Mention of Mannequins
I doubt many bucket lists, mention mannequins. But, the list in my old Barbie Diary mentions the word. It is 4th on my list.
I Want to...
1- Take a ride in a hot air balloon
2- Ride an elephant
3- Live with an Amish family
4- Own a mannequin
And the list goes on.
As a young kid, I liked dressing dolls. When you think about it, Barbies are just like miniature mannequins.
I kind of liked the idea of having a child-sized mannequin. It would be like having a giant doll. I could dress the it, in my own clothes and even talk to it. Even better than my imaginary friend, Merrilee Carolee!
By the time I was a teen, I thought the idea of having a mannequin was funny. I read that a women's clothing store was going out of business and I called to see if they were selling any of their mannequins. What crazy fun, to have a mannequin for posing and pranking!
I called up and the owner seemed annoyed. She demanded to know why I was interested. I guess my voice sounded youthful and maybe I stammered some kind of answer. I hung up moments later, feeling embarrassed. She clearly thought I was some kind of a pervert.
In college, I got a little closer to achieving my goal of mannequin ownership. My grandmother decided to clear out closets. Suddenly, I was happily adopting an exotic, antique bust, that had always been stored away.
I had been frightened of it as a child, but at 18, I was delighted to give it a home. I put it on a pedestal and borrowed a uniform, that my brother had purchased from an army surplus store. We had fun posing him in front of the window.
All My Characters
Over the years I've inherited some unusual friends.
My Chinese Warrior and Sicilian Knight like to dress up for holidays.
A Mannequin Arm
A while back, I found an antique store in Brady, TX with numerous oddball mannequins.
Here I am with the owner, who is about the only person in the world who might enjoy the idea of mannequin posing, more than me. The mannequins were a little out of my budget, but she sold me this lovely arm for about 15 dollars.
I brought the arm home and had about 5 minutes of fun.
But what the heck was I really supposed to do with this pale arm?
This past year, I've let the arm help me with some holiday decorating.
Mardi Gras and Halloween are pretty silly holidays, so I was able to get away with some kooky arm decoration.
Christmas and July 4th?
The arm seemed a little sassy for Christmas.
It seemed a tad unpatriotic for the 4th of July.
Valentine's Day and Easter?
I'm thinking about handing over this arm to a new owner. It's spring now and time to stop storing so much junk.
I think I'll give myself a half check on the Bucket List and retire the arm!
I totally forgot about the Styrofoam wig stand in my closet! My friend Margit helped me paint the 3-dollar head, to create this lovely face!
I've decided to give myself 3/4 of a check, towards the mannequin goal!
Okay, I'm done with mannequins.
When I was 12, I saw something on TV about a school where children were allowed to ride their unicycles down the hall.
I specifically remember the TV image of children like the ones above, zooming down the school hallway, carrying books.
Diary from 1970
I wasn't dreaming about that memory. I found nothing on the internet, but I did find the old diary.
November 21, 1970
"On the news they showed this school, where everyone rides on unicycles...through the halls! Well I've decided that I'll buy a unicycle and learn!"
After saving babysitting money, I bought a unicycle for $38.00. There are no photos of me on my unicycle, but here's photo of my brother on our street in Tallahassee.
It looks flat, but my brother is just ready to climb a steep, curving hill right past our house. I didn't tackle the street for quite a while.
I learned on the driveway. And luckily by 1970 we were finally a 2-car family. When the cars were parked side by side in the drive I could go back and forth between the 2, reaching out for support when needed.
I also remember being in the kitchen pedaling from one counter to the next. I wasn't allowed to skate in the house, but for some reason the unicycle wasn't banned from indoors.
Eventually I mastered the steep hill. It was actually easier going up than down. Unicycles have no breaks, so it took some control going down.
In Recent Years
The unicycle disappeared after I left for college. Luckily I had lost interest and it wasn't missed. But as I neared my second childhood, (my 50th birthday) I began to long for that old unicycle. I wondered if it was like 2-wheelers and swimming...once you learn, you always know how.
