Ray Kelly, a retired Baldor worker who lives on Southside, said he and a friend were out driving when they saw a pecan tree at a house on the corner of MLK Jr. Drive and 6th Ave. N. They decided to stop and ask the owners if they could collect the nuts from the tree and yard. When the owners obliged, Kelly and his friend collected some of the Genus Pecari from the yard and decided to shake the tree to obtain more.
Unimpressed by their take, Kelly said he had the idea to climb the tree and try to shake the limbs from there. He claims to have climbed onto the approximately six-foot-high blue GMC truck and have jumped from the roof to a node about three feet above his head. He then shimmied up about 10 more feet before halting his climb, and became stuck on a branch more than 25 feet from the ground. (Although Kelly declined to give his age, when discussing with spectators, the general consensus was that Kelly was at least 50 years of age and that it was very impressive that he could climb that high.)
He called down to his friend to call the fire department to come help him as he did not think he could get down by himself. The Columbus fire department arrived and after assessing the situation, decided to raise a ladder to retrieve Kelly.
From his perch, Kelly seemed in good spirits, asking “Where the Packet at? They gotta see this! Where’s Roger at?” A small crowd including a few pedestrians and the house owners gathered to watch, and one woman filmed the entire rescue with her camera phone.
Firefighter Will McReynolds scaled the ladder and coaxed Kelly safely down. Kelly slipped once, due to one of his shoes having fallen off and trying to find a grip on the ladder with only a sock on his foot. But he clung to the tree and was able to regain his footing on the ladder with the help of McReynolds.
Once down, Kelly admitted that he might not have thought his plan through fully, but seemed proud that he thought to call for help instead of scaling down himself.
He then excused himself to pick more pecans from the yard. Kelly and his friend were able to fill about ¼ of a five gallon bucket with their well-won pecans.
The friend, who declined to identify himself, said that he and Kelly are like brothers… and that climbing the tree was definitely Kelly’s idea, not his. “We was gonna rake the yard and everything to thank them (the house owners) for the pecans,” he added.
Officers from the Columbus Police Department were also on scene for the incident.0