On the Shoulders of a Mad Man

“Bob, I want you to have the honor of being on my shoulders as I attempt to cross Niagara Falls on a tight-rope.”

“What do you mean, attempt? Are you planning on falling?”

“No, no, attempt’s the wrong word, we’ll make it.”

“I am honored you’d pick me, Sam. I’m honored that you want me part of this, and flattered you’d think I’m insane enough to say, ‘yes’.”

“Well, there’s no one I’d rather have on my shoulders as we make history: the first two-man double crossing of Niagara Falls!”

Double crossing? Haven’t you made your point just getting across the first time?”

“No no, The Great Blondin’s already done a single crossing and I couldn’t get an American visa, so I just gotta get over there and back before the American immigration get me.”

“Well, I’m American, so maybe I could just stay over there, take a taxi back and you could do the rope alone.”

“You’ll go one way, but not back? What’s the difference?”

“I just think one way’s enough.”

“What’s that matter, you think I’d fall? Have you ever seen me fall off the rope?”

“Not off the rope, but, I’ve seen you trip over your own shoelaces, so…”

“That was on pavement. I’m better on the rope.”

“I know, you’re a master, but, what’s to guarantee we make it?”

“I guarantee if we don’t make it, you can have my house.”

“I’ll enjoy its ownership as I’m falling to my death. But, if we do fall, I forgive you.”

“You won’t have to. I got this.”

“Still, if you slip, or I slip, it’s cool. I chose to come. But only one way.”

“The Great Blodin did one way way back in 1859, what’s the point? Let’s do two!”

“If The Great Blodin couldn’t do two… supposedly they just survived one- his back-man called it ‘a nightmare’. They had to hold on to the guy all the-”

“We’re not using guy ropes or mechanics.”

“Are you crazy- what?”

“It’s not crazy when we make it. Guy ropes are cheating. Just one rope, two ways, legends. Come on.”

“If The Great Blodin could barely manage one way-”

“Forget Blodin. I’ve been practicing carrying a knapsack filled with one hundred pounds-”

“I’m 225 pounds, look at me, I’m a big guy. I know you’re strong, but, come on, Sam.”

“Let me finish- I started with 100 pounds, now I’m up to 200 and, so, I’m ready.”

“I’m 225.”

“I can do 200 pounds back and forth and back again, but it’s better to get arrested on the Canadian side.”

“We’re going to get arrested? Didn’t you get permission?”

“No. So, get ready for a little jail time and a slight $10,000 fine, but, I’ve found a private donor who’ll cover the fine and bail us out. We’re fine, we’re great.”

“Let’s go one way and see how we feel when we get there. Why don’t you carry something else back, like a live deer or a hive of bees or something?”

That Saturday morning, Sam and Bob, with help from a team of riggers working on both the Canadian and the American side, stretched a half inch rope across the Niagara River, just above the Falls. Bob hopped on Sam’s back who took his first steps on the rope. The start was always hardest for Sam, who bobbed and weaved, his thighs quivered, his bare feet trembled in a blur as they fought desperately to keep their grip on the rope. Bob held on to Sam for dear life. The crowd of curious on both sides of the border held its collective breath.

Finally Sam found his footing, steadied himself, then set the pair in motion. Bob clung to Sam’s back, eyes closed, too terrified to look. Until he could hear the people wildly applauding and hollering. They’d made it. Sam had already taken four steps on the escarpment before Bob opened his eyes. He saw a crowd of maybe 1000 people cheering them. Bob also saw a team of police and immigration officers coming for them. So did Sam who waved to the crowd before turning back to the rope.

“You coming back, or am I taking the bee hive?” Sam turned his head, still giving Bob a piggyback.

Bob wanted to witness the crossing, regretting he’d kept his eyes shut the whole way. “Let’s go,” he said tapping Sam on the shoulder.

They didn’t get very far. Sam took two steps on the rope before Bob sneezed violently, causing Sam to slip and the men fell into the Falls.

Falling, Sam thought he should have gone back with the bee hive.


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