Some fears never seem to go awayI can’t tell you how many times as a kid I dreamed of the old Highway 16 bridge in Chamberlain and clawed my way out of a fitful sleep believing I was falling from the deck into the Missouri River. Truth is, some of us never really get over our childhood fears. We become more adept at controlling them. We recognize how silly they are. That doesn’t mean they go away.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
I can’t tell you how many times as a kid I dreamed of the old Highway 16 bridge in Chamberlain and clawed my way out of a fitful sleep believing I was falling from the deck into the Missouri River.
Truth is, some of us never really get over our childhood fears. We become more adept at controlling them. We recognize how silly they are. That doesn’t mean they go away.
When I was a little guy, I had a whole range of fears, most of them irrational. I always figured my folks were fearless. I figured that’s how I would become when I grew up — a fearless, confident adult. It didn’t work out that way.
(As I grew older, I discovered my mom had her own whole range of irrational fears, some better controlled than others. I never quite figured out what my dad might have been afraid of.)
I used to like that scene in a lot of action movies where an adult tells a kid he’s scared, too. You know how those go. Through some turn of events, a grown-up and a young person are thrown together in some tight situation, maybe with thousands of aliens running through the town or a mutant crocodile sloshing around in the water pipes. The kid is always shaking with fear, ready to cry, and the adult says, like, “Hey, kid, you know what? I’m scared, too.”
The line always makes the kid feel better, but when I was young and watched that scene in a movie, I figured the grown-up was fibbing, just making the little kid a little less frightened. The older I get, the more I can accept that the adult might have been telling the truth. Maybe aliens taking over the town really did frighten him. Maybe the notion of a crocodile bursting through the shower head really did set his heart to skipping beats.
I still feel a sort of dread when I get close to the old bridge in Chamberlain and remember my fear of falling. I had recurring dreams of that event when I was growing up. Sometimes I’d be in the family car. Sometimes I’d be on a bike or walking along the edge of the driving lane. It didn’t matter how I got to the middle of the bridge. At some point, there’d be a hole in the decking, and whoosh! Down toward the water I’d tumble, usually coming awake with my heart pounding and a vision of black, rushing water filling my mind.
Perhaps an incident when I was maybe 5 or so contributed to the phobia. For a time there — probably when the old bridge was being moved a few blocks downstream during the course of dam building on the Missouri — the passage from shore to shore was done on a pontoon bridge. (I’m relying on family folklore here. I don’t have the memory of it myself.)
A pontoon bridge sounds like a pretty rickety way to cross the river, especially since this crossing was the main east-west avenue on one of the main east-west highways.
The way I remember the story, we were heading for the farm from somewhere late one evening and crossed on the pontoon bridge. Just a few hours later, the pontoons broke apart or slipped their mooring or something and floated off down the stream.
You can see where a youngster might hear that news and think: Whoa. We could have been on the bridge when it broke loose.
That’s a pretty scary thought, sure to stick around a while. I hadn’t thought of that particular phobia for a while. Last weekend, we were in Chamberlain. I was driving past the east approach to the bridge (blocked off because of construction) and thought it would be cool to walk out across the bridge and see how the work was progressing over on the west side.
No sooner did I picture myself walking out onto the bridge decking than the picture of me stepped through a hole in the concrete and, yep, splash! Right into the black, rushing water.
“Hey, kid, you know what? I’m still scared.”