Mom liked to brag about me when I was a teen, telling her friends at the Post Office about what a daredevil I was. I obviously got it from her, and I think that's why she enjoyed it so much. Her Utah co-workers enjoyed the days she would stop in at work on her day off to pick something up and she would happen to bring me with her. We would stop and chat a while at each of the carrier cases and I would watch them laugh together like the old friends they were. Wendy and Jo Ann were my favorite carriers other than Lynn, otherwise known as "Pee Wee" at 6'5" tall, and Dale. They weren't just my mothers friends. When I went in there, they were MY friends too.
They all decided to have an office picnic one year out at the lake. Mom and Dad had a boat that they brought out with them and we spent a day eating hot dogs over an open fire, going for boat rides, slathering up with the sun block and playing in the water. When my mother found out that Dale would be bringing his SeaDoo though, she told him ahead of time that I was her little daredevil.
"Scare her, Dale. Scare the $hit out of her," she said to him without my knowledge.
"Really," he asked. "Are you sure?"
"Yeah, scare her as much as you can. She doesn't get scared of anything. Just have fun out there and abuse her a bit."
"Dale, just do it."
"Ok, Beth - you asked for it." He thought for a moment. "Just don't be mad at me for it."
Dale saw me coming up the beach and asked me if I'd like to go for a ride on the back of his Seadoo. I had never been on one so I jumped at the chance. It sounded like a lot of fun to me! For a few years I had been the only one in my family able to get up on the knee board. I had jumped many waves in the inner tube. I'd mastered the art of getting up on the water skis. I loved water sports in any form and this was one I'd never had the chance to try but always wanted to.
"When are we going," I asked Dale, ready to spring into action like a dog eager to go for a walk. I nearly pranced with excitement.
"Let me finish my burger," he mumbled through a very full mouth. Bits of honey oat hamburger bun fell out onto the sand only to be quickly snatched up by the Utah State Bird, the California Sea Gull. I always have laughed at that fact, the Utah State bird being from another state entirely.
He finished eating and it was all I could do not to drag him to the water monster waiting on the sandy strip below. We climbed on board with my mother shouting "Hang on, 'Manda," over behind me. I barely heard her. I hooked my hands into the back of Dale's life jacket and away we went.
Dale took it easy at first. He asked if I was ok, and I would shout back that I was fine and that so far it was fun. Each time that exchange of words took place, I could feel the gas revving a bit more. Pretty soon I felt like we were doing a whole 15 miles and hour. It was a very mild ride.
My Dad went screaming past in the boat and I shouted to Dale that I just knew we could catch up to him. Suddenly the challenge was on. Dale slowly started to increase speed and within a minute, we were doing around 30 miles an hour. I was squealing with delight, fully ready to go faster and overtake my Dad.
Dad killed the motor to the boat ahead as one of Mom's coworkers climbed over the side and prepared to try water skiing. Dale and I went speeding past and kept on going. We turned around just in time to see Dad taking off, creating a wake behind him. Dale goosed it, I held tight to his life jacket, and we hit the wake at around 35 miles an hour. The jet ski soared into the air higher than I thought was possible. We sailed with nothing under us but air, finally landing with an abrupt sputter and jerk as we took off through the water once more. I squealed with delight, screaming at Dale about how much fun that was and that I wanted to do it again.
He took wave after wave, increasing speed each time I squealed with delight. Finally we wiped out and both of us tumbled in a syncronized cartwheel formation over the surface. We splashed into the water and I came up laughing. The jet ski was close by and we both swam over to where it rested.
"Ok," Dale said to me when we managed to climb back onto it, "I think I'm going to let you take it out on your own for a while."
We cruised at a low speed back to the shore where Dale made a direct line to my mother. Talking with animated hand movements, I knew he was telling her the stories of our hour long ride. He asked her if it was ok for me to take it on my own for a bit, then walked over to show me how it worked. I couldn't wait to get it out in the open.
What I didn't know was exatly what they had talked about.
"I tried, Beth. I really tried," he said to my mother. "I even scared myself a few times, but I couldn't seem to scare her at all. When we wiped out, she came up laughing and I came up thankful to be alive! She's a tough kid, Beth. I don't think you have to worry about her."
"That's what worries me," she said to him. "Without being afraid, how far will she push it?"
I took the jet ski out for hours that day. I went all over that lake on a motorized vehicle - the first time in my life I had ever had something with power completely to myself. I didn't have to answer to anyone or listen to directions. There was no "Go here" or "head there" or "you're going too fast" that I expected to hear the first time I ever drove anything with a motor. I didn't have a back seat driver - it was just me and the open water of Pine View Dam. What glory!
I flirted with boys, I cruised into the docks, I wandered from finger to finger among the many that made up all of Pine View. I coasted through reeds, watched for fish, jumped boat wakes and had a glorious day.
"Hey," one of the boys of a passing boat shouted out. "Can I have a ride?" I looked around. I didn't see anyone from my group close by, so I told him to go for it. He lept over the side of his family boat and dove with grace and ease into the murky, dark water. When he surfaced, I told him that I wouldn't take him anywhere unless he was wearing a life vest. His brother tossed one in the water beside him and he pulled it on. He was very fit and was probably a basketball player in High School, tall and lean. He pulled himself onto the jet ski with ease. He wrapped his arms around my mid section and we took off like a rocket. I felt him as he smashed his face against the back of my shoulder and hung on for dear life.
"You ok," I shouted back to him after a little way out.
"Yeah," he said quietly. I slowed down.
"Seriously, are you ok," I said, turning to look at him. His face was white.
"I've never been on one of these things before," he admitted sheepishly. "I didn't know they would go that fast." I didn't dare tell him I'd never been on one before that day, too.
I took him around at a lower speed for a while, jumping wakes and exploring the lake. After about an hour I took him back to the boat and he thanked me with a kiss on the cheek.
I never really thought of myself as a tough kid before that. I was certainly adventurous, but to have scared a High School jock when I was only 15 years old by driving a Sea Doo over water - water! That substance that gives when you land on it! - really drove home a point to me. I guess most people just can't handle the adrenaline rush of it all.
I never stopped looking for that adrenaline rush. I love Zombie movies and haunted houses. I love pretending to be the toughest person in a group no matter how frightened I really am.
Mark Twain once said "Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear."
My story is not to say that I didn't feel fear. I wasn't numb to being afraid - but the fear made the ride more fun for me. In certain moments of extreme danger I'm smart enough to get away when needed, wise enough to protect others when that's more urgent, and determined enough to stay until I see it through to the very end whenever possible.
I wondered for the briefest of seconds if I would break my neck as I tumbled end over end, turning somersaults and cartwheels over the water beside Dale. As my feet dipped into the wave and my body twisted its fall to follow, I knew that fear had no real meaning. I would be fine, even though I had bruises on my body for weeks.
The fun outweighed the fear. The adventure outweighed the pain. The determination outweighed the danger.
That's how I live my life, one wave at a time.