The following is from my father's book, The Hills of Home. It is one of my favorite stories.
by Bob West
When I was growing up in Palouse, my childhood idol and hero was Tarzan. Tarzan of the Apes. I read all of the author Edgar Rice Burrough's books several times. Also a popular Tarzan cartoon ran daily in the newspaper, but best of all there were movies made about his adventures. I remember two actors who played his part. Johnny Weissmiller and Buster Crabbe. Johnny was a former Olympic and world champion swimmer, and was by far my favorite.
One Sunday afternoon I was visiting at my grandparent’s farm and found a perfect place to play out my fantasy of being Tarzan. Granddad had built a wonderful large round-domed barn and painted it bright red. The haymow was still half filled with loose hay, left over from the years when he did all of his farming with horses. With the help of my Uncle Clayton, (who confessed to me that he also read Tarzan books and went to the movies) we tied a series of ropes to the rafters to I could swing from one to another just like Tarzan did on the vines when traveling through the jungles of Africa. I had already practiced and developed when seemed to me a perfect ape call. I made myself a loincloth out of an old gunnysack, sewing it together with a sack sewing needle and binding twine. The only thing lacking was “Cheeta”, Tarzan’s faithful chimpanzee friend.
One day my parents received a letter from some friends in Post Falls, saying they were coming to visit the following Sunday. That Sunday we planned to spend at the farm and would take them with us. I wasn’t too happy with this plan as they had a daughter who was as year or two older than I was. Her name was Eva and I hated her with a passion!
There were several reasons for this. First of all, she was as girl and I hated all girls, she was ugly and silly and giggled all of theme. Worst of all, I had picked a fight with her the year before and she had beaten the tar out of me. I was also disgusted that I would have to entertain her, a fate worse than death, and wouldn’t be able to play “Tarzan” out at the barn, as I had planned.
I was upstairs in my bedroom hiding out when they arrived that Sunday. Mom called me to come downstairs and at least be sociable with the company. There was no escape. As I stepped into the living room and saw Eva, a thunderbolt hit me. Cupid had sent an arrow straight to my heart. I had expected to see an ugly tomboy, but instead I beheld the most beautiful girl I had ever seen, a vision of loveliness. I knew I was in love for the first time. I don’t think she even liked me though, as she ignored me, and it didn’t help matters much that I was shy and completely tongue-tied around her.
Later when we drove out to the farm U got the idea that if I could somehow get her to go to the barn with me, I could impress her with my Tarzan act. Could I get her to be Cheeta? Seemed reasonable to me.
When I did suggest we go to the barn to play, she said no, she didn’t want to. But luckily her mom heard me ask and said that it would be OK. As I recall, there wasn’t a word spoken between us as we walked the distance to the barn, as she was sulking and I was still tongue-tied. However, I showed her all the interesting things on the ground floor of the barn, old saddles; milk pails, decaying harness, and best of all, a pair of real cowboy chaps. She just glared at me. Oh well.
I then showed her the ladder that led up to the haymow and told her to climb on up and that I would be there soon, as I had a great surprise for her. I wen into the little room where I kept my loincloth and quickly stripped and donned my Tarzan Costume.
When I reached the haymow I climbed to the rafter where my first rope was tied. When I looked down at Eva, I thought she was kind of impressed. I grabbed the end of the rope, and with a voice which I knew was exactly like Weissmuller’s yelled, while pointing at my chest, “ME Tarzan,” then pointing at her, I yelled, “You, Jane!” With that I launched myself into space.
I hate to brag, but I was really awesome that day. All my exchanges from rope to rope were clean. I was holding onto one rope with one hand and as I swung through the air, I pounded my chest with my free fist and roared the mighty call of the apes.
I made two complete runs and just as I started the third, tragedy struck! I was flying through the air with the greatest of ease when I realized I had lost my loincloth and I was wearing no BVDs (underwear to most of you) I was naked as a jaybird. I then lost my concentration and missed the last rope and plunged downward into the hay. What a fix!
The only garment to cover my nudity was at the far end of this huge barn and I had to go directly past where Eva was standing. I scurried as fast as I could (did you ever try to scurry fast in loose hay?) As I passed Eva she was laughing and pointing at me. (My wife still does this) I barely had time to don my garb before I heard her coming toward me, still laughing. I knew she would tell what had happened when we got back to the house, so I pleaded with her not to do this, and much to my surprise, she agreed. As I still didn’t trust her, I asked her to “cross her heart and hope to die” if she ever told. In those days, this was a binding promise never to be broken. I changed into my regular clothes and together we walked back to the house.
I began thinking to myself that maybe girls weren’t so bad after all, but quickly changed my mind. As soon as we reached the house, she told the whole story, in every detail. Everyone was laughing, and I was so embarrassed I ran out the back door and hid in the orchard. I was going to stay there forever, hoping I would die from thirst and hunger. They would be sorry!
After about half-hour, Dad called me to come in for lunch. By this time, I felt nearly starved to death, so I swallowed my pride and went inside. I expected to hear more ridicule, but to my surprise there was none. I wasn’t sure what Eva was up to, but whenever I glanced at her, she was winking at me, or puckering up her lips as if she was throwing me a kiss. I guess she must have been flirting with me, but it didn’t work. I vowed I was through with girls for the rest of my entire life.
During Christmas vacation that same year, one of the neighbor’s granddaughters came to Palouse to visit. She was about my age, with the prettiest red hair, green eyes, and cute freckles all over her face.
Let’s see. To impress this dream gal, I was going to…