I bought a tomahawk with some of my money. There were pack donkeys in a pen and a man standing next to a sign that read, Rides $.10. Dad said he’d pay and I ran to be first to ride. The man helped me get my foot into the stirrup and heaved me up, but I landed on the other side of the donkey, not on top. Everyone was laughing, and I wanted to die. The second attempt was much better.
Two days later, we were finally going up Pike’s Peak. I hadn’t realized it was that big or that we’d be on the outside. Buses coming down took way too much room, pushing our car closer and closer to the edge. An edge without guard rails. Why did they stop guardrails half-way up? I closed my eyes and held my Teddy bear tight. My sister yelled that we were all going to die a sudden death from plummeting off the side of the road. I wouldn’t talk in case I needed my breath to survive the plunge.
As farmers, my parents didn’t really have much money for a vacation, but they planned by putting all their spare change in a pink ceramic pig. When it was time for vacation, my parents, my sister, and I would sit around the kitchen table, sort the change, and put it in coin wrappers. Some of the money was given to my sister and I to use, and the rest was for my parents. I’m sure they had to add more. So you see, complaining about a vacation experience was a direct attack on my parents. I think they called it economizing. Complaining was something a kid was not supposed to do, but this time, I was sure we were all going to die. I gave up saving my breath and acted in the only way a child could; I threw a tantrum.
We made it to the top and back without plunging to our deaths. I did get out of the car for a look and braved sitting up for the ride down. We were on the inside. If we got forced off the road, we wouldn’t plummet to our death. We’d crash into the mountain, an accident I thought I could survive.
Once at the bottom, Mom said were going to the Royal Gorge. Yes, the Royal Gorge, we were going to drive across that suspension bridge. I’d seen it on my view master. The Arkansas River is a thousand feet below. No way, no how, I wasn’t going. At the tollbooth I got out, a safe distance from the bridge, and watched the car, with Mom, Dad, and my sister drive away.
I was tired of America’s purple mountain majesty, I longed for my amber waves of gold, flat Illinois prairie. Sun reflected of the bridge’s steel. I was blinded. There was no pink to be seen anywhere. Now I was going to be left an Orphan, alone, without money, at the Royal Gorge, Colorado. I wondered if I would have to identify the mutilated bodies? Who do I call to get me home? Where would I call home? Would they let me stay in my house? I remembered my Roy Roger’s lunch box was in the car. Would it be lost in the crushed metal?
I closed my eyes and clutched my Roy Roger’s gun. Again I saw newspaper headlines. Young if left stranded in Colorado as his parents and sister plummet to their death in an ugly pink Plymouth. No one knows how they veered off the Royal Gorge Bridge. Grandparents are driving to Colorado to take him home. I saw a picture of me sitting on the bench with my Roy Roger’s gun, a park ranger holding my other hand. Then, as if God’s angels were calling, I heard my mom’s voice from beyond. “Timmy, are you coming? Timmy, we can’t wait here all day.”
Mom was not dead, but standing looking at me with those eyes, her mouth twisted to hold her cigarette. I must say, I was happy to see that pink Plymouth, but it was still ugly.
I have had other scary moments in my life, but none topped these, not even the creepy Blob coming out of the movie screen to get me. It’s a close second, though.