An Unexpected Hitch
Reading one of Jennifer's stories (Part 3 of A Trip to my Aunt's) where she describes a fairly successful attempt to tie herself up, I was reminded of one of my own experiments in that direction.
If you've read my previous stories, you will know that I like to be able to date my childhood memories. This incident defeats me. It's definitely early or mid 1960s, but it could be anywhere from 1963 to 1967. However that's a detail that's hardly relevant to this salutary tale.
From about the time I started school until my early teens, I attended a weekly ballet class along with my sister Karen. I enjoyed it immensely and it probably contributed to the general physical fitness I have enjoyed all my life. However, by the time I was about 12, two things were very obvious. The first was that I was hardly God's gift to ballet: good enough to enjoy it, but never good enough to have anything more than a background role in any of the productions the dance school staged. The second was that I was also far too tall to fit into a chorus line: almost 5 feet 5 even by that age and towering over everyone else.
My sister persisted with ballet while I moved to different streams of dance that the same school offered, such as jazz and tap. Once I was relieved of the need to do ballet every week to keep on top of the discipline, I started to make dance a summer thing. From September until Easter, I would spend my Saturday mornings on the hockey field then for the rest of the year, I would attend informal dance classes.
That was a rather long (and probably unnecessarily detailed) lead up to say that the events I am about to describe took place one Saturday morning, probably shortly after Easter, just after my dance class.
For the dance class, I wore the usual sort of outfit. In my case it was a black sleeveless leotard worn over opaque black tights with either tap or jazz shoes. (For some reason, exercise tights always had feet back then; footless ones didn't appear until about 1980.) We always finished the class with a series of cooling-down exercises (very important: if you just stop, then there will be stiffness and possible muscle damage next time you do anything strenuous). For these exercises, I put on a pair of legwarmers (proper long ones that went the full length of my legs, not the short fashion ones you see now) and a traditional dancer's cross-over cardigan, all knitted in black and green stripes. (I had learned by then that green is a very good colour for redheads, even for near-redheads like me.)
I didn't bother to change into street clothes to go home. Instead, I changed my dance shoes for a pair of what we called 'bumper boots' back then (not unlike high-top Converses today), put on a skirt (actually an elastic-waisted mini-skirt I used for some dance routines) for a modicum of modesty and a heavy sweater. For dance, I wore my hair in a bun, with lots of hairspray, zillions of pins and a net. I didn't bother trying to dismantle that structure but covered it with a big knitted beret.
It took about 25 minutes to get home on my bicycle. One Saturday, as I pedalled along, I decided it would be a good day to try out an experiment I had been contemplating for some time: to see if I could successfully tie myself up using a method I had recently worked out. I had used handcuffs for self-tie games for a while, but I always found that rather unsatisfactory. Although handcuffs were completely secure and inescapable without a key, I always preferred the more confining sensation of rope and it was a rope tie that I had devised.
I discovered that the house was empty when I reached it. This wasn't unusual on a Saturday: my parents tended to do the big weekly shopping expedition on a Saturday morning and my siblings and I were old enough that we could go off and do our own things without supervision. I had been hoping that Karen would be home to give me some help, but as the object of the exercise was to see if I could tie myself up, that didn't matter too much, although it meant that I would have to be careful to make sure I could escape. Being on my own gave me the advantage of not being disturbed while I was carrying out my experiment and let me have the full run of the bedroom I shared with my sister, which was my chosen venue.
I like to be comfortably dressed for tie-up games and, as my planned experiment could well prove quite demanding, my dance outfit was probably ideal: warm, comfortable and unlikely to get snagged on the ropes. I took a trip to the bathroom first, always a good idea before being tied up. (Of course, dressed as I was in a leotard over tights, that involved stripping almost naked and then dressing again after I had done my business.) I left the skirt and extra sweater off but kept the cardigan and legwarmers on over my leotard and tights. I added a pair of of thick socks to provide a little more padding for my ankles (green to colour-co-ordinate) and selected a pair of woollen gloves (also green) which I would put on just before the final stage of the tie-up. I also chose a pair of black knee-length socks for use as gag and blindfold.
The key to the self-tie I had devised was a knot I had recently come across at Girl Guides: the buntline hitch. This knot is effectively a slip-noose on the end of a rope. Unlike others of this type, the buntline hitch has the unusual property that when it is fully tightened around something, it jams and will not slip open again. (To untie it, you need to use a tool of some kind to pick the knot apart.) This knot was originally used for the buntlines on old-fashioned square-rigged sailing ships. These are the vertical ropes fastened to the toggles on the footrope that runs along the lower edge of the sail and which are used to lift the sail for furling. A really secure knot was required for this job (if it came off, the whole sail might have to be lowered to the deck to refasten it) hence the buntline hitch. (I won't attempt to go into the details of how to tie the knot here; if you are interested, there is a good article on Wikipedia.) My plan was to use the jamming property of the buntline hitch to create a self-tightening non-slip cinch.
