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Stop 13: The Parthenon and Birch Row

Listen or read along as Trish Stevenson, daughter of Nina Leopold Bradley, granddaughter of Aldo Leopold, and former Foundation board member tells a story about fun and games at the Shack.

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Audio Transcription

My name is Trish Stevenson. I’m the granddaughter of Aldo and daughter of Nina, and I want to tell you the story of swinging the birches, which I’ve heard for decades. The tradition of swinging the birches came from young Estella Leopold. She had gone to the University of Wisconsin as an undergraduate and had a class with Norman Fassett on studying spring flora. And when he took his students out to the field, he would teach them how to swing the birches, and they had to find just the right trees, the right age and the right size. And he showed them how to climb up the tree, grab hold of the top branch, and jump. And if the tree was the right flexibility, it would just gradually drop them down to the ground, and they would let go.

So young Estella taught this entertainment to her sister, Nina, and her brother, Carl. And she said that they spent a lot of time finding the right birches. But one year, they took a family friend’s son with them, who was Reed Coleman. And he was about 13. And they found some birches and showed him how to climb up and swing down. And so he followed them up and jumped. And he wasn’t heavy enough to be brought all the way down to the ground, so he was left hanging and no one could really help him. So he finally just dropped, and Estella said he got a little banged up [laughter]. And I don’t believe the older siblings, Luna and Starker, ever did swing the birches. I think they were older in school and probably too large [laughter].