College Corner: Swing hanger James Saxon ’09

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

On Friday night, the a tree on Magill walk acquired a whimsical new ornament: a swing. We talked with its creator, James Saxon ’09.

Daily Gazette: Why did you decide to put up a swing on Parrish Beach?
James Saxon ’09: It didn’t necessarily have to be Parrish Beach. Ben Plotkin-Swing and I had been meaning to put one up for some time, and we were looking for a spot that meshed convenience, a good branch, and a little bit of withdrawal. I think both of us just consider swings a necessary force for good in an institution of learning such as Swarthmore. People tend to get very stressed here, and this was our little way of fight this. The college used to have a marvelous old swing outside the back of Sharples, so we were also just reviving past glory. We both like climbing things, so this was essentially a perfect project.

DG: How did you do it?
JS: We needed to set it up from within the tree, but it was impossible to climb– especially without damaging the bark. So I put on my beanie. The truth is that we threw a rope over the part of the branch closest to the tree, looped it over again, and then pulled up a loop of webbing. (We were tricky little topological bastards!) That left us with a rope hanging through a carabiner hanging on a loop of webbing firmly anchored around the tree. We attached one side to the rope to me (in a harness), and Ben and four other kids (I’m quite sorry not to know their names) ran towards Sharples with the other end. So I flew up into the tree. But I forgot a carabiner, so they let me down, and then brought me back up a again. Tremendously fun, actually to fly into the air. From there, I climbed out on the branch, and with some difficulty as for rope lengths and all, tied up the ropes, before rapelling down. It was actually kind of cool, because it made a shadow that made me look like spiderman. Spiderman is frigging the man. But I hate spiders. During this time, Ben went to drill holes in a plank for the swing itself. When he got back, we hung it, etc. etc. The rest, as they say, is history.

DG: Was it difficult? Did you get help from anyone else?
JS: Not terribly [difficult], but marvelously fun. Prof. Grinstead’s son Marshall, a friend of mine from high school (I am from the town), also helped out quite a bit, as well as the four kids who helped Ben pull me up. Shout out to them.

DG: Do you know why the swing came down?
JS: The swing came down for safety. I was actually amazed at how reasonable grounds were. I particularly appreciate not getting fined $500, which is the normal penalty for climbing trees. But never fear, my swampdumplings! A swing will return. Bob Gross has promised funding through the dean’s office, and we are currently working with grounds to locate a tree that will work safely for everybody. So ye need not despair! I would encourage any and all who loved the swing to email me testimonials in support of the Parrish Beach location, though (if we use the proper straps) for bargaining power when talking with the arboretum. Or just about swings in general. If I can tell show them how much people loved the swing, we’ll have a better shot at good locations.

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