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Tree Bending

  1. Nov 30, 2003 #1
    Has anyone here ever been tree bending?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 30, 2003 #2
    Can you give us a little further insight to what that entails?
  4. Nov 30, 2003 #3
    Tree bending is a very obscure extreme sport, which to the best of my knowledge is practised only in New England. The participant climbs towards the top of a thin, and by implication young tree. When the participant gets high enough that the sapling begins to sway under his or her weight, it is time to bend the tree. This is acheived by the participant grabbing the tree as high as is reachable, then jumping out from the tree and down to the ground, holding the the top of the tree on the way down. The tree acts like a parachute, slowing down the descent. Robert Frost wrote a poem on this sport once:

    When I see birches bend to left and right
    Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
    I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
    But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay.
    Ice-storms do that. Often you must have seen them
    Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
    After a rain. They click upon themselves
    As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
    As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
    Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
    Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust
    Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
    You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
    They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
    And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
    So low for long, they never right themselves:
    You may see their trunks arching in the woods
    Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
    Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
    Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
    But I was going to say when Truth broke in
    With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
    (Now am I free to be poetical?)
    I should prefer to have some boy bend them
    As he went out and in to fetch the cows
    Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
    Whose only play was what he found himself,
    Summer or winter, and could play alone.
    One by one he subdued his father's trees
    By riding them down over and over again
    Until he took the stiffness out of them,
    And not one but hung limp, not one was left
    For him to conquer. He learned all there was
    To learn about not launching out too soon
    And so not carrying the tree away
    Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
    To the top branches, climbing carefully
    With the same pains you use to fill a cup
    Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
    Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
    Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
    So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
    And so I dream of going back to be.
    It's when I'm weary of considerations,
    And life is too much like a pathless wood
    Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
    Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
    From a twig's having lashed across it open.
    I'd like to get away from earth awhile
    And then come back to it and begin over.
    May no fate willfully misunderstand me
    And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
    Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
    I don't know where it's likely to go better.
    I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
    And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
    Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
    But dipped its top and set me down again.
    That would be good both going and coming back.
    One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

    The only thing is, Birch saplings aren't very good for bending; theyare too stiff. Maple saplings are the best.
  5. Dec 1, 2003 #4
    I used to practise tree bending as a young boy growing up in New Hampshire. I thought I had invented it. Apparently, though, it's something anyone can discover by trying to climb up a skinny tree.

    I went for bigger game once. I climbed up to the top of a 20 foot pine tree and did some experimental tree bending with the skinny top part. This worked for a while, and was pretty exiting, but then it snapped off. I hit the ground hard, but was more or less uninjured, because I was light and the lower bows broke the fall somewhat.

    On a trek through the woods freshman year of high school I demonstrated tree bending for another kid on the excursion but the teacher yelled at me for damaging the tree. I went back to the woods later, did it a couple more times to get back at him, but I haven't done it since.
  6. Dec 1, 2003 #5
    Excellent stories! A friend of mine tried to bend a tree that was about 30 feet high, and like yours it snapped - he ended up breaking his leg, and failed all his exams because of the pain medication. He ended up getting thrown out of school.
  7. Dec 1, 2003 #6


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    Hmm... Okay, I'll add this to my list of things not to try, then...
  8. Dec 1, 2003 #7
    i live in new hampshire... and yep, when we were kids we did that... though nothing so extreme. My brother probably did it with his friends in higher trees, but we had a nice small tree in our yard that we'd swing on and all sorts of stuff. and to get down, we'd do some tree bending. ocassionally, we'd go into the woods behind our house looking for fun. And one time we found a really great tree. i have no idea how tall, but taller than the tree we were used to. And the three of us, my brother sister and i, all tried to swing down at once on the same branch. my little brother decided to try and be cool, and held on once we'd let go, and pushed off the ground to try and swing a bunch more. But i guess his hands slipped when he launched back up, and he flew into the tree. I think he cried, but he didn't get hurt too bad. My sister and i, who are older than him, both just laughed and hit him for crying. So he got up and we never told mom, and kept on tree bending on the smaller trees like we were used to.
  9. Dec 1, 2003 #8
    Excellent! I think I need to bend some trees, unfortunately there are few bendable trees around here.
  10. Dec 1, 2003 #9
    This is considered an extreme sport? Will this be featured at any x games or have a best selling video game anytime soon?
  11. Dec 1, 2003 #10
    Haven't you been paying attention? Tree bending can kill you.
  12. Dec 1, 2003 #11
    So can russian roulette, football, working on poorly insulated electrical wiring and running in the middle of the freeway, are they all extreme sports too?
  13. Dec 2, 2003 #12
  14. Dec 2, 2003 #13
    Me too!
    People that I have mentioned it to over the years all looked at me like I was insane, and they had no clue what I was talking about.
    (New Jersey, by the way)

