Hey Bob, Go Jump in a Lake


I used to be reckless. I don’t mean “float a check to Costco the day before payday” reckless, I mean “jump from the fifth floor balcony of an apartment building into the pool” reckless. Like most people in their teens and twenties, I assumed I was indestructible and immortal. I’ve always had a thing for speed and heights, and the more death-defying the stunt, the more it intrigued me.

Thirty-something years ago I was clocked on my short, pool-style skateboard doing 45 mph down the big hill on Adobe Road in my high school town, shaking off the high-speed wobbles like an astronaut gutting it through reentry into the atmosphere, wearing only a hockey helmet and White Mule gardening gloves for protection. I was known—hell, counted on—as the kid who could jump off his skateboard over an MG and land on it on the other side to win a six pack of Beck’s in the liquor store parking log.

Jumping my Stingray bike off a ramp to clear an irrigation ditch, a la Evel Knievel, climbing a 150-foot radio tower to steal the red light from the top, standing on a kitchen stool on a skim board being towed by a ski boat. That’s how I got my kicks. Adrenaline was my drug of choice.

But now? Here, in the marshmallowy goo of middle age responsibility and the increasing effects of gravity? I can’t even be persuaded to ride the Zipper at the carnival. Some internal mechanism acts like a governor on my stock car of thrill-seeking, and I’m no longer drawn to the towering rope swings over the river or the spires of rock overlooking the brutal canyons of the Bitterroot Valley.

And it’s not just the fear of injury or failure that I’m talking about. It’s the actual desire that’s been somehow tamped down over the years. The things that used to turn me on have turned on me. Speed makes me nervous. High places give me the jim-jams. Risky behavior now amounts to eating jalapeños on my nachos without taking a Prevacid first.

So when my family and I discovered a group of 12-foot rocks lining a deep stretch of Lake Como this weekend, I wasn’t the first one in the canoe to suggest we stop and take a few jumps. My kids had to impel me up those rocks to try and reawaken that sleeping daredevil within.

It took me only one jump.

Here, in the marshmallowy goo of middle age, I go. COWABUNGA!

Here, in the marshmallowy goo of middle age, I go. COWABUNGA!

Lake Como is incredibly deep (somewhere near the bottom the fish actually start speaking Chinese), with steep drop offs around its perimeter. The water is pretty clear (dirty martini clear, not gin clear) so you can see any underwater obstacles. There were none. This was a perfect jumping rock, a spot that could only be discovered from the water, not from the trail up above. We tied off the canoe and scrambled up to the top.

Everyone looked at me to lead the way. My wife and kids have all been bored to death over the years by my stories of cliff diving at Lake Havasu, platform diving at the Olympic sized pool at Lava Hot Springs outside Pocatello, and spinning off the superhuman rope swing across the lake from the campground at Lake Alva. It was time to nut up or shut up.

I hitched up my trunks, clenched my pucker string tight, and jumped. My whoop was cut short when I crashed into the water, but I was already laughing when I surfaced. “Yeah!” Rusty was already in the air as I started swimming to shore. As I clambered back up to the top, still laughing, I felt that middle-aged fear and trepidation sluice off me like so much lake water.

“Watch this!” I called out, my inner 14-year-old taking over. I took a few steps and leaped off the highest point, and threw my head back to spin a gainer.

I almost made it.

My rotate-ometer is totally out of whack from lack of use, and I miscalculated my flip. I came around a bit short, and smacked my face on the water. Not a big deal, but I realized I’d been sticking the tip of my tongue out for a little English. The impact made me bite it so hard that I came up spitting blood.

“That wath fun!” I yelled. “Ruthty! Let’th thee a flip!”

I drifted out of the landing zone and he obliged, launching into a front flip. Front flips are the hardest, because you can’t see where you’re going to gauge your landing. My fearless boy actually did a one-and-a-quarter, slapping the water with a brutal belly flop. We all sucked in a gasp, and I swam toward him.

He surfaced with a grimace, then pure panic bloomed on his face. He’d knocked the wind out of himself. I reached out and lightly hooked him under the arm to make sure he could stay afloat until his breath came back. His eyes were as big as silver dollars as he grunted in pain, waiting for his diaphragm to relax so he could suck in some air. We worked our way to the shore where we climbed out and took stock of his injuries.

His face and chest were pink where he’d smacked the water. His head hurt a little, he said. After a few minutes of rest he climbed up onto his paddleboard and tooled around the area, seemingly no worse for wear. But he was finished with jumping.

Not me. I tried to keep my tongue in my mouth while I made a few more jumps. I dove a few times, and that carried me a good ten feet underwater. It felt great to recapture that skinny young stunt man I used to be, if only for an hour.

But it also made me realize that life just isn’t as rewarding when you always play it safe.

Since we got home from the lake I’ve been trying to keep that reckless feeling stoked, and it’s bringing back a real edge to my day to day life.

Hell, just yesterday I had a tostada with jalapeños, Prevacid be damned.



   Check out all of Bob Wire’s posts in his blog archive.


Have an off-white Christmas with Bob Wire.Think of it as Gonzo meets Hee Haw: Missoula honky tonker Bob Wire holds forth on a unique life filled with music, parenthood, drinking, sports, working, marriage, drinking, and just navigating the twisted wreckage of American culture. Plus occasional grooming tips. Like the best humor, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes silly, sometimes surreal, sometimes savage, Bob Wire demands that you possess a good sense of humor and an open mind.

Bob Wire has written more than 500 humor columns for a regional website over the last five years, and his writing has appeared in the Missoulian, the Missoula Independent, Montana Magazine, and his own Bob Wire Has a Point Blog. He is a prolific songwriter, and has recorded three CDs of original material with his Montana band, the Magnificent Bastards. His previous band, the Fencemenders, was a popular fixture at area clubs. They were voted Best Local Band twice by the Missoula Independent readers poll. Bob was voted the Trail 103.3/Missoulian Entertainer of the Year in 2007.

You can hear his music on his website, or download it at iTunes, Amazon, and other online music providers. Follow @Bob_Wire on Twitter.


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