Midwife in the Tire Swing

Boom. That was how explosions were supposed to be written down.

Midwife in the Tire Swing

“Your mother should have read more. A fictional boyhood would flesh out your sense of proportion. In a vista of placid cows, fermenting silos explode as a mongrel dog frolics at your feet—the stuff of legend.”

Barefoot and tanned, a Huckleberry Finn free range child, Lucian Hobart, known as Lucy, was left to grow in the shadow of his father’s fierce neglect. That his father loved deeply and fiercely was appreciated by Lucy’s mother. But something concrete was needed, a corn maze, a guide for ancient astronauts perhaps—a sign that the newly minted Hobart boy was indeed cared for, such as a smearing of lamb’s blood on the doorpost. A black pneumatic tire, rotated from the passenger’s rear side of his 1908 Model T, as good as new, was tied to a tree.

The tire part of the tire swing was grown and nurtured, some say personally watched over, by Frank Seiberling in Akron, Ohio. Lucy loved the swing but tried not to show it. He would slip away to the great white oak in the front yard from the family dinner table before the dishes were cleared. He would stand there in the dusk, touching the tire and its blackness until he was missed. “Lucy? It’s dark,” his mother called. “The bugs’ll eat you alive.”

Well into his nineties, Lucy broods about his parents’ lack of public passion; this fires his wonderment at the act of conception. “There used to be a whole lot of to-do. Beating of tom-toms and a rattling of dried armadillo hides. Drinking toasts to the spirits of their unborn children from the skull of a fallen enemy. Or the skull of a departed husband.”

Lucy has wired the oil tank with an incendiary device to beat out the state at any tax sale that might be forthcoming at his death: “Kaboom, The Big Bung, so I know where they’re going to get it—straight up the ass,” he says of the grasping taxmen of Augusta, the state capital.

Boom. That was how explosions were supposed to be written down; Young Lucy was an avid reader and knew this. But this was more of a Thump, felt through the soles of his feet rather than heard, and impossible to write down. It is not the oil tank, that is far in the future; it is 1915 and the state is blasting a road through the upland bogs.

A century off, Lucy slides to the ground at the base of the post holding his mailbox and settles in for an impromptu nap. The sky is moving in ever-widening arcs above his head, a behavior no properly built Creation would exhibit. The mailbox has no name on it, no address.

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The image of the boy, the cow and the tire swing is a U.S. Extension Service photograph from the 1920s via the Library of Congress where it is called “Boy in tire swing holds a cow on a tether.”

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