Summer’s End — Joy and Danger at the Jumping Rock

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You will break your neck. That jumping rock you did the perfect gainer off of yesterday, into the swirl of dark river water below? Well, today the sandbar has shifted so the water is four-feet deep, not 12. Or a log has drifted into that hole, or maybe a stump has rolled into it, or some piece of manmade debris now clogs it up. Doesn’t matter, you are going to break your neck and chances are, if you don’t kill yourself, you won’t walk for the rest of your life.

Do not dive. If you must -- if you have to go off that 40-, 50-, 60- foot rock -- then do a can-opener or a cannon ball instead. Broken tail bones -- you and your family can live with that. (For a brutal reminder of the long-term injuries accidents can cause, see Bill Sanders’ piece, “Dirt Bikes, Joyriding and Diving – Avoiding the Tragedies of Teenage Poor Judgment” in this space last week.)

As we move toward the end of summer, that’s all we can do as parents; say it over and over again: Don’t dive. Because, flat out forbidding a teenager to go to the local swimming hole and jumping rock is an order that may be ignored, forgotten, bypassed.

That is because, these are the places of youthful perfectness, where events unfold that staple themselves into your memory for a lifetime. Just consider the usual concoction found at some outcropping on a river bank or quarry on a lazy, dog day afternoon: courage and rivalries and issues of self-esteem that bubble to the surface; boys and girls discovering the same current (in very close proximity), music and laughter. The jumping rock can be a joyful show case of teen bad judgment.

It is also nirvana, to, say, a 16-year-old. You know what I mean? For me it was beside a muddy creek in south Alabama, atop a rock that had a Live Oak tree reaching upward still. The higher in the tree you climber and then jumped, the more courageous you were, the more respect you got. These were the days of cut offs and bad haircuts, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers blaring from tape decks mounted in the dashes of muscle cars, of girls lingering closer to the boys who didn’t hesitate to climb higher, or so it seemed to us.

So it is easy to see how the whole environment – the music, the smells, the August swelter, the peers (and the girls, in my case) the spirit of it all – could propel that same 16-year-old to the highest fork of a grand old oak tree, above a limestone outcropping along a puny creek, and fling himself towards the heavens and into the water below for the thrill of it and the applause and the acceptance of the assembled below.

A rite of passage, you want to call it? Sure, why not.

Just please, don’t dive.

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