I sorted out the lengths of rope I would need from the box of tying-up supplies that my sister and I shared. Mostly we used white cotton sash-cord about a quarter inch in diameter. This has a smooth braided outer casing and is very flexible so that it knots well.
I began by sitting on the floor with my knees raised and my ankles crossed. I lashed my ankles together so that they crossed at 90 degrees, winding about four turns of rope around them north-south and then east-west. I finished off with a couple of turns between my ankles to tighten the whole thing up. (Former Boy Scouts and Girl Guides will recognise this arrangement as a diagonal lashing; it's amazing the uses that scouting skills can be applied to.) I made sure that the final knot was to the front of my crossed ankles, which would be the side away from my hands when I was eventually finished.
The next job was to tie the buntline hitch. I put it at one end of a piece of rope about three feet long, forming a noose about two inches in diameter. I tied the free end of this rope to my ankle binding so that the noose was about nine inches from my ankles and was lying on the floor beneath my raised knees.
The last piece of rope I needed was a coil of about four turns carefully sized so that I could slide my hands through it comfortably while ensuring that a cinch wouldn't either make it too tight or leave it too loose.
I was almost ready for the final stages of the tie-up. I first needed to reposition myself so I was upright. With my ankles tied the way they were, this meant that I was in a sort of kneeling position with my knees splayed wide apart and I was sitting on my crossed and bound ankles. I made sure that a large pair of scissors were lying on the floor beside me so that I could effect an escape and that a strategically-placed pillow was in position in front of me.
I picked up one of the black socks I had chosen earlier, put a knot in the middle of it and applied it as a knotted cleave gag. I tied its partner around my head so that it was just above my eyes. I put my gloves on next then put my left hand through the prepared wrist coil. I reached up and slid my blindfold down into position over my eyes.
The success of my experiment entirely depended on whether the rope would behave the way I thought it would. I was about to find out.
I put my hands behind my back. I kept my left forearm parallel to the floor and pressed my wrist against the small of my back so that the wrist coil wouldn't fall off. With my right hand, I located the buntline hitch which was lying on the floor just behind my feet. It was quite tricky feeding the wrist coil through the loop of the hitch but I managed it after a couple of attempts. Once that was done I slid my right hand into the wrist coil, so that it went through the coil in the opposite direction to my left hand, while keeping my right forearm horizontal. (The idea was that it would be easier to tighten the hitch into a secure cinch this way.)
I was now at the point of no return. I lifted my forearms gently and felt the wrist coil tighten as the hitch closed around it. The binding was snug but still not tight enough to be inescapable when I reached the limit of how far I could lift my arms behind me this way. Trusting that I had positioned the pillow correctly I cautiously leaned forward until I overbalanced and toppled forwards. My face landed on the pillow as I hoped it would. I could now pull gently with my feet to tighten the hitch, wiggling my arms a little to encourage everything to slide smoothly.
Once the hitch was fully tightened, I tested it to see if it behaved as I hoped. I tried pulling my wrists apart, which would cause an ordinary slip-noose to open up, but nothing happened. I was delighted; I was securely hog-tied and I had done it without any assistance.
I'm not sure how long I lay just enjoying being tied up and enjoying the sense of achievement that went with a successfully-concluded experiment, but I eventually decided that it was time to get myself loose. The knots holding me were all secure and mostly inaccessible, so I was relying on using the scissors to cut myself free.
The first difficulty was actually retrieving the scissors. With my knees forced apart by my ankle binding, it was quite difficult to twist my upper body far enough to reach the scissors with my hands. Also, without really thinking it through, I had placed the scissors to my right with the intention of using them in my right hand (I am quite strongly right handed). However, with my forearms across my back as they were, it was actually my left hand that I had to use to pick the scissors up. I transferred them to my right hand rather inelegantly by putting them down on my bottom with my left hand and then picking them up with my right.
The next difficulty was finding a way to use the scissors effectively. Once again, the problem was the position that my hands were in. Both hands were pointing away from the ropes that I needed to cut, which meant that I had to use the scissors reversed in my hand with the point towards my wrist. I could only open the scissors a little using them this way, so I was obliged to rely on just the tips of the blades to cut the rope. I rapidly discovered that I simply couldn't bring enough pressure to bear on the scissors to cut the rope in this way. The scissors themselves were fine; I had used them to cut this type of rope in the past, but had always done so in the conventional manner and with the blades wide apart to obtain the maximum leverage. As I pondered my predicament, it dawned on me that garden secateurs or even toenail clippers would have been a better escape tool than the scissors.
There was really nothing I could do but wait for someone to find me, so I tossed the scissors aside and settled down as comfortably as I could. Other than being unplanned, it wasn't really a hardship; I enjoyed being tied up anyway and my body was young and fit enough not to be under any significant stress in a hog-tie.
