Tether, tethered, tethering ... How wrong can you be?

Tether, tethered, tethering …

How wrong can you be?

Tethering, which my limited knowledge thought was very old, and in dictionary terms: “a cord that anchors something, such as an animal or child, to something else, such as a pole.”

That was in once-upon-a-time land; B.E., Before Electronics, when our society has achieved phenomenal new heights in tethering, especially Lawn Chair Larry, who was happily tethered while he took the first steps toward his boyhood desire to fly.

Dreaming after retirement, in his favourite lawn chair he’d named Inspiration, it’s told by the Darwin Awards folks, he hatched his scheme to achieve his goal. He bought 45 four-foot-diameter weather balloons, filled them with helium, tied them to Inspiration, which was securely tethered to his Jeep. He strapped himself in, with his Miller Lite, a passel of sandwiches, a descent control, his pellet gun, and had friends cut the tether.

His calculation that he’d drift lazily into the sky, nibbling on his sandwiches, sipping his Miller Lite, enjoying the scenery, was more than a bit off. Apparently, he went skyward as if shot from a cannon. He’d calculated he’d level off at 100 feet; he didn’t. He was still rocketing skyward at 5,000 feet, finally levelling off at 16,000 feet.

Afraid to use his descent control, lest he plummet to earth like a rock, he apparently drifted around for 14 hours before deciding he had no choice but to shoot some balloons.

He did. It worked!

He landed on some power lines, then into the arms of waiting policemen,. The US Federal Aviation Agency plodded through their books for flying lawn chairs to find how many flight laws he’d broken, including crossing Los Angeles International’s primary approach. They came up with a $1,500 fine, and grounded lawn chair Inspiration. As he was led away, a reporter asked him why. “A man can’t just sit around,” he nonchalantly replied.

I suppose we can take a lesson about cutting tethers from Larry, although the one that comes immediately is he and his beer were cool for a toast to his survival.

We, tether masters for centuries, have willingly become the tethered. Unlike the creatures we’ve tethered, most seeking freedom, we seek electronic tethering with the same zeal as our youth. A 17-year-old electronically tethered fan is quoted in last November’s Globe and Mail, “I’d rather be stabbed than give up my iPod.”

Reflection suggested that, in our rule-ridden world there’d be tethering rules, so from my electronic tether I sought and chose the first, a tetherers’ code from the State of Victoria, Department of Primary Industries, Australia.

It was the basics of domestic creature tethering, perhaps as old as the hills, but still in use. It said, “This Code has been developed to assist people to tether animals correctly when circumstances make it a necessary method of confining and protecting animals, and the rules are: “Tethering exposes creatures to increased risk of stress, injury or death,” the Aussies wrote. “They may be unable to avoid predators; they may be unable to obtain sufficient exercise; they may be isolated from their companions,” and “they should be inspected and exercised twice daily. The amount of exercise should be appropriate to the species and to the age, health, working status of the individual.”

Ah well, tethering may be as old as Methuselah, but its rules appear far from outdated. A tip of the hat to tethers, old, new, and the most fascinating of all, invisible tethers. Gravity tethers us to the earth, survival tethers us to the land, and love tethers us to our family, our homes, our communities and our country.

Oh, Lawn Chair Larry’s ‘flight’ got him an honourable mention in the 1982 Darwin Awards, but a tip of the hat to him too, for reminding us that everyone has a purpose, and perhaps his was to set an example to the rest of us what not to do in a lawn chair, and take care which tether you cut.

You have to wonder if, perhaps, Larry was an aficionado of Horace, poet and satirist, 65-8 BCE, and lived by one of his mottos: “He who postpones the hour of living is like the rustic who waits for the river to run out before he crosses.”

Keep well!