Revisiting my unicycle skills was on my list of 50 things to do to celebrate my 50th birthday. I was able to convince a teenage neighbor with a unicycle that I needed a turn. He was very kind and luckily there were no broken bones. And luckily there was no hill!
St. Helen's Catholic School
I dug a little deeper on the internet and found the school from my memory. Evidently from 1965 to 1985 this school in Newbury, Ohio taught unicycle riding in PE classes.
Riding in the halls was indeed allowed. They had a unicycle team that performed at parades and events around the country.
What I would have given to have gone to a school like that!
Did I get to experience living with the Amish?
No. But I spent a lot of time trying to catch glimpses and I finally had a satisfactory encounter. I didn't take this picture either.
But I did buy the postcard when traveling through Pennsylvania as a child. I was obsessed with postcards...and with the Amish. This postcard might be 45 years old, but Amish children pretty much look like this today.
I think most people are a little curious about the simple lives of the Amish. We all wonder what it would be like to depend on a horse and buggy for transportation.
We wonder how long we could last without TV or phones or computers. I know I've always wondered if Amish children really know what they're missing.
Little House Books
Maybe I read too many Laura Ingalls Wilder books when I was young. I fantasized about cooking over wood stoves and washing clothes in a tub.
I once bought a china pitcher and bowl and put it in my room on a wash stand, so I could wash my face at night. I begged my parents to let me remove the electric sockets in my room and bring in a kerosene lamp. They said no to that.
When I was about 16, I wrote to "Ask Us" in the local paper hoping they
could answer my question about how to find an Amish family to live with for a
while. I never heard back. They probably thought it was a joke.
Over the years I had a few drive by moments. In 1984 I was driving from Missouri to Michigan with my mom. We stopped at a gas station and discovered we'd made a wrong turn. Mom reacted to the mistake in her typical fashion. "Oh well. Wonder what there is to do around here anyway."
We ended up exploring the Amish country near Arcola, Illinois. I drove and Mom sat poised with the camera in her lap. We both ooed and ahhed over each buggy and Amish clothes line. We drove through town where clusters of bonneted children played beside a sheltered parking lot, filled with buggies.
After years of observing and wondering, I got to have an actual conversation...with Amish children.
I have too much respect to intrude, but there was a sign saying Fresh Baked Goods! It was like seeing a giant welcome mat!
Baskets, Jellies, Potholders and Corn!
My husband and I carefully chose a basket and a couple potholders. We picked out some raspberry jelly and the young sisters smiled shyly. Then Don took our goodies to the car and the girls seemed to relax a little more.
11 year old Mary told me how they spoke Pennsylvania Dutch and how her friend made the baskets. I shared my story about wanting to live like the Amish when I was little and the girls laughed. Mary told me about when a magazine writer came and took pictures of their family. She promised it was okay for me to take pictures. But they still seemed very shy. I only snapped a few quick ones, when their faces were obscured.
I did not live with the Amish, but I felt good about my encounter. I was nearly as giddy when I got back in the car, filled with jelly and crafts as I did when I parachuted or rode an elephant.
Chatting with the young Amish sisters may not be as good as living with the Amish, but I think I'll give myself a check anyway! I'm all about checking off lists and this may be as close as I get!
I'm not sure when I added milking a cow to my bucket list. This certainly wasn't the most daring thing on my list, but it was a challenging one since I lived in a city. Like most things on my list, getting this feat accomplished, required some kind of cooperation, probably from a stranger.
Here I am looking out from the barn belonging to that stranger who helped me achieve my goal.
79 Year Old Farmer
I was about 19 when I first met Freeman. I had stopped with friends at a tiny cafe in the Missouri Ozarks, when we struck up a conversation with a group of unemployed men who called themselves the Go Getters.
Freeman was a widower, but the other men all had wives who worked at Angelica, the uniform factory. They laughed about how they got their nickname. One claimed, "We sit around the cafe until the wife's shift is over and it's time to go get-her!"
As we chatted at the cafe, I learned Freeman had an 820-acre farm with 350 cows.
