One afternoon in late summer, Charlie, Knox, Derrold, Dale, David, Tommy, Ernie and I were once again in the big oak tree in the field behind my house. We were smoking grapevine that we had harvested. Grapevine is not a good substitute for tobacco, but we had not the resources to obtain real cigarettes or even rough cut tobacco to "roll our own". Grapevine was only slightly superior to smoking dried corn silk wrapped in newspaper or toilet paper. We had selected the freshest grapevine with about the same diameter as a small cigar and cut it into cigarette lengths. Tommy and Derrold were turning a little green. Dale had already thrown up. I could feel a slight twinge in my stomach and my mouth was raw.
Typical of hot summer afternoons in northern Florida, heavy, dark clouds began to form and thunder gently rumbled in the distance. As the storm clouds thickened, the thunder grew louder and lightning flashes could be seen in the distance. The approaching storm provided the wished-for excuse to extinguish our grapevine. We had to leave our beloved tree.
Scattered raindrops began to fall when we started our descent. Ernie was the first to climb down. (Usually, we let Ernie go first. We did not want to be below him if he fell.)
We started toward the shelter of my house. The intensity of thunder, lightning and rain increased. We were now racing, Ernie in front. The rain was exploding from the sky. It was difficult to see.
Just as we were entering the perimeter of my backyard, we witnessed one of the most acrobatic feats of our childhood. Running at full speed, Ernie stopped abruptly, threw his feet in the air and almost did a full back flip. We all stopped and stood in awe. How had a boy this big, running at full stride accomplish such a miraculous trick?
The answer was soon revealed. Ernie had failed to see the clothesline.
As the rest of us rolled on the wet grass in laughter, Ernie sat, clutching his throat, coughing, and breathing kind of funny.