Back Yard Oklahoma Fun Before There Were iPods

High Jump

Before there were iPods and iPads and computer games, there was the back yard tetherball pole and high jump pit.

Back in 1968, when I was 12 years old, I spent hours and hours and hours playing tetherball — trying to develop the perfect serve.

But the really serious athletic training involved the high jump.

That’s because I was inspired by Olympics high jumper Dick Fosbury and his Fosbury Flop.

That summer, I stood 4-ft-4 tall, on a stretch, and I was determined to jump that high.

But before the real Olympics training could begin, great effort had to go into construction of an Official Olympics High Jump Pit.

As you can see in the photo above, a worn white rope that stretched between the tether ball pole and the nearest tree was the “bar”.

It could be adjusted by using Dad’s favorite screwdriver to shimmy the tightly knotted rope up and down the pole.

Dad’s WWII Navy mattress not quite Olympic-sized, but it was all I had. And it worked good enough, unless your approach was too fast and you landed butt-first on the summer-hard ground, butt first.

To get the best angle for your approach,  you had to stand with your bare back against the fence, equal distance between the two Mimosa trees.


This was slightly tricky because, the cyclone wire fence was galvanized and  would snag your cut-offs or, occasionally, your flesh.

And because our dogs, Lady and Blondie, had worn a rut right next to the fence, your first two steps were sort of uphill.

Nevertheless, with countless practice runs, I develop the perfect approach and technique.

You leaned back really, really hard against the fence, trying to avoid getting snagged, then you sort of “shot off” like a rocket.

You took two-piston-like short steps to get out of the dog rut, then switched on the afterburners for real speed.

Your approach was initially aimed just to the right of my bedroom window, which is out of sight in this photo.

After three longer strides, you slowly started a slight arc toward the middle of the rope.

Technique was more important in my back yard Olympics High Jump Pit than at the actual Olympics.


If you missed while competing in the Olympics, you would simply knock off the aluminum bar.

If you missed in my back yard, you either got a rope burn or were flipped upside down, then landed on your head. That hurt a lot, even if you hit the mattress.

Which, of course, made this all the better for a young boy on an impossible and dangerous mission — high jumping 4-ft-4.

If you bled — grabbed by the hence, burned by the rope. or impaled on a goathead — Lady the Beagle would provide first aid by licking your wound good as new.

Over the course of that long, hot, summer — in between biking and baseball and wiffle ball and battle ball and football and water balloon fights and “skateboards of death” and conspiring with my neighbor to make his little sister **cry — I worked as hard as I’d ever worked trying to clear 4-ft-4.

Tragically, at summer’s end, I had failed — the first real failure of my budding athletic career.

But Mom took the above photo and used it to convince me that I had reached my goal.

If you look closely, my butt is sitting right on top of our fence, which, Mom assured me, was exactly 4-ft-4.

And that made me feel like I was Dick Fosbury and had won Olympics Gold.

It wasn’t until years later that I realized the fence was actually built in the dog rut, so it was lower than the rest of the yard.

I probably only jumped 4-ft-2.

But at the time, Mom’s little white lie was a very, very good thing to hear.

(Note:  My attempt to clear 4-4 by leaping off my speeding bicycle did not end well, and required more First Aid than Lady Dog could muster).


** Click HERE to see how my neighbor and I made his annoying little sister cry by mocking her favorite doll, Baby Boo.

Or click HERE to read about back yard wiffle ball and Cyrano, the neighbor’s stupid, horny Giant Black Poodle.



One Response to “Back Yard Oklahoma Fun Before There Were iPods”

  1. Lillian L.. says:

    This makes me aware that your insanity is not a result of oldtimers setting in. Snort.

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