Every once in a while, Superman needs a ladder.
My son, ever since he has been old enough to throw a ball, has had an amazing propensity for getting them stuck in trees. Mainly, this is because, for some reason, he enjoys throwing or kicking balls directly into trees. One would think he might eventually determine the cause and effect relationship.
We have been successful every time in retrieving said stuck balls, normally because I have fairly solid aim, and with a few chucks of another ball, I am able to unlodge the stuck object.
Sometimes, however, you have to go to plan B.
The most recent time happened when my son punted a football into the top of a palm tree in our yard.
“Dad, the ball’s stuck, and I don’t think we can get it out,” my son said. Hogwash, I said gathering up two other footballs that were sitting in the yard. I chunked one. And I chunked a second one.
Fun fact: The top of a palm tree has a ball magnet that will capture footballs and hold them with an iron-like grip.
I considered going to get a basketball, Frisbee, golf ball, etc. but figured I would just be adding to the offerings being donated to the tree.
Rather, I said, “Go get the ladder.” The ladder is a six-foot ladder. The ball was about 20 feet up in the air. My son said, “Dad, you can’t reach it from the ladder.”
“And your fishing pole,” I said.
I’ll be the McGyver of ball rescue, I thought.
Once the ladder was in place, I noticed it was sitting on mulch, which is not exactly what OSHA probably recommends you stand your ladder on. So I called in reinforcements. I had my daughter on one side of the ladder and my son on the other, holding it in place for me. I began climbing the ladder, fishing pole in hand. When I got near the top, I raised the pole above my head. I couldn’t quite reach the trio of balls. So you know those top steps on ladders that say, “Not a step”? Yeah, totally a step.
Once up on the top of the ladder, I braced one hand on the tree and began poking at the balls with the fishing rod. And every time, the top of the pole just bent, and the balls hardly moved.
As I was making several attempts, I began getting advice from my son and my daughter. My wife emerged from inside and also began to give me pointers. As if suddenly there were a bunch of experts in the time honored sport of retrieving balls from the top of a ladder with a fishing pole.
“Hey,” I said. “You know what I could use? No advice.” I was still looking up, but you could pretty much hear the collective eyerolls.
Back to the task at hand. Time to improvise the improvisation.
“Parker,” I said to my son. “Go find a the biggest stick you can. Taller than your fishing pole.”
In a few moments, my son returned with about a 10-foot plastic pole. The pole was in our garage when we moved in, and I have no idea what it’s for. At least I didn’t. Now, I know exactly what it’s for.
Back up on the ladder, with my assistants firmly in their places, I maneuvered the pole to the top of the tree. I poked the first ball a few times. And down it came free and clear. My son abandoned his job as ladder assistant to catch the ball. I’ll allow it.
Second ball — same thing. Free and caught. When the third ball was bounced free, it came near my daughter, who opted to keep her grip on the ladder. I will also allow that.
The balls are now free, but I am sure at least some of them will find themselves wedged up in a tree again sooner rather than later. But that’s fine. Because I finally know what the big, long pole is for.
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Mt. Pleasant. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.