Every family has its legends!
| Every family has its legends. My big, sprawling family with all of its cousins and aunts and uncles always measured its childhood accomplishments by trials on the farm. Jimmy still has a lead over me on Uncle Loren's basement pinball machine, a lead that I haven't been able to break for any of the twenty years that I've been trying. Erin finally beat Samantha's record for number of toads pulled from Aunt Joyce's window wells last summer. Even little Owen, youngest of our generation to actively take part in the summer games, came close to tying Cousin Lee's record of 12 of Joyce's famous jalapenos eaten without crying. My only claim to fame that is still intact is number of barn cats rounded up in one go. I got fourteen of them, the summer I turned eleven. I got two weeks of ringworm out of it, too.
But all of us fourth generation kids could never top the Big One, the record that has only been set once and never broken. All of us have tried to reach that unattainable goal, and as of yet, not one of us has even come close to breaking it. I take some pride in the fact that my mother was the one to set that record, back when SHE was just a kid herself.
The huge, rusty swing set was put in place by my great grandfather, Lee. It easily reached as high as the roof of the farmhouse, and has stood as an awe-inspiring monolith ever since, for four generations. According to dinner table legend, one warm summer night in '70 something, my mom and Cousin Lee went out to play. All of Loren and Joyce's boys were somewhat competitive, and Lee bet my mom he could outswing her any night. Now, my mom wasn't really the sort growing up to put herself forward, but who could resist a bet like that? She accepted, and thus, history was changed for our large branch of Williamsons. Higher and higher they flew, and on their descents back to earth, the chains would shiver and onlookers were certain that one of them would be pummeled into the unyielding dirt until they snapped back into the pendulum arch. Half the crowd was cheering them on, the other half whimpering with fear. And still their legs pumped on.
Finally, sensing a truce was imminent, Lee waited until he crested and let fly from with swing with terrifying determination. The crowd watched him with wide eyed fascination as he flew over their heads, then hastily scattered as he came crashing back down, tearing open his forearms and knees with boyish sedation. But my mother did not stop. Perhaps she was too far gone, full of elation and horror to control her body. Perhaps it was sheer determination; she would not back out when she was so close. Whatever it was, she kept going, despite the cries from her many cousins. And soon, with either a warcry or a scream, she set the record for highest swing as she sailed easily over the top, gripping the chains for dear life as she completed the fulcrum. When she came back from orbit to the tears and admonishments of dozens of Williamson children, one of the chains promptly snapped, sending her sprawling. To complete the irony, the swing thumped heavily on her back.
That story was passed down to us through whispered conversations, since any actual mention of the event causes my grandmother to go beet red and Aunt Joyce to stop talking altogether. Now, whenever us kids are seen staring longingly at that giant symbol of awe, the older cousins just can't resist teasing us, betting us we just can't do it. And none of us ever have.