Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Zip Line

Tom reminded me about the pond's zip line:
Many childhood afternoons were spent swimming, jumping off the zip line, and chasing around on old inner tubes. And nobody even came close to drowning, as I recall. But I still have scars from too-shallow dives and a first zip line ride of the season that ended badly with a broken rope
The cable was very thick---more than 1/2". I think the cable was at least 3/4", but probably not an 1". I don't know what it was used for before we repurposed it for recreational uses. I think I found it coiled near the junkpile. We used the Farmall A tractor to haul it between the trees. I remember climbing high up in the beech tree and using a ratchet wrench to tighten the cable clamps. I wanted less sag in the cable, but it was too heavy and the final effort was by hand with me up in the tree. I was probably in high school, so summer of 1968 to 1971.
 Update 8/15/12  -  Bob wrote:
I suspect that I was the last “adult” to use the zip line. All our kids, and Joyce too, were there for a lesson on zip line technique. After tugging on the line to assure its soundness, I climbed the same rickety ladder, leaned back and launched forward. The rope broke at the pulley attachment and I landed on just about everything in 18” of water. Standing ovation from the crowd and I hurt for days.
The tree is now in Ray’s living room. Do you remember the 2x4s spiked to the tree to keep the cable from growing into it? The spikes cost us a 100 bucks worth of saw teeth when Healy hit them. Gorgeous flooring, though.
Also, I think the cable was 5/8".
Update 8/15/12  -  Jim wrote:
Sounds pretty accurate and probably Dad helped a bit. Can't recall clearly what we called it but something edgy such as "ride the pulley!" 
Also there was a stable platform about 3' wide and 7' long that extended into the pond a foot or so above the water, covered with burlap.
 The "zip line" (we didn't call it a zip line back in those days) was a steel cable suspended between a beech tree on the East side of the pond and a maple tree on the West side. (Is that the maple tree that ended up as flooring in Ray's living room after it fell into the pond a few winters ago?) A  6 inch pulley and a thick rope with a knot on the end hung from the cable.

A wooden stepladder leaned against the beech tree. You would grab the rope, climb the ladder, and launch yourself from the top step for an exhilarating 3 second ride to the middle of the pond. I remember the chattering-whirring sound made by the pulley's wheel as it rolled along the cable. The first 10 feet of the ride was over land and your feet were 4 or 5 feet off the ground so you held on tightly.

The standard ride ended with a feet-first drop into the deepest part of the pond. The more adventurous riders would turn upside down before releasing, or do a flip in mid-air, similar to the dismounts you saw in the Olympic gymnastics last night. OK, maybe not quite like the Olympic dismounts, but you get the picture. (Speaking of pictures, does anybody have photos of the zip line?)

If you chose not to drop, your momentum would carry you past the middle of the pond and up the cable, stopping just before hitting the maple tree, gently swinging over a shallow, mucky corner of the pond. Then gravity would pull you slowly back down toward the vertex of the cable's parabola. You eased to a stop and had to release your grip and plunge into the water or pull yourself hand-over-hand along the slivery cable back to the ladder.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Farm Pond Revival

Aerial view of the pond from Google Maps, September 2011.
The pond at the farm was dug out of a swampy area about 50 years ago to serve as a source of water in case of fire. Fortunately it was never used for that purpose, but it was a great place to swim, fish, catch frogs, and skate for many years. As time went by the pond slowly accumulated silt and decomposing leaves making it unusable for swimming.  In recent years most of the fish also disappeared.

There had been talk for years of cleaning it out. Permits were obtained and two years ago during a dry summer the work was scheduled but never done as heavy rains returned just prior to the start date. This year's dry summer provided another opportunity and the job was done last week.

Photo taken from the end near the barn. looking north.

Photo taken from the end near the house, looking south.
The original pond was dug by Wayne Hillman, founder of W. R. Hillman & Sons. The work last week was done by Dick and Rob Hillman (the "& Sons"), current owners of the business, assisted by employees Mark Purington and Tom Hall.

Mark asked me to guess how deep I thought the pond will be after it refills. I estimated 10 feet. His measurement with the laser level showed it will be 8-1/2 feet deep when filled to the overflow pipe.

They also installed a standpipe on the south end of the pond to allow year-round access to the water by firetrucks.

Update 8/13/2012 - Runoff from the 2 1/2" rainfall on Saturday evening (8/11/12) has filled the pond to the overflow culvert.