Sunday, May 29, 2011

Royal Gorge Holiday Creates Royal Fright and Mutism

From Wikipedia: The Royal Gorge (also Grand Canyon of the Arkansas) is a canyon on the Arkansas River near Cañon City, Colorado. With a width of 50 feet (15 m) at its base and a few hundred feet at its top, and a depth of 1,250 feet (380 m) in places, the 10-mile-long canyon is a narrow, steep gorge through the granite of Fremont Peak. It is one of the deepest canyons in Colorado. Hop the train for a 24-mile round-trip within the canyon and see everything first hand. Here is where you'll find the incredible history of this great Colorado attraction.

royal - adjective - one of three definitions: a : of superior size, magnitude, or quality <a patronage of royal dimensions — J. H. Plumb> —often used as an intensive <a royal pain> 

The scene is set:
Memorial Day Weekend - 1971

My little family drove cross-country for a Western tour to visit my brother-in-law and his wife living in Colorado Springs and then on to California to visit my childhood friend and her husband to celebrate their 25th Anniversary. We hadn't seen each other since we were young girls of 11, although we wrote to each other every other week (back in the days of hand-written letters!).  We planned on visiting as many local attractions as time would allow along the way and Santa's "North Pole" Workshop located at the base of Pike's Peak in Cascade, CO was going to be a special treat for my girls. (Well, us, too, but we were grown-ups and couldn't really admit that we wanted to see the Workshop, too! And, of course, we signed up for a Letter from Santa that the girls would receive in December!) It was my brother-in-law's idea that we also visit Royal Gorge, a tourist attraction that was very different from the entertainment park you see, today. But, this scene is pretty close to the 1,250 feet of space that you would see, if you bent over the parapet at the end of what was a dirt and stone road on the mountain side opposite the train ride. That's what it was -- no buildings, no market, no bathrooms -- nothing but a parapet just under the height of a 3-1/2-year old child.
Since my husband really wanted to visit with his brother and didn't particularly care to spend too much time on the parapet, we divided parent-care duties. He was off to the side next to the car with his brother and my youngest; I had my 5-1/2 year-old in hand as we looked out at the cable car suspended over the Gorge. We could also see the train beginning it's ascent on the opposite wall.
My daughter and I  both decided we preferred standing on old terra firma as the best way to enjoy this incredible view. It was a gorgeous day and we also chatted a bit with the two or three other families next to us. Precise timing is lost but the numbness, the tremors, and all the horror of that day is as real to me, now, as it was then.

My oldest and I were just talking about who-knows-what, but chat we did, until I felt the pounding fill my body and heard the very soft voice telling me to turn around. Never letting go of my daughter's hand, I pivoted just enough to look toward my husband and his brother and my youngest -- No, I wasn't seeing my youngest daughter, at all! Nowhere! He was busily discussing whatever it is brother's busily discuss but my baby wasn't anywhere to be seen! I couldn't breathe. I couldn't cry out. My mouth went tight and my eyes begin to fill with tears. Where was she? Why are they chatting and laughing? He was supposed to be holding her hand! Where could she be? Where -- oh, shit! those are her -- her FINGERTIPS on the other side of the parapet wall near them! Oh, shit. Oh, damn. Oh, hell. Oh. My. GOD!! I'm screaming inside my head!

I don't know how the next happened, but you will never convince me I don't have a Guardian Angel -- don't even try.  Somehow, I leaned down to my oldest and quietly told her to run to her father -- NOW! I then moved as quickly as I possibly could over to my baby's fingertips. I looked over the parapet to the site you see above, except now you have to image a chubby little 3-1/2-year-old toddler, face flat against the stones, feet dangling above a whole lot of nothing but 1,250 feet of empty space beneath her! Can you do that?

Somewhere buried in my subconscious (my Guardian Angel) was the knowledge that I couldn't show panic. Of its own volition, my voice very calmly said, "If you're through looking at the cracks in the stones, now, I can help you up, Sweetie," and  my precious little baby said, "Okay, Mommy, 'cause I'm really tired, now."  While talking to her, my hands were grasping her forearms. I pulled her straight up and into my arms and held her -- just held her -- for hours, days, months, years, I just don't remember how long. I couldn't let go. I couldn't talk, but I do remember one lady coming over to me and wondering how I had remained so calm. I could only nod because I couldn't talk.

It wasn't really his fault. I knew my husband was also in shock. I knew I would forgive him for not paying more attention. But, not right then because I couldn't talk. And, I truly believe that that's what saved my marriage. I couldn't talk.


  1. It's true...mothers can do anything. That's a truly heart-stopping story.
    I wonder if all moms have stories like that about their children? It doesn't matter what the scene, when we perceive our babies are in danger we really can do wonders. I have images of my crawling daughter at the edge of the sidewalk of a busy city she got there is a long story. She's 39 this month and remembers nothing of it.

  2. WHEW - that's quite a story. Guardian angel? A mothers intuition? Doesn't really matter how we label it, something truly amazing happened that day. I would hazard a guess that almost every mother has a similar (if not so dramatic) example of this kind of experience. I know I do.

  3. I thought I already had commented here. But I have to admit that I doubt that I would have been that cool :-)

    Have a great day!

  4. I hereby dub thee "Overlord" - a blogger changing the world one post at a time. Please come by and pick up your award.

  5. Blogger ate my comment - I'll try again. That's an amazing story - there's no denying a mother's love and capability to protect her children.

    And your photos are amazing - Mother Nature is truly a grand lady!

    I'm dropping in from the fest - nice to meet you!

  6. Dear Lord! My heart is pounding in my chest!! I'm so glad that story has a happy ending... (whew)

    BTW, thank you so much for the sweet comment over at my blog - I truly appreciate that! I hope you're having a relaxing weekend and take care...

    Thanks again!

    :-) Anna

  7. Omg! I held my breath through your entire story. Check out my other blog at