A flag in my head went off. Cow milking is on my list! When I asked Freeman if he had milking cows, he seemed almost irritated. His milking cow was clearly not high on his cow pedestal. As I learned later, it was the cattle in the pasture that he adored.
"But may I milk your cow?"
Freeman agreed and invited my friends and me to his farm at 6 pm. We toured his tiny house, with his 580- pound wood burning stove. (Freeman was all about numbers)
Then we visited his pasture where he told us some tales, filled with what he called, "Ozark Foolishness". Then finally we returned to his barn as the sun started to lower.
One Milking Cow
As I recall there was only one milking cow.
We took her inside the barn and I'm pretty sure there was a 3 legged stool involved. First Freeman demonstrated and made it look easy.
Looking the Part
The photo makes me look like I'm dressed for the occasion in my red kerchief, but that's actually how I often dressed in 1977. I do think the kerchief sort of makes me look like I knew what I was doing.
I sat down holding the metal cup and firmly pulled down on the teat, but nothing came out. It took a while before I heard that skinny stream of milk hit the metal. I grinned. And so did Freeman when he witnessed my face after sampling a bit of the fresh cow's milk. "Yuck! It's warm!!" As if I hadn't thought it through.
So, 35 years ago I crossed Cow Milking off my list. I sure wish I could remember the name of the first and only cow I ever milked!
A Dangerous Challenge
I must have been in college when I added hopping a train to my bucket list. I couldn't have been younger because in 4th grade I was shown a movie in school which was created to freak children out and make them never go near a train.
I couldn't get the pictures of severed limbs and gravestones out of my mind until I was about 18. Then for some reason it became something, I just wanted to try...very carefully...once.
Is there such a thing as a cautious train hopper?
I was a strange combination of gutsy and practical, back when I was young. I badly wanted to pull off this this stunt, but I wasn't sure how... without being killed or arrested. One spring, I asked my brother to join me for a hike down the tracks.
The tracks that ran behind our house in Webster Groves, Missouri were secluded and not very active, so we had lots of time to ponder. The walk took me back in time, reminding me how I viewed train tracks as a kid.
I may have feared trains when I was younger, but train tracks had always been my friend.
As kids we spent many an hour tightrope walking down the tracks, hunting for discarded rail spikes and other treasures. Sometimes we left a penny on the track to be squashed...even an Italian lire once.
My brother and I never had an opportunity that day.
It would have taken a pretty sluggish train with a wide open boxcar and perhaps a handy bar for gripping... But it was a beautiful day for shutting out the world and hiking the tracks, with my brother.
One More Try
It's always hard finding an agreeable friend when I'm looking for a partner to help reach a goal. On a different day I asked Mark, a good college friend who was willing to kill some time.
We had about the same luck as I had with my brother, but this time we were stopped by a man in a leisure suit and shiny shoes, who flashed his Frisco Lines badge. He told us to get off private property.
Revisiting the Bucket List
Nothing like becoming an empty nester to make you rethink your past goals. I've done a lot of that lately. I've looked at this silly Barbie Bucket List and wondered if there are any unreached goals I could still work towards. Peace Corps? It's possible. There are volunteers in their eighties!
But I'm a lot wiser than I was at 18, so hopping a train is not really on the list anymore. However, I'm all about modification!! Hmm? For the last few months I've driven down Highway 90 in Sugar Land, staring at the parked trains and wishing I could just climb inside an empty box car. But rarely do you see an open door.
A Little Cooperation!
With all my goals, I've needed some cooperation... if not just for support.
On Sunday, July 8, we were driving with our friends towards Houston, on a country road. I spotted a number of abandoned cars. No engine, so no danger, right?
All I had to do was to persuade the driver (my hubby of course) to pull over! I spotted a boxcar with an open door! It helped to have Cliff and Rhona as cheerleaders, so Don made a u-turn and pulled up beside the tracks. I ignored his teasing grumbles... "You owe me..."
After wading through the tall grass in flip-flops, the hardest part was hoisting myself into the boxcar. They don't exactly have steps on these things!
6 Year olds don't play in boxcars...
...but I acted like one for a few minutes, while Rhona snapped the camera.