With nothing to do and my eyes covered, I eventually sank into a semi-doze. I was roused by the sound of a door banging shut downstairs; evidently at least one member of the family was home. If it was Karen, I would be discovered immediately as she would be sure to come up to our room as soon as she was in. If it was any other member of the household, I could well have to wait a while longer; I wasn't sure I could make enough noise to be heard downstairs.
In the event, it turned out that it was indeed Karen who had come home first. I heard her feet pounding on the stairs then the click of our bedroom door opening.
There was a surprisingly long pause before Karen spoke. Finding me tied up wasn't that unusual an occurrence, but I think the hog-tie surprised her.
"Did you do that by yourself, Becca?"
I grunted and nodded in reply.
"It's very good. Can you get out of that yourself?"
I shook my head.
"Do you want me to untie you?"
I decided that I had had enough of being tied up for one morning so I nodded.
"Well, hang on for a mo; this is much too good not to take a picture first."
I heard the creak of the wardrobe door opening; our camera gear was stowed in the bottom of it.
"No flash bulbs, so I'll use the tripod and do this just with available light."
Various other noises followed, which I interpreted as the tripod being set up and Karen's Voigtländer being screwed to the top of it.
"Long exposure; hold still."
There was a distinct double click; it sounded like about an eighth of a second exposure.
Two more photos followed then Karen removed my blindfold.
"One more, Becca. Look at the camera please."
I looked up and attempted to smile around my gag, holding the pose as still as I could for another long exposure.
Satisfied with the photography, Karen put the tripod away and put the camera on her desk. She tossed a cushion down onto the floor next to the pillow I was resting my chin on and sat down on it crosslegged. It was fairly obvious what my sister had been doing while I was at dance class: she was wearing a white tennis dress with a cream V-necked sweater on top (actually an old cricket sweater outgrown by our brother). It was early in the season, so she was also wearing a pair of white ribbed tights under the dress for warmth. There were green grass stains on both knees, which probably also explained the lack of shoes; if they were in a similar state she would have taken them off before entering the house.
Karen leaned forward and untied my gag. "Now, Becca, before I untie you, you have to tell me all about this."
I explained how I had been thinking about the practicality of a secure self-tie for some time and that the idea had finally come together in my head when I learned about the useful buntline hitch. I went on to describe exactly how I had done the tie-up and told her about the problem with the scissors.
"It looks really good," Karen enthused when she had hear my explanation. "I'd like to try it too and then we can be tied up together."
"What, right now?" I asked.
"You don't mind being tied up a bit longer do you?"
"Well no," I conceded, "but we'll both be stuck instead of just me."
"I'm sure Mum will untie us when she gets home. Come on Becca, talk me through it; it'll be fun."
I had been getting bored tied up on my own, but Karen was right, it would be fun being tied up together, so I didn't demur.
Like me, Karen decided that she wanted a little more padding on her ankles and wrists, so she put on a pair of socks and laid a pair of gloves aside ready for use. I guided Karen through the process that I had used to tied myself up until she reached the point where she was about to put her hands behind her back and embark on the final step.
"I don't think I need any more instructions," she told me as she re-tied my gag.
Karen gagged herself, using the sock that had been my blindfold, put her gloves on, slid her left hand through the wrist coil she had made and put her hands behind her. I watched her expression of intense concentration as she fumbled with ropes behind her back. Her frown disappeared and I saw her elbows and shoulders lift as she started pulling the cinch tight. She adjusted her position by shuffling on her knees then carefully overbalanced, coming to rest with her head on the opposite end of the pillow that I was using, her nose a few inches from mine. She used her legs to pull her wrist binging tight just as I had then grunted through her gag, presumably indicating that she was securely tied up.
We might have tried to free each other by using the point of the closed scissors as a marlin spike to pick the knots undone but by unspoken mutual consent, we just lay there enjoying our shared predicament.
After half an hour or so, we heard sounds from downstairs but were left undisturbed until there was a tap on the door followed by our mother coming into the room. She was well used to finding us trussed up, so there was only the barest hesitation before she commented, "I thought you two were awfully quiet."
We mumbled a greeting as best we could.
"Lunch in about ten minutes, girls. Can you get yourselves loose from that?"
We shook our heads.
"Well, I need to get back to the kitchen, so you'll have to wait a few minutes," Mum told us as she left the room again.
A few minutes later, our father came into the room. "Mum said you'd tied each other up again," he commented, "and it looks like you've done a good job."
I shook my head vigorously and Karen joined in.
"You didn't tie each other up? Somebody else tied you up?"
We shook our heads again.
There was a long pause while he worked his way through the logic, then he replied, "So you each tied yourself up?"
"I wouldn't have believed it was possible do do it as well as that," Dad said, clearly impressed at our ingenuity.
Karen's camera was still on her desk, so after asking her permission, Dad took a few more photographs of the two of us before freeing us. I had been tied up for a lot longer than I had originally planned and required a minute or two to unbend but suffered no serious after-effects of my escapade.
I used the same basic self-tied technique again from time to time after that. Sometimes I embellished it by adding ropes but I never bettered that basic mechanism.