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Chapter 7: Being up a tree can bug you

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This is this is the seventh in a series of literacy enhancement articles that will appear biweekly in The Sentinel-News.

When I saw, “Welcome to California,” my heart stopped. “Dad, I’m sorry! I read the directions wrong. Surely Doc Albert didn’t want us in California!”

“Relax,” Dad said, laughing. “We aren’t in the state of California; we’re in California, Kentucky, a city in Campbell County that has about 86 people – much different from the Golden State.”

After arriving in California, our new trainer, Rex, met us with a warm, friendly smile. When Rex informed us of our activity, our mouths dropped.

“Mr. Rex,” I said respectfully, “you realize we’re wiener dogs, not kitty cats, don’t you?”

“Yes, Woody,” Rex replied, “but thanks for explaining.”

“I agree with Woody,” Mom said with a laugh. “I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

“Tree climbing is a recreational activity consisting of climbing and moving around the upper part, or crown, of trees,” Rex explained. “It began around 1980 and has become a popular adventure sport. It’s great exercise, works your muscles and gets you in touch with nature. A man from Louisville named Todd Smith climbed a tree every day for three years!”

“Unbelievable,” Chloe commented. “But can’t we fall out of a tree?”

“Smart girl,” Rex said. “When you tree-climb, you have a guide, are hooked up to a harness, and have gloves and helmets and protective equipment. The guide ensures the tree is safe. If the tree has dead branches or other problems, it could be very dangerous. You should never climb a tree without a guide or protective equipment – unless you’re a cat.”

As we prepared, Rex explained that California, Kentucky, had the number one tree-climbing company in the world. Once again, my Kentucky goose bumps grew large. After we were snapped and fastened and tied, and wearing as much gear as an astronaut, Mr. Rex explained the techniques and rules. “The first concern is for your safety. The second concern is for the tree’s safety.”

I never thought anything would be as scary as standing at the top of the Red River Gorge getting ready to zip-line, but standing at the bottom of the tree looking up was just as scary.

“OK, Woody, let’s get you in the tree,” Rex said. I breathed deeply, threw the rope over the limb and tried to pull myself into the tree. Just like with Chester, I looked like a yo-yo. Finally, Mr. Rex lifted me in the tree. I was embarrassed until he had to do the same for Chloe. Mom and Dad got in the tree without Mr. Rex’s help.

“This is incredible!” Dad exclaimed as he viewed his surroundings. At first it was scary to look around, but all the beautiful things in nature helped us relax. After several minutes in the tree, we began moving from branch to branch – albeit very carefully and slowly.

“Look Woody,” Chloe said, pointing to the gray squirrel scampering around the base of the tree. We saw a cardinal perched on a limb in the tree next to us.

While we carefully went from branch to branch, I noticed a hole.

“It’s a woodpecker’s hole,” Mom explained. “Woodpeckers have strong bills. They use them for drilling holes in trees. Then they use their long sticky tongues to remove insects and larvae to eat.”

The thought of eating made my tummy growl. I couldn’t imagine eating insects, but up until a few days ago, I couldn’t imagine zip-lining or horseback riding. If a woodpecker enjoyed a snack of insects, so could a wiener dog. I put my nose in the hole and stuck out my tongue. I couldn’t taste anything. I moved my nose in a little further. Still nothing. I turned my nose a little to the left and wedged it a tiny bit further and stuck out my tongue again. Bingo. I got a tiny taste of something sticky and sweet. It didn’t compare to ice cream, but it was better than spinach. I couldn’t wait to tell Chloe. But when I tried to pull my head from the hole, it wouldn’t budge. I moved around a bit to try to loosen my nose – still nothing.

I was up in a tree with my nose stuck in a woodpecker hole. Even with my nose stuck in a hole, I smelled trouble.

For more about the series including audio versions of each chapter, visit www.kypress.com.