    There is this very flexible tree thet grows in New Jersey - I wish I knew what it is called.
    It never grows much more than 3 - 4 inches in diameter, and has no branches to speak of (it has "branches" but they are very thin and extremely flexible, so they don't get in the way).
    The tree is very sappy, and it looks pretty similar to Poison Oak.
    The sticky white milky sap has a very distinct and pungent odor.
    The center is a channel filled with this dry foamy "marrow" (so to speak) that has the consitency of a spray foam insulation.
    You will rarely see one more than 20 - 30 feet high.

    They are perfect for "Tree Bending" (as I suppose it is formally known).

    It is great fun.
    It gives you a feeling like you are almost weightless.
    I highly recommend it.
  15. Dec 2, 2003 #14
    Like Robert Frost, I found birches to be the best. Rick thought they were too stiff, but that may be a seasonal quality, or something dependent on the particular soil.

    I don't think we had anything ike the kind of tree you're talking about in N.H. I would like to have tried it out.

    Now I am of an age where I would be barking at any kids I saw tree bending, because it does bend the trees: they don't straighten out.
    In the woods where I discovered tree bending there seemed at the time to be an infinity of these skinny young trees to work with, but it's a one shot deal for each tree. Once you bend it, its bent forever. One kid can leave alot of bent trees in his wake.
  16. Dec 3, 2003 #15

    Ivan Seeking

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    My best buddy and I did this once when we were really drunk. Being drunk adds another degree of freedom to the experience - lack of good judgement. If I ever remember the rest of the story I'll tell you about it.
  17. Dec 3, 2003 #16
    In my youth, I found Sweetgum trees to work the best. After hitting the ground unexpectedly a few times in my 20's I decided it was time to quit.
  18. Dec 3, 2003 #17


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    I remember treebending with my little brother, Timmy. We had a ball. We hit upon the idea that we could do a bigger tree if we bent it at the same time. Up we went. It took a few tries, but we finally synchronised our jumps. We must have been a good 50 feet off the ground, falling fast at first, then slowing down with a belly-dropping thrill. As soon as my feet hit the ground I let go and howled in victory. Unfortunately, my little brother was shorter than me and a good deal lighter. Relieved of my weight, the mighty tree regained its pride and righted itself with a vengeance - upon Timmy. Alas, Timmy was last seen hurtling over the treetops of easten Pennsylvania.


    Disclaimer - no actual Timmys were harmed in the making of this story.
  19. Dec 3, 2003 #18
    The Sci-Fi Channel recently did a special about an unknown object that fell from the sky onto Kecksberg, Pa. in the 1960s. Now we know.
  20. Dec 4, 2003 #19
    Are you guys serious? After reading the second post, I thought the whole thing might just be an urban myth or something like that.
    Oh man. I can just picture a little kid being flung into a tree. I probably shouldn't laugh, but that's just plain funny.
  21. Dec 4, 2003 #20
    I can't understand why you'd think it was a myth. There's nothing really extrordinary about it.

    You shimmy up a skinny tree as far as you can. Eventually you get to a point where the tree can't stay straight upright because of your weight. It slowly starts to bend over.

    The natural reaction of any person is to hang on with your hands, but let go with your legs. You're up in the air 15 feet or so, so you don't dare let go with your hands and drop, but, since you're on the way down you get your feet ready to hit the ground.

    The result, you find to your surprise, is that you are let down at a smooth, slow rate.
    It was actually fun. You decide to do it again.

    Getting flung, as in the case of Gail's and Njorl's brothers, was the result of two people doing it at the same time and the heavier one letting go first.

    The other hazardous way to do it is what I did: to climb way up and try to use the skinny top section of an otherwise full sized tree. This doesn't work because it snaps off.

    The trees that are safe are skinny and tall, with few branches except at the very top.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2003
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