Hearing my friends’ stories brought to mind one of my own humorous, near-death experiences (yes, there have been others) which occurred on a vacation when I was fourteen. The three-day drive from Texas to central Oregon with six people in a Rambler station wagon was in and of itself a test of survival. But survive it we did and, after a couple of days rest, were pronounced fit enough to trek on over to the Oregon coast and visit the sand dunes.
When we arrived at the coast and I saw the beautiful, windswept dunes reaching gracefully for the sky, I was impressed. And when I saw people scurrying all over them like ants on an anthill, I decided dune running must be great fun. Five hundred people couldn’t be wrong.
I followed my two younger cousins—native Oregonians and veteran dune runners—up a steep ascent and took in the view from the summit. Funny how that anthill now seemed more like a mountain. A very tall mountain. I mumbled something about needing to catch my breath and encouraged my cousins to go ahead. I watched them make their way to the bottom with no problems. It didn’t appear to be particularly threatening. Surely, if they could do it, I could. I started my descent on a run.
What I hadn’t observed—and what no one had bothered to tell me—was that you don’t run straight down a seventy-degree incline. You zigzag. Twenty feet into my run, my arms were circling like windmill blades in a gale, and my legs were pumping at full capacity in an effort to catch up with my head. Thirty feet into my run, my life flashed before me and I hit the sand face first, coming to a stop only after completing three head-over-heel revolutions.
Lying flat on my back in the sand, all I wanted was to recover my breath and take an inventory of my body parts. See if they were all intact. But I didn’t do that. And I’ll bet you know what exactly what I did do. I sat up and looked around to see if anyone was watching.
OF COURSE, THEY WERE WATCHING! They probably hadn’t been that entertained since seeing The Flying Wallendas on the Ed Sullivan Show. Five hundred people, eyes wide, mouths agape, stared while I smiled and acted as if I did this sort of thing every day. Then I stood up and with great dignity wobbled to the bottom of the dune.
Once family members realized I wasn’t dead, they started laughing. They laughed on the drive back home from the coast; they laughed all the way to Texas. Weeks later, as I continued to remove sand from body orifices, they continued to laugh. In fact, just a few weeks ago, my sister said, “Remember the time you fell down the sand dune in Oregon?” and started chuckling.
Almost fifty years after that incident, she’s still laughing. And to prove my point, I’m alive and laughing as I write this post.