The Mysterious Banana Tree in Fort Payne

So many things early in my life helped shape my imagination, even practical jokes.

Our father was notorious for his practical jokes. He was a con man, and convincingly able to make others believe his otherwise unbelievable stories. Often, he pulled others into his gags to help pull off his shenanigans. This joke he schemed was partnered with my oldest brother, Chris, or my Uncle Nelson, and in the beginning, the act was quite convincing to children under the age of seven.

An old dirt road divided our backyard from Boykin Farm pastures and also cut through a pine woods as the road sloped downward. Near the top of the hill was a narrow spot where one could turn a car around without being seen from our house.

So, here’s how the practical joke was carried out. At the time there had been a small curb market in Rainsville, Alabama. Our father and his partner in deception (my brother or uncle) stopped at the curb market, bought a bunch of bananas, placed them in the woods on the way home, and then turned the car around to drive the loop to the front of our house. My sisters, my other older brother, and I were usually playing outside.

Our father walked into the backyard, looked at my oldest brother, and said, “Boy, I’d like some bananas. How about we fly down into the woods to the banana tree and pick some.”

Chris agreed.

“You kids stay in the yard,” our father said. “Only we are allowed to go.”

Then he and my brother took off, flapping their arms to the side as they headed down the dirt road. Why? I don’t know, as they never made it off the ground. A few minutes later, they’d return with a bunch of bananas. We marveled about it at the time and questioned where the tree was. “In a place you have to fly to,” our father said, as if one was magically whisked away.

Of course I didn’t like bananas. Still don’t. When I was seven years old, our father had set two 50 dollar bills on the kitchen table, telling me I could have the money if I ate one banana. I refused. As to why I cannot eat them and why the smell of a freshly peeled banana makes me nauseous, that’s a story for another day. So actually seeking out this ‘banana tree’ wasn’t on the top of my agenda to ever find. But, as I got older, I figured out the mystery.

Needless to say, fun incidents like this were important factors in shaping the imagination because one spends time wondering how the banana tree got there and why no one else had ever returned with bananas. Perhaps it is why I have pulled a few practical jokes over the years, but I’ve never flown to the fictitious banana tree, except in my memory to write this down.

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