“The Crazy White Man”
Editor’s note: Part 1 of “JUMP! JUMP!” appeared in the April 2016 issue of Our Neck of the Woods. In that story, our hero finds himself in a broken down car next to a bridge over a roaring river.
The bridge is, I would guess, 50 or more feet above the water. This river pounds over huge boulders before and some distance after the bridge. But directly under the bridge there is this gorge that the water must have been cutting into for millenniums. On each side of the river are cliffs, not as high as the bridge, but high. In the gorge it is very humid but the air is made cool by, I assume, the water that is splashing over the rocks. To add to the magic, the roaring sound of the river fills the air.
On each side of this bridge were steel tube guard rails about 3 feet high that were also in good condition. I have seen some bridges without any guard rails, simply open air. The tube guard rails on this bridge had gaps big enough for a person to get though should he or she want to.
I walked back out on the bridge and looked again. It was so high. But while I was looking, some kids jumped in again. I wanted to follow their example but I was so afraid. I told you about my fear of heights, right?
The man who was serving as my guide and car repair mechanic asked me what my business was and I gave him my tour guide card which shows me swinging over a river on a rope, one-handed.
He looked at it and asked if it was me. I said yes and he asked why I was afraid of this bridge jumping if I could swing on ropes over rivers. Well I hemmed and hawed and said “well that was a long time ago” and so on.
He laughed and said I must be a fake then. He said I should have a photo of me picking flowers or something. Not swinging over a river on a rope. Well that was a challenge that I had to rise to. (This is a guy thing.)
So I decided to jump. Now, I am not a stranger to jumping from cliffs, as when in the Canadian boundary waters area I have jumped off many a cliff. Many of them were very dangerous, but usually not as high and without an audience. I mean that if I am going to kill myself in some totally stupid endeavor, I would rather do it without witnesses.
But here I was, on the spot and in front of people of a different culture whose, perhaps, first contact with a gringo was this occasion. What pressure!
By the way, one of the men who came to help with the broken down car- wearing nothing but a pair of white underwear- said “watch me” and walked to the off-limits part of the bridge and did a beautiful swan dive saying just before he dove, “Now don’t you try this, too dangerous.”
Now a real crowd was gathering and all on their feet. They put down their guitars, food and picnics, and were all watching me. I think maybe a bus disgorged a group of people whom their friends texted when they saw I might jump. Either that or they just came out of the woods.
In any case, I think I had as many observers as Evil Knievel when he tried to jump the Snake River Canyon on his motorcycle.
I stuck my head though the guard rail a few inches at a time, then my body while my hands clasped the steel tubing hard enough to leave my hand and finger prints.
I finally got my body hanging in space with only my feet perched on the inch or so wood planking protruding from under the guard rails. (Rather like the back of the ship scene in the movie Titanic).
This whole process took maybe 20 minutes and I was screaming almost the whole time. This no doubt added to the excitement and wonderment of the assembled multitude. I did note that a snow cone salesman with his cart had arrived and was making a killing at my expense. (No pun intended.)
Finally I was ready. I looked out and down and would have been amused if I had not been so afraid. I then made a proclamation. I said in my best Spanish, “Let us pray.” Then I jumped.
WOW, what a rush! I just crashed into the water feet first and went so very deep, not hitting anything but water. It seemed as if it took five minutes to get to the surface again. When I did, the masses were applauding. Yes, I did it.
I ended up jumping from the bridge five times, and a few times from the rock ledges. The water was so fresh, cool, and soft, I just loved it. What a feeling!
My wife, Donna, our friend Cindy and her mother sat at river’s edge while I jumped. They took some good photos, so there is proof that I really did do this. Everado, who had loaned me the now-broken-down car, showed up and reattached wires that had come loose on the bumpy road, and put in a gallon of gas from a reused milk jug. The car started, we packed up and headed for home while seeing a wonderful sunset. What a day!