Fire in the Hole

I remember riding Fire in the Hole as a kid when it first opened.

It was the summer of 1972. I would have been 8 years old, just finishing the 2nd grade. I remember going with my family and my cousin’s family. I think I rode the roller coaster with my brother, Perry. I was scared silly! I remember the smell of the water and the dripping sounds, the darkness and then the loud crashes of glass breaking and the pop of gunshots. I remember seeing the poor fellow with his bloomers hanging out the window yelling after his wife told him to put his pants on, “The durn Baldknobbers took them!”

We rounded a couple of corners, then I heard a train whistle. Then I saw the light. My heart leapt into my chest when I realized a train was coming right for us! I buried my head behind my brother’s shoulder but peeked out in time to see the light come at us then over us as we dropped. I swear I saw the engine of the train fly right over my head!

The ride was over soon after with the loud voice booming, “Fire in the hole!” and a splash at the bottom of what seemed at the time a large drop. As the train rolled to a stop, we got out. My legs were shaking, but I wanted to ride again!

Roller Coasters. They have been a joyful experience over my years as a kid and an adult. As an older adult, I can’t ride the ones that spin you around. Motion sickness comes easier now. But I can still recall the powerful joy of Thunderation, Powder Keg and Outlaw Run at Silver Dollar City, and roller coasters at other parks like The Screaming Eagle, Zambezi Zinger, Timberwolf, Mamba, and the Mind Eraser. Many of those rides lasted less than a minute, but filled me with excitement, fear, and adventure.

I turn 60 years old this coming spring, and I have just realized after officiating a celebration of life of a fellow classmate, that life is like a roller coaster ride. Exhilarating at times, scary and uncertain at other times, especially when it’s your first ride. Lots of twists and turns with highs and lows. And it goes fast.

So fast.

Looking back over my nearly 60 years, it’s crazy how each decade seems to speed by faster than the last. My 30’s flew by. My 40’s were a blur…and my 50’s? Crazy.

The Bible says our life is like a vapor, like the steam that rises from my early morning cup of coffee and quickly vanishes away. Compared to eternity, our lives are a brief blip on the map.

I remember the thrill of roller coasters with the speed and adventure. I was always a little disappointed when the ride was over and how quickly it went, but was always excited for the drive home too. While I enjoyed the thrill of the ride, a sense of calm and peace about coming home always enveloped me. We would laugh and talk about the rides we went on, while munching on popcorn and watching The Carol Burnett Show.

My friend, Tony, finished his roller coaster ride of life after a battle with cancer, and I believe he is home now, safe, and full of peace, laughing with others and whole. I believe that is true in my life as well as I continue to follow Jesus the best I can. I trust His promise that He is preparing a home for me, and when this crazy ride of life in this broken, confusing world is over, I will go home…the real home.

So, when the new Fire in the Hole ride comes out at Silver Dollar City, I plan on riding it, and with the ride memories of 1972 will accompany me. I will enjoy the ride with both eyes open, especially the first time, knowing that afterwards, after the short thrill, I will return home.


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