Now some of you are probably waiting for a deep meaningful discussion on philosophically getting thrown off a cliff, but this is a real-life cliffhanging story.
The up side: At least I had a rope.
A while back, we had a post here at More Cowbell on the Top 10 Phobias in the U.S. I promised to tell y’all why I’m afraid of afraid of heights…so here’s that story.
It was back in the late 80’s at the University of Missouri. And for all you young ‘uns, that was before political correctness really took hold. Teachers could still abuse us if they felt it was called for, especially if we were
stupid naive enough to take an ROTC course with no intention of entering the military.
It was my dad’s idea, which should have been my first clue. I wasn’t so bright as a college freshman, what can I say?
“Captain U.S. Retired” (aka my dad) was trying to show me my potential future by talking me into this course. He wanted me and my brother (affectionately known here as the Bag Whore) to get in touch with our military heritage.
To be fair, the ROTC course had me doing tons of cool new things like:
- Disassembling/Reassembling an M16 rifle
- Target practice with the aforementioned M16
- Orienteering with a map, compass and a canteen of water
- Rappelling – both the rigging and the doing
p.s. Y’all didn’t know I had mad bada$$ skillz, did you?
p.p.s. Because I DON’T…that was 20+ years ago. It’s all a blur now, except for the cliff.
The University of Missouri has Rock Bridge State Park nearby with lots of places to practice all this orienteering and rappelling.
The maps were kind of fun, as was learning to use a compass. I really wish I still knew how to do some of this stuff. For instance, I really dug making the rigging and watching other people go off the cliffs. It was an easy 25-30 feet down and they looked like they were having fun.
Believe it or not, I was a climbing child.
Roofs, trees, walls…if there was a thing to climb, I was interested, as long as it wasn’t higher than 10-15 feet. Some part of my little-Jenny brain knew that distance might break a leg, but probably wouldn’t kill me if I fell.
But that day in Rock Bridge park, faced with a 30 foot cliff and armed only with a rope and a pitiful little Swiss Seat harness? I wasn’t feeling so confident.
I had my Swiss Seat on and wanted to watch for a little while. You know, to make sure everyone else lived and all. Our instructor, Sergeant Major Coleman, had his own schedule and signaled me to the edge.
I shouldn’t have looked down. (There’s a reason why they always say that.)
Because when I saw nothing but 30 feet of air between me and the ground, I kind of crab-walked over to sit on a rock to chill for a second, still holding the rope.
Sergeant Major walked over and stood me up by my Swiss seat for this short discussion:
SM: Hansen! It’s your turn. You’re holding up the line.
Me: I’m not quite ready yet. If I could just—
SM: Hansen, you’re going! Face the cliff, hold onto your rope.
And WUNK! He pushed me off the cliff.
Oh. My. God.
My stomach stayed up with the Sergeant Major, while the rest of me kind of froze. Then I started cursing. I cursed so creatively, the military guys were impressed. And the main person I cursed was my father for talking me into this nonsense.
It took me twelve minutes to get down the cliff because I had to cling to a branch for about ten of them and talk myself out of peeing my pants.
When I looked up links for this post, I started laughing when I got to this one on rigging (linked above). From www.ItsTactical.com:
Rappelling is inherently dangerous. (Shocker!) The author, nor ITS Tactical, assumes any responsibility or liability for injury incurred by the reader. The information presented here is for educational purposes only.
Truly, I was never afraid of heights until I got thrown off that cliff.
Now? I don’t even like to see my husband up on a ladder. I don’t mind airplanes, tall buildings or bridges because they’re enclosed. It’s the potential for free-falling that makes me sweat.
What scares you to pieces? Do you have a “moment it all began” like I do? Enquiring minds LOVE to know these things here at More Cowbell!