Herald and Journal, Sept. 6, 1999

Here's why fish eat their young


The opening of the Minnesota State Fair is a sure sign that we are in the closing days of summer.

The local TV stations have been covering events taking place at the fair. One feature they could have skipped is the rides.

Channel 4 showed Paul Douglas and Dennis Doda smiling and laughing as they were launched into space on some wild kind of ride. They looked like they were having a great time. I wonder what they looked like after they got off that thing?

About 15 years ago, I had an experience that made me vow, "Never again!"

Yes, it was that memorable afternoon in Watertown, Minn., that ended any sense of enjoyment I had ever felt on a carnival ride.

The ride was called the Spider. At least I think that was the name. They probably change the name from year to year so the fools that got sick on it last year will try it again.

Tom and I took our kids to the park in Watertown for Flame Days. The oldest four went running off to the bigger rides, while Tom and I took Lisa and Jesy around to the kiddie rides.

Although Jesy was the younger of the two, she was the bravest. Lisa shares my motion sickness tendencies, so she was much more careful about which rides she climbed aboard.

After going on a few kiddie rides, Jesy decided that the Spider was the ride for her. The problem was, no one else wanted to ride the Spider with her.

But who can resist the begging and pleading of their youngest child's puppy dog eyes? I agreed to join her for the ride without really thinking about what I was getting into. Before long, she had Lisa talked into going, too.

The ride started out innocently enough. We were seated in this round cup with Lisa on the inside, Jesy in the middle, and me on the outside. The idea was to be sure that Jesy didn't fall out. Before the ride was over, I would want to throw her overboard.

Each of the individual cups on the ride could spin around in circles, while the entire wheel full of cups revolved in a large circle. Of course, while they revolved they were also moving up and down.

We started moving, slowly at first. Fool that I was, I really had no idea what was yet to come.

"This isn't too bad," I said to myself.

Suddenly, the ride seemed to shift into high gear, and our cup really began to spin. The wheel revolved faster and faster as the cups each took their turn rocketing upward, and then plunging back toward the ground.

Before long, I noticed the unmistakable signs that Lisa was not feeling too well. Her face looked green. Her head lolled back and forth limply with each plunge of our cup.

"I'm going to kill Jessica when I get off this ride," she said quietly, but emphatically.

Lisa was lucky. She wasn't as sick as she looked. I was sicker. I knew that I had to get off that ride as soon as possible or risk the complete embarrassment of losing my lunch all over the crowd assembled below.

I did everything I could think of to control the nausea. I told myself to relax. I breathed deeply. I tried to think of something else. It was no use.

On the next downward plunge I yelled, "Tom, tell him to stop this thing! I have to get off!"

Have you ever felt disappointed because the carnival ride you were on didn't last long enough? Not this one! This ride seemed never-ending.

We kept whipping around and plunging up and down as the cup twirled madly about. I didn't know how much longer I could take it.

Now I was ready to do bodily harm to my husband if the ride wasn't stopped.

I yelled fiercely, "Tell him to stop it! Now!"

Finally, the ride began to slow. Of course, we had to wait our turn to be unloaded from the ride. There we swung at the top, Lisa and I looking like two limp green dish rags, with Jesy sitting there between us, all happy and perky as could be.

After an eternity, we finally climbed off that spinning torture chamber.

I gave Tom the dirtiest look I could muster as I staggered past him looking for a private place to be sick. I managed to make it over behind one of the carnival trailers and that was it.

As I rejoined the group, I noticed that the older kids had taken in the scene. They were trying mighty hard to keep from laughing. There they stood with smirks on their faces.

The fun and frolic was over for the day, so we headed home for chores. Riding in the car just made me feel worse. About three miles from home, I had to have Tom stop the car because I just couldn't take the motion any more.

I got out and stood beside the station wagon, gulping fresh air and trying to overcome the nausea. When I climbed back in, I could hear the tell-tale sound of muffled giggling and chortling from the back seat.

Right then I understood why fish eat their young.

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