| I Was An Uncle Once... And PROUD
Once upon a time, a long time ago, I was both a big tough stud of a man, and an uncle.
I was a cowboy, a bull-rider (well, I got on a few anyway), and a farrier-a horseshoer for you city folk. I could chew up fence posts and spit out nails and I was scared of neither man nor beast.
I wasn't. Just ask me!
And I was an uncle to two of the prettiest little girls you ever did meet. Angels, they were; and about seven and eleven years old when they and their mom decided to come up to Minnesota and visit us for most of a week one summer. I was pretty fond of them, and excited to spend some time enjoying their company-and impressing them with how cool and mighty their uncle was.
We had planned several wondrous adventures, but the one I was most proud of was the day that we were all going to spend at Valley Fair. This place is an enchanting amusement park; full of all kinds of things that I knew would provide charming delights for my beloved nieces (I had great comprehension and endless knowledge of children: I was a cowboy after all, AND an uncle).
More importantly, it had several roller coasters; and I knew that there wasn't a one of those things that I could not ride. I was that mean and fearless.
How impressive is that!
Well, the sweet young ladies arrived, and I had a blast. We rode horses, explored dirt roads in my truck, and told lots of very true stories. I lifted heavy things, showed off breathtaking skills, and shared unimaginable wisdom. I worked pretty hard at it, and I am sure that I at least impressed myself. And then the Valley Fair day came, my ace in the hole.
After a couple of hours of driving filled with challenges given and accepted, a pot load of bragging, and a fair number of 'I dare you's'; we pulled up and headed in for a day full of fun. And boy howdy, we had fun! I acquired toys, furnished edibles, and road every coaster many times. I was well on my way to earning the title of 'Cool Tough-man Uncle' from my nieces, and maybe even some grudging respect from the adult ladies-although we all know how impossible that is.
Well on my way, that is, except for one thing.
Yes, there was a problem.
Right when we got there I noticed that something was just not right about the place. Since I had last strode victorious through it's many obstacles more than a few years previous, some sick evil two-bit son of a woman had built a ridiculous looking monster of a thing right square in the middle of the park. And the more I looked at it, the more hateful it became.
Now I could handle any roller coaster I ever met. In patsy pants with sugar on it. But this thing, it wasn't made to take you on a wild and thrilling ride over a twisting, loopy track. For one, it was just little pretend seats that you sit on and a hold-you-on bar that claimed to be trustworthy. Way worse than that was how blasted tall the thing was. Now I am pretty good up on the back of a horse, but get me up much higher, and well... let's just say I like a shorter style of horse. People just simply do not have any business being that far off the ground. I swear that there are airplanes that don't go as high as this thing did.
The idea was that first you would be placed on this contraption, Saten would push his button, and you would be raised up. And up and up. Until you couldn't breathe. Then you were left there, hanging, gasping for air and begging for life. When Saten had finally had enough fun that way, he would push his other button and you were dropped-without any warning-all that way back down.
I looked for some sort of gestapo force or other such folks that would round up poor sinners and hog tie them onto the device; but no, evidently people willingly did this? The sign in front of this thing said 'The Tower Of Power', if I recall correctly. But I was not fooled. It was really named 'The Official Uncle's Pants Wetting Device'. And I was almost there from just watching.
I did my best to ignore the horrendous eyesore, to pretend that it didn't exist. Like a scared kid at night refusing to look under his bed at the creature he knows is waiting for him. I hoped that these Jedi Mind Tricks would keep my uncle-adoring nieces from noticing it, and that worked about as well as you think it did.
I fended off the first set of questions with something like "It's nothing, probably broken." And right away those two beautiful little bloodhounds sniffed out a weak spot in my courage that just could not be ignored.
They began to say things, horrible things. Stuff that innocent little girls should never be able to say about a man as great as I was. "Yellow-bellied", "Cur-dog", and "Mama's Boy Chicken" were among the vile words that came out of those beguiling faces. And my hard-earned reputation began to shake on it's very foundation. This, as you can imagine, was absolutely unacceptable.
So it came to be that I found myself in a long line (apparently it was quite a popular thing with the young folk to treat yourself in this dreadful way) with the oldest girl. Many times I heard the contraption rumble to life and felt the desperation in the screams of the souls attached to it. Each time I would then behold the ultimatum in her widening grin which hung below piercing, searching eyes. And I stayed to my place in line. And I got strapped on, right next to her.
Yes I did.
Saten pushed his button and the earth (and with it all hope of life and sanity) began to sink away. I could hear her talking. You know who I mean, the nasty little demon that I used to think was my niece. I have no idea what she was saying. Probably ugly things about how far up we were, and did I need to hold her hand. The sickness in the laughter that accompanied those words was unmistakable. I don't remember ever hating anyone that much.
We got to the top and hung there, in nothingness, forever. I could almost see Texas. I had no desire to see Texas, I wanted to see grass and dirt in Minnesota from about six feet away. I would have traded the life of everyone I ever cared about to not be hanging there. At any moment I was going to be dropped to my death, and probably soil my britches on the way down.
I could hear her: yes, she was still at it. "Are you scared?" she said, and something about looking down. If I had been able to reach her I would have pulled her tongue out, except I couldn't seem to find air and my pulse was not so much pounding as vibrating like an alarm clock going off in one of those old cartoons.
Saten pushed his second button and my guts rammed up against my brain. I remember thinking how odd it was that my cowboy boots were floating above my head, trying to get away? I felt total helplessness, and accepted it, as I rushed to my death.
We hit bottom... and of course bounced back up. I was still alive, and my heart had not exploded. It was even slowing down some. My boots were still hooked on, and my brains pushed my insides back down. After a minute I unlatched myself from the thing, stood up, and made a life-changing discovery. Absolutely life changing.
I had NOT soiled my britches. No I had not; I checked twice.
This new fact started bouncing around and caused me to realize a new concept: I had conquered Saten's obscene toy; I was still the champion. With clean britches! My shiny reputation was now even shinier. I looked at my once-again sweet pretty little nieces and stuck out my chest and strutted... you heard that right... because I was still the indisputable uncle stud.
Just ask me!
I milked my new-found nobility for all it was worth the whole rest of their visit, reminding them at every chance. My pride was only bothered a couple of times by a fearful horrifying thought...
What if I have to do this all over again next year?
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