I took a deep breath and grinned before climbing down. I love that giddy feeling that comes with reaching another goal!
A Check on the List!
Most would never allow that silliness to count for a check on the bucket list, but I got a pretty big thrill out of the experience. And that's all that counts.
I have to thank Cliff and Rhona for egging me on, in my fun. Mostly I have to thank Don, who has never really rolled his eyes at my antics, for 32 years!
Learning From My Adventures
Although I had a silly good time in that train car, I have pondered the inside of that boxcar over these last few days. Hearing the echo and smelling the rust, brought so many images to mind.
Amusing thoughts like train cars filled with straw and circus animals, or more sobering thoughts... crowded boxcars in the depression or the holocaust, or even today with immigrants risking their lives to reach the US. I never understood why I had that goal on my list, but maybe I just wanted the tiniest piece of what it would be like to really need a boxcar.
I did it! I got myself up on a trapeze and did a pose or two! What I did not do was "to be in a trapeze act!" Those are the words written in my original list in the Barbie Diary.
But I think it's an amazing act that I got up on the thing at all at the age of 55. Probably more amazing than that, is the fact I could hang upside down and not throw up. (my biggest fear)
What is also truly amazing is that my biceps were still tender, more than a week after taking the one hour introductory trapeze class!
"I was born in a circus."
I actually uttered those words at age 6, when a friend applauded my jungle gym stunt. I so wanted to believe it. It seemed more of a wish than a lie.
I've had dreams of being in a circus for as long as I can remember. I did more clowning than anything, but I also tried a little stunt work. I got removed from a carousel horse for standing on the saddle when I was about 5. And when I was 13, I bought a unicycle and rode it in the house and down the street for a little amusement. The trapeze was my biggest dream though. And those lousy ones that came attached to yard swing sets, did not take care of my craving.
Despite my dad teaching at Florida State (where you could major in circus) and living summers in Sarasota, (surrounded by Ringling Brothers hoopla) I somehow missed all opportunities to learn the craft.
So, I did what a lot of parents do. I lived through my children and enrolled them in Circus Camp in St. Louis. They were taught by members of Circus Flora. They practiced clowning and tight rope and trapeze and got to know some of the Wallenda children, of the famous "Flying Wallendas" fame!
I watched on with the same envy I used to feel when I was kid and saw children in movies. "Why them and not me?" My kids had fun, but I'm not convinced they craved circus camp as much as I did!
A Groupon Special!
I gave a little gasp of delight when I opened up a Groupon ad one morning and found out there was a school in Houston that offered classes in trapeze.
"It's on my list!" I thought. "How can I not?"
Luckily, my friend Lorrie was game to join me. If I'd been 16 or even 20, I probably would have had lots of friends eager to try trapezing for $10. I'm lucky I have a willing (and younger) friend!
The truth is, the trapeze was less than 6 feet off the floor. But the truth also is...I AM NOT falling off that bar!
That is a graceful move believe it or not and I think my arms have been permanently lengthened.
One more amusing shot!
When Lorrie took this picture, my left arm was sizzling with the pain, but I was feeling amazingly cool as I pointed my toe and reached for the floor with a graceful hand. It wasn't until I saw the photo that I saw the humorous reality of my trapeze work. Once again I look like I am falling to the ground!
I have never felt so young and so old in an hour's time! When I first tensed my arms to lift my chin over the bar, I half expected to lift the 8 year old body that once moved breezily down the monkey bars. Fifty-five! That's how old I felt, as I lifted my weight!
But when we finally got to a sitting position on top of the bar and struck our poses, I felt like that giddy 6 year old who was "born in the circus."
Thanks Lorrie...my partner in crime!
Thanks for trapezing with me! I don't believe that is a word, but I will claim it for what we did!
Trapezing is experiencing the fun of trapeze, when you are not a child anymore!
With great enthusiasm, I will cross this one off my list!
I Jumped, despite the omens!
"I'm alive!" Those 2 words are written at the top of my journal page on May 21, 1978.
