Give a boy a chinaberry, step back and watch

Recently I wrote a column about the things I hoped my new great grandboy would experience and one of those things was to ride a stick pony made from a chinaberry tree. The response from readers has been overwhelming.

So many people told me about the joy they had with a chinaberry tree. I lived in Tallassee down around Herd Street and behind our house was a lot of chinaberry trees. I guess just about everybody had a chinaberry tree close by in those days. A chinaberry tree is easy to climb — as a matter of fact I think God had this in mind and made these trees for boys and girls to climb.

What can you see when you climb a chinaberry tree? I have seen pirate ships sailing out in the ocean. I have seen German and Japanese soldiers coming across the field fully armed for war. I have seen cowboy rustlers coming to steal our cattle and I have seen camels crossing the desert. A young boy or girl can see this and much more from the top limb of a big chinaberry tree.

There was a chinaberry tree between our house and Buddy Price’s house and it had one limb growing out. We would chin up on this limb trying to build our muscles so we would look like Charles Atlas. None of us ever made it because 10 minutes later we were doing something else.

The long, slender tree limbs from a young chinaberry tree make the best horse a young boy or girl ever rode. They are easy to harvest because 90 percent of all boys carried a pocket knife of some sort. Most of these knives were Barlows and you could buy them for 50 cents at Mason’s Hardware. Sometimes one of the many grocery stores would get a good knife with good metal in it. The bark on this tree limb can be peeled off to make the horse into a pinto or palomino. Once you put on a good string for a bridle, away you would ride as fast or as slow as the young rider’s legs wanted to go.

If you want to make a popgun, it may be wise to find a man who grew up in the 1940s and 1950s to help you. First you have to find a popgun elder tree. The peffy has to be removed and a staff whittled to fit the popgun elder. Then cut it off about one inch shorter than the elder, about 15 inches. Put a chinaberry in the hole and push it as far as you can. Put another chinaberry in the hole; when you push it the pressure will push the first chinaberry out with great force. They are not as hard to make as they sound.

Don’t forget a bow and arrows, as there is nothing better than chinaberry limbs for this. Just get around a chinaberry tree and a young boy’s imagination will go wild.

The only time a chinaberry tree is not used is in the dead of winter; the rest of the year just let the boy and tree meet, stand back and watch what will develop. The same is true of old wheels, two-by-fours, a hammer and bent nails. These don’t sound like much to people like you or me but put them in a young boy’s hands, step back and watch.