for me.. some days I am very adventurous.. others the mommy in me is way too cautious… thanks for sharing

  • Reply
    Amy @ parkcitygirl
    August 30, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    I never fell out of a tree, but I watched my brother fall out of our tree fort and had the wind knocked out of him! He always did that stuff though 🙂

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    August 30, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    Tipper: I always liked to climb trees, my friend had a big cherry tree that I would climb to get the cherries. They were so, so good.
    One time I limbed a big oak to get a model airplane out of it. We had to use two belts looped d together to get up the first part of the tree. It was 40 foot high.

  • Reply
    August 30, 2008 at 7:00 pm

    Those grapes look yummy, and I have a Christmas idea for Pap. Wanna hear it? 😉

  • Reply
    August 30, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    I’ve never fallen out of a tree but I sure used to climb them. My favorite was a Mulberry tree where I would take my book, sit and read and eat mulberrys until I was nearly sick. blessings, marlene

  • Reply
    August 30, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    I’m with you, Tipper ~ PETRIFIED of heights and still am.
    When I was growing-up, the wallpaper on our bathroom walls was copied from an old Sears catalogue and it did indeed include a pocket watch! 🙂
    I LOVE the story of the janitor setting and casting the Deer Hunter’s arm!
    Thanks for the smiles, Tipper!

  • Reply
    August 30, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    While I never fell from a tree, I did grow up with a grape arbor. Having plenty of grapes, my sister and I would create “delicious” grapes stews with crushed grapes in old buckets. We would then stir them and cackle.
    Gosh, that takes me back!

  • Reply
    August 30, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    Tipper, I think it would be wonderful if Pap received a new pocket watch for Christmas this year.

  • Reply
    Julie at Elisharose
    August 30, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    I used to climb the mimosa tree in my front yard as a kid. It can hardly be called a tree though. And no, I never remember falling out of it. I was (still am) pretty much a sissy. Not much chance for dangerous falls in the life I have led.

  • Reply
    August 30, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    I, like you, am afraid of heights. But I wasn’t as a child. I would climb only so far though. If I fell, I didn’t want to fall too far. And luckily, I never fell. Came close though! haha

  • Reply
    August 30, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    What great stories! I’ve never seen those grapes in my part of Appalachia, although my Grandma had a big grapevine for many years and used to can grape jelly and make grape juice. In fact, I think my first taste of alcohol may have been when I discovered an old jar of juice in the back of the fridge and decided to have some. Yuck! But it was good fresh. I’m a cautious tree climber, but my husband would climb up anything.

  • Reply
    August 30, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    I used to love to climb trees. I didn’t know until recently how bad it used to freak my mom out though! Nope, never fell!

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