I wasn't just remarking that I'd survived my jump from a plane...but I had lived despite the 8 previous attempts which were halted by storms, wind, no-show instructors or other obstacles. It seemed clear, I was being given a message that I should not be attempting this silly endeavor, but I ignored it.
Smiling Before Jump
My friend Mark snapped this smiling picture of me before I headed to the plane.
I was smiling with relief that I was finally getting this over with! Mark had jumped earlier in the day after we re-trained for 2 hours along with a crowd of postponed "first jumpers" who were all quiet and grumpy like me... from the stress of waiting.
For weeks I had been attempting to complete a one day class that would end with an actual jump. Why would I put up with a "school" that looked like a horse stable and had instructors who didn't care about your name...and sometimes didn't show up? I guess because I was a student with a dream and no cash. Webster College had a "Parachute Club" with some funds...crazy.
It was late afternoon by the time my jump was scheduled. The early group got lots of attention. The first jumper had a crowd of students on ground squinting up into the sky. We waited to see that tiny speck of a person leap from the plane. Then we broke the tension with applause when the chute opened instantly.
I was excited for Mark when it was his turn. I gave him a silly toy parachute man to stuff in his pocket for good luck and I congratulated him after landing. But as the day wore on, my enthusiasm disappeared. All my past confidence was replaced with concern. I just knew the winds were going to pick up and my jump would be cancelled. I decided if that happened, I would stop trying.
My good spirits returned when I was finally told it was time to go. As I headed towards the plane I was stopped by a news reporter who had just arrived from Channel 2. Besides Mark and the two guys I was jumping with, all the other students were gone. I had no big cheering group...but hey, I was going to be on TV, with an even bigger audience!
I was nervous enough about jumping without having to come up with clever answers about why I wanted to jump out of a plane. I don't remember what I answered. Something about overcoming a challenge. But I do remember that I laughed about my mother not knowing I was doing this. Early in the morning, I had scribbled an obvious white lie on a piece of paper for my mom. "I've gone to 6 Flags for the day!" (After 8 earlier attempts, Mom had begged me to not tell her anymore)
I climbed in last, after the pilot, the jump master and two other first jumpers. That meant I would be first out! We stuffed into the tiny space like sardines and a moment later the plane roared and took off. I wobbled and my helmet clunked a couple other helmets.
How could I be sharing such a huge experience with people I didn't know? But I suddenly relaxed. I didn't care about them, I just knew I was going to jump and I couldn't stop grinning. When the motor cut, my jump master flipped open the door. He motioned for me to scoot forward. I did, and felt my legs dangling as I stared down at the hazy fields below. I wasn't scared anymore, just numb. I was signaled to climb onto the platform and I remember the feeling of opposite magnets as I pushed my body against the air. The blasting wind was tearing at my cheeks and coveralls. Suddenly there was a slap on my leg and a muffled, "GO!" It was so fast...no time to think. It felt almost refreshing as I arched my back away from the plane....like falling back into a pool on a hot day. No fear, just a feeling of AT LAST!
Did it open?
I was so distracted by the blinding speed of falling that I forgot to count. But when I felt the sudden jolt of the chute, I did remember I was supposed to look up to be sure the chute opened. But I couldn't! Something was tight against the back of my helmet. Did it actually open?
Then suddenly I was twirling, in a comical fashion as my lines untwisted and my head was finally free to look up and see those beautiful stripes on my open chute!
Twisted lines are much better than tangled lines!
A little interference!
I was so delighted to see the chute, I began hollering, "I can't believe it! I did it!" I kicked my legs in a giddy gesture, and grinned out at the view and soaked in the quiet, until the sound of my radio reminded me I was connected with a crew below, and they were probably laughing at me through their binoculars.
"Pull down on your left toggle." crackled the voice. I nervously pulled the right. I didn't want to steer or listen. I just wanted to float.
Then a twangy woman's voice came over the radio. "This is Lady Bug here. Breaker 1-9. How's it lookin' over your donkey, Sweetie Pie?" All I could do was laugh. I'm sure the crew didn't know I suddenly had a better reason than giddiness for not following their instructions!
