I grew up in a neighborhood which was built on a hill. I could walk two blocks down a mostly unused dead-end street (except by the old factory whose workers used it) which was behind my street and be at what we kids in the neighborhood called The Bluff. The Bluff was behind the houses on the next two blocks of the road on which my family lived. Many happy childhood hours were spent by me and my friends at The Bluff.
The Bluff itself was the undeveloped hill portion behind the row of houses (and the local Girl's Club and its playground), and was a sharply inclining hill (very nearly straight up in some places) surrounded by natural rock formations and lots of trees. Oh, and lots of mud when it rained. We would hide out and play there, climb around and temp fate by scampering around the slowly eroding soil at the top of it. And we would climb and swing in the trees like monkeys.
There was this one portion of The Bluff that had a stone wall built along the borders of certain house's yard. We rarely played there because it was the steepest portion and was mostly trees and virtually no actual hill. It was there that one of my girl friends told me the story of The Bloody Tree.
This tree was a slim tree, fairly tall, and had been broken about three quarters of the way up - which means she and I could sit on that small stone wall (only about four feet high) and look straight away at the broken-off portion of that tree. In fact, that broken tree was, as I remember it now, about four or five feet away from the wall.
This tree had a sinister history, according to my friend. There was an unnamed neighborhood boy (as with most of these friend-of-a friend stories, the details are sketchy) who was playing around there and decided to jump the several feet from the wall and (hopefully) land in the tree.
Unfortunately for that lad his weight caused the tree to snap off and he was impaled thereon. Help was called for but his injuries were so severe that he later died at the hospital. The grief stricken parents were given the portion of the heavily bloodstained portion of the tree removed from their dead son, whereupon they promptly took it home and kept it mounted in their living room as a sort shrine for their son (exactly the morbid type of shrine ten-year-olds would think entirely appropriate).
Of course I had my doubts, but right there before me stood the broken tree. And my good friend Glenda wouldn't lie to me. She was relaying what she had been told. Besides, it was such good story it was similar to other neighborhood legends (like this one, which I passed around to my friends) - just too fun to dismiss lightly or question too critically.
Oh, I can easily imagine that some parent came up with The Bloody Tree (probably minus the detail of the household shrine) to serve as a warning to their child not to play around at The Bluff. It was too dangerous. I know when I was child (I can't say if it is still the norm now or not), it was customary for parents to tell horrifying cautionary tales to hopefully keep their kids in line. Why, my childhood neighborhood was filled with wampus cats and bogey men.
In one of those ironic twists of fate that life is so full of, I remember that not long after Glenda told me her story she injured herself on a tree in my next-door neighbor's yard. The small tree was used by my neighbors as a post for their clothesline. She was climbing around acting like the tomboy she was when her foot slipped and her arm was gashed by a jagged limb stump. Now that was a bloody tree, let me tell you! Glenda had to go get stitches. We did visit that bloody tree until the elements removed the stain. Kids are so goofy!
I don't know why this old memory popped into my head this morning, and I have no real point in writing about it. I do wonder if that tree and portion of The Bluff is still there or if it has been developed. I'm too cheap and lazy to drive over there this morning to see - but if it were still there it would have made a nice picture for this post. One day I'm going to have to make a visit to my old stomping grounds and see what is left there.