Growing up, the six of us had many fears. There was always something lurking under the bed or hiding in the closet. Pick one. Any creature hiding in the shadows would gladly kill you––or worse.
Anyone who offered you candy was a rapist-murderer. Running, frantically flailing your arms, and screaming at the top of your lungs and was the only proper response.
Polio was a big fear. Roy’s older cousin had it, and after many surgeries, her arm was only partially usable. His Great Aunt had it as a child and had to use a crutch the rest of her life. She was also really irritating, but he doesn’t think the disease had anything to do with that.
Iron lungs were a big fear, but we weren’t sure how you ended up in one. Was it because of blowing out your lungs after the stranger offered candy? Who knows, but we assumed there were iron spleens and iron bladders, too, and wondered why no one ever talked about those.
Stepping on nails or anything rusty meant certain lockjaw—evil tetanus. Your jaw would lock tight, you couldn’t eat, and you’d die unless you got a series of shots directly into your stomach with a giant needle. Death had to be less painful.
Lightning would get you anywhere. Under a tree. In the open. By a window. Touching metal. Holding a lightning rod. The only good thing was that lightning never struck the same place twice. Which meant there was always a chance for that.
But our biggest fear of all was quicksand.
The evil stuff popped up in every movie, serial, TV show, and comic book. Roy Rogers, Gene Autrey, Batman, even Daisy Duke– they all seemed to walk into it. Fortunately, there would be a low hanging branch from a tree in the middle of the desert, or their handy whip to snap out and grab something, or a trusty horse that would bravely come to the edge of the quicksand pit so they could grab its reins or the rope on its saddle – and these heroes would escape.
Tarzan always ran into quicksand, so you had to watch your step in the jungle. We all assumed we’d spend a good deal of time in a jungle somewhere. Although quicksand seemed the least of our worries, we faced the possibility of visiting the jungles of Vietnam.
Fortunately for Tarzan, he always had Cheetah to yell, “Cheetah! Timba! Ungawah!” which loosely translated meant “Run like hell and swing through the trees and find an elephant who can pull me out of this crap. Or at least toss me a vine.”
The bad guys in the jungle never seemed to have an elephant to save them. The American hunters with mid-Atlantic British accents would always go down, leaving only their pristine white safari hat floating on the surface.
So, when we see a muddy spot on the trails, we skirt it, warn the others of impending danger, and hastily move along. We had all been well-schooled by the screens of our youth.
We didn’t think quicksand would be a constantly recurring threat for us later in life. But Trailheads know better.