A Comical Landing
It was only fitting that I would have a less than perfect landing. In the air, I did remember to keep my feet and knees together and my eyes on the horizon. I hit the ground hard and fell. I don't think it was anything like when we practiced.
In our training we spent a lot of time hanging by straps (like cadavers, my journal reads) and making perfect jumps into pits from our mock plane. But my real landing was clumsy and the chute behind me kept filling with air and trying to pull me backwards as I struggled to my feet. But I couldn't stop laughing and luckily Mark was there to snap a few photos as I clutched the parachute cloth like a prize!
I have never jumped again. I figured any other jump would be dull in comparison. But at some point I did make sure to dig out the old Barbie Diary list and give "Parachuting" a check!
First I had to find the Elephant Man.
In the summer of 1978, the Moolah Shriner Circus came to Busch Stadium in St. Louis. The whole parking lot surrounding the stadium was a jungle of trailers and equipment, cages and trucks. I figured if I could wander the lot and find the elephant trainer during off hours, I could at least ask about fulfilling my dream, of riding an elephant.
I was in luck. I came upon a number of elephants being hosed down in preparation for the evening show. Nearby was a curly haired man named Pat Anthony, who appeared to be in charge. He seemed good humored and likable, although he claimed he got into animal training because he preferred animals to people. When I told him my dream was to ride an elephant. He pondered a moment, and then replied "Well...the circus will head to Poplar Bluff tomorrow. Come on out and we'll see what we can do."
Mom in 1978
This photo has nothing to do with my elephant adventure, but it shows Mom in 1978. It shows what a good sport she was... with my silly brother. As it turns out, my mom was the only friend willing to make the 3 hour drive to Poplar Bluff the next day. Mom always loved an adventure!
When we arrived at the town's Junior High football field, Mom parked the car as I took off in search of Pat. I passed by a few Shriners in their festive hats selling tickets. I wandered back through the trailers, eyeing performers warming up on various pieces of equipment. Then I heard it, that wonderful sound of snorting-rumbling elephants!
Pre-Circus in Poplar Bluff
I followed the sound and stopped to ask a young boy if he knew Pat Anthony. I told the boy that Pat said I could ride an elephant. He laughed, "Pat doesn't have anything to do with the elephants!" A sluggish, shirtless man nearby chimed in, "Pat was pullin' your leg. You can't ride an elephant. Joe owns the elephants!" I calmly explained to the boy and man that I'd just driven 3 hours to ride an elephant. Suddenly, the sluggish laughed and pointed with new energy. "Well here Pat comes."
I turned to face Pat who was walking towards me with a grin. I could hear Sluggish Man under his breath, "I can't wait to hear this. She better chew him out." I firmly told Pat I had come to ride. "Of course you can." he answered, as he moved towards a weathered trailer. He knocked on the door and we waited. Eventually, a scowling man with jet black hair and tattooed arms answered. He mumbled about being woken from a nap. It took some convincing, but Joe finally agreed to get me up on an elephant.
I rushed to get Mom from the car. She snapped photos as I giddily approached the giant beast. I grinned to watch the elephant bend her front legs, so that her head dropped lower to the ground. Joe instructed me to step on the bent leg and reach for the strap. I swung my right leg up and over to straddle the neck. In my younger years I'd done a lot of bareback riding on horses, but this just felt comical. The thickness of this dear animal's neck! The feel of those lively ears, flapping at my legs! And then the awkward lift, as the body moved to stand upright again! Oh how I wanted to throw my head back and howl with joy... but Joe's irritated expression kept me slightly under control.
So Pat Anthony kept his word, that he'd get me on that elephant. I'm not sure I can ever claim that I "rode" this sweet beast. As you can see Joe didn't bother to unchain her poor ankle. Those chains still make me sad.
But as captive elephants do, this one swayed and moved forward and back and forward and back and I wobbled and laughed and loved every moment. I think what I loved most of all was how irritated Joe was when he made the command for the elephant to lower... and my sweet elephant friend refused. I hoped she would never bend down again!
