I haven’t always been a daredevil when it comes to amusement parks. But now if you show me a new, insane, twisted thrill ride to get on, I’ll be sure to do whatever is necessary in order to do so. I have to admit, though, some of those extreme, ultimate rides like Six Flags’s Mr. Freeze and the Mid-South Fair’s Sling Shot required me to psych myself up quite a bit beforehand. But in the end I always managed to conquer whatever doubts or fears I had in my mind. There is one out of an abundance of memories early in my childhood in which the “psyching uppage” particularly stands out.
When I was five, I was already about forty-eight inches tall. It just so happened that the height prerequisite for admission to any of the rides at the Mid-South Fair/Libertyland collaboration was just that. I was ecstatic. There was one ride I had longed to get on ever since I could walk--the Ring of Fire. Sure, now that I look back on it, it is not so terrifying in appearance, but just take a minute to imagine that massive loop at the mere age of five. Pretty intense, huh? My mom was a thrill-seeker like me, but I suppose that is how genes usually work. She agreed to ride the Ring of Fire with me though she had already been on it a million times. I worked up the courage and finally boarded the ride.
It started slowly, so I was soon overcome with a feeling of both comfort and reassurance. My mom was already screaming like she does on every other thrill ride. Suddenly I remembered how I had seen the people dangling upside down, yelling at the top of their lungs all the years prior. I tried my best to suppress the thought as the ride crept higher and higher while moving from side to side along the circular track. The higher we would go in the loop, the more the butterflies tickled my stomach. Eventually we made a revolution around the entire loop. It wasn’t so bad after all; I had conquered yet another ride. Everyone around me was shouting.
They were having a great time and so was I.
Another memory soon inched its way into my mind before the ride was over. I had completely forgotten that the operators of the ride like to hold people upside down at the top of the ring indefinitely. This one I could not suppress, and it scared the hell out of me. Then it happened. It seemed as though we were hanging up there forever. I wasn’t used to staying upside down; generally rides just do not do that.
As I looked down at the crowd of unknown faces, I began to feel the pole that I had tightly clenched between my hands all of sudden become slippery. The rest of my accomplices continued their shrieking. Even my mom did not notice the slippery situation at hand; her yelps just meshed with all the others. My miniature five-year-old frame was too small to be properly contained in the ride. I was not even touching the black, padded seat anymore. Knowing this, I held on for dear life hoping that the operators would soon quit unintentionally tormenting me. The ride did not appear to have the over-the-shoulders security harnesses as other loop-di-loop rides do. I came to find that these were later installed. But the thought of slipping out of the Ring of Fire haunts my memory forever. That was the day I literally almost died on a ride at the fair.