I chose to believe my dream had been fulfilled! After climbing down, Mom and I walked away chuckling at the silliness of the whole event. Before long we were seated in the flimsy stands to watch the circus. The Poplar Bluff scene was a bit different than the St. Louis version. As my diary reads, "Pudgy girls wobbled over the soggy grass in their sparkly costumes...their spiked heels sinking with each step... Local high school students
squeaked out on instruments and struggled to keep the beat as a bored ring master sang dated circus favorites, into a microphone..."
I remember how the timing was off, with everything from music to stunts. Even the audience seemed disinterested. Before long, it rained and the circus was called off, before the elephants or the canon. But my mother and I huddled under an umbrella and watched as they "struck" the show. We saw "Miss Lydia" of the rope act. There she was, suddenly part of the crew, wearing her stretch shorts and no wig.
We chatted with some trapeze men from Sarasota who claimed to know some friends of ours from Florida. As odd as the show had seemed, I was still sad to see it end. And luckily the negative mood that seemed to surround Mom and me, had no effect on us at all. So off to dinner we went, glowing with the memories of our funny circus adventure!
My Circus Kids
Years later my own kids had made their own circus and elephant memories. They rode Flora, a beautiful young African elephant. She was the star of St. Louis based, "Circus Flora". A few years later, they took classes from some of the performers... members of the famous Flying Wallendas family!
But over the years most of us have learned a lot about the treatment of circus animals. I'm glad to know that abuse is no longer accepted in training. I'm especially glad to know that although Flora was never abused, she now lives in an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee.
Later... a Different Kind of Encounter
My kids are grown and married now. All of our elephant riding days are over.
In 2017, our family traveled to Thailand and had a very different Elephant Encounter. My daughter-in-law arranged for us to visit a sanctuary where we were invited to feed and bathe elephants.
Mom would have so enjoyed this adventure!
The Nutty Balloonist
I spent 2 days convincing a nutty balloonist that I needed to ride! In the summer of 1974, I spent an agonizing number of hours being a Balloon Groupie in hopes of earning a ride. The Briarwood Mall had a two day promotion, each day ending with a hot air balloon launch.
During the day hours, a wacky balloonist named Mike partially filled his red, white and blue balloon inside the Mall, allowing children to play inside between blasts of hot air. I did more than my share of kid corralling for him. Then I helped lug equipment to the parking lot in the evening, reminding Mike repeatedly that I would love to go up in the balloon, since it was my dream... "Yeah, you and everyone else," he reminded me.
The first evening I was hopeful...
... until the mall manager suddenly arrived in his leisure suit, expecting a ride. I watched the balloon lift above me and drove home with twice the
I returned the second day for the same routine. Mike and his crew were growing amused by my overdone enthusiasm. But that evening after helping in the parking lot, two other "VIP" men arrived for their complimentary rides. Mike shrugged at my disappointed face. I continued helping the crew untangle some ropes.
Mike and the two men climbed into the basket while I helped the crew hold onto the wicker. Voices hollered orders over the blasts of the
burner. I was ready to step back and watch when Mike looked at me and chuckled softly. "Oh, get in." I scrambled over the edge and smooshed myself into a corner. "I've never had four in this basket." Mike laughed.
As we lifted above the heads of the small crowd, Mike suddenly put his foot on the lip of the basket and hoisted himself on the edge. "Whoo Hoo!" he hollered as he playfully reached for a dangling string above. I think he was just pretending to slip as he placed his feet on the tilting basket, then twisted and jerked into a falling pose. He laughed as he climbed back into safety. I was relieved to have an excuse to shriek and release a little of the exuberance bottled inside. With Mike back inside, the balloon lifted higher and caught a flow of wind moving it over a nearby meadow.
I really don't know how long we floated. I do remember the chase truck following us below on country roads.
I remember the silence when the burner was turned off and we drifted above fields and then the sound of the wind against the balloon, and then Mike's voice, bragging... about how he was the only balloonist to ever survive hitting power lines.
I'm not sure I picked the best pilot for my very first ballooning experience. I only pondered that worry for a moment. Suddenly it was time to land and Mike showed a bit of concern. "We're going fast." He announced firmly. "We can land this like a baby, if we all get on the opposite side and duck!" My nerves made me laugh with that suggestion. There was no where for any of us to move.
Suddenly we scrambled to the floor and the basket hit with a jerk and it felt like a million bodies on top of me, as we bounced and tumbled along the ground. Instead of panic, I felt a giddy wave of giggles and I tried to suppress them. The basket suddenly stopped and I couldn't move under the wieght. Mike yelled, "Put out the pilot!" The flame was burning near the oat field, where we had landed and Mike was suddenly out stomping as I crawled free. I ould see a huge path of ruined oats, where the basket had been dragging. The truck arrived and the heavy basket was heaved into the truck bed. Moments later, I was sitting in the back, grinning as the truck bumped down the dusty road. I was thrilled with every strong swerve, that gave me an excuse to hug the wicker basket once more.
Back at the Mall
I couldn't stop thanking Mike and the crew. Mike told me to be quiet. He claimed (with a grin) that the only reason he told me to get in was that he thought I was going to cry. And I probably would have.
I said good bye and headed to my car, making no attempts to hide my Dorothy style skip. Just before I reached the car I saw a little girl point to me and tell her mother. "Look, there's the balloon girl." I have never had a prouder title!
In 1974 at the age 16, I dug out my "on-going notepad-diary" and scribbled a frantic list. I remember the inspiration behind the list.
Earlier that day I had experienced my first actual HOT AIR BALLOON sighting! The image of that magical balloon and basket floating over my backyard completely undid me. If I had been 16 in 2012, I would have been on the internet googling hot air balloons.
I was dizzy with the notion that I had to find a way to go up in a balloon... but how? For starts, I raced around the house proclaiming to my family, "Out of all things I want to do in my life... my number 1 thing is to ride in a balloon!!" This led me to wondering what else should be on my list.
My Barbie Bucket List, couldn't have been more scrambled and complicated, with all the updates and added notes. My frantic cursive looks like that of an 8 year old. But when I see those scribbles, I'm reminded of the whacky teenager I was back then.
When some peers wished for romantic things or set proper goals, my head spun with craziness. I wanted to do things, try things, own things... And these things weren't exactly simple things to do, try and have. Below is the most complete list that I found in that silly Barbie Diary.
#1 - to take a ride in a balloon
#2 - to ride on an elephant
#3 - to live with an Amish family
#4 - to own a mannequin
$5 - to parachute
#6 - to lose 20 pounds ( my teen angst showing!)
#7 - to own a monkey
#8 - to go on an African safari
#9 - to star in a movie
#10 - to be in a trapeze act
#11 - to milk a cow
#12 - to ride a unicycle
#13 - to hop a train
#14 - to join the Peace Corps
How Many Checks?
I can only give about 5 full checks to this list. Ballooning, elephant riding and cow milking were achieved with bold coaxing, which is hard for a shy girl.
Unicycling and parachuting required some saved money and lots of practice and nerve.
So in the following posts, I'll use some inspiration from my old diaries and a few faded photos. I'll blog about my bizarre mix of achievements. Some thrilling and some just plain odd accomplishments. I've added about 5 more partially checked goals. I'm not a teenager anymore, but I had some fun with some lame half attempts, in recent years!
Who knows? Maybe it's not too late for that safari. And I've heard there are people older than me, in the Peace Corps! We'll see!
BARBIE BUCKET LIST
I was 8 years old when I got this embarrassing Barbie diary ... about 2 years before my real DIARY YEARS. (12 years of never missing a day) I was more into Trolls than Barbie, so I stashed it in a drawer and forgot about it.
Over the years my family moved numerous times and this super mod diary ended up burried in boxes over and over. For at least 12 years, whenever I ran across it, I would grab a pencil and jot down something ridiculous on the corresponding day. It was like a never ending doodle pad, fillled with more nonsense than reflection. The penmanship and horrendous spelling makes it difficult to read today, but the best discovery is a Bucket List that began on April 27, 1974!
Click on THE BEGINNING to see the LIST and how it evolved.