INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. and#8212; He did it! Forget about Lindy crossing the Atlantic and#8212; Nik Wallenda crossed Niagara Falls Friday night, the first to ever walk straight over the falls. Balanced upon an 1,800-foot steel cable 2 inches in diameter, Wallenda conquered three of manand#8217;s greatest fears, falling, drowning, and worst of all, embarrassment.
You could see the water dripping from the cable, but there was no Nike swoop on his shoes; his shoes were made by his mother, and she fashioned the soles out of elk skin. I get this information from the Associated Press. and#8220;There are only two forces that can carry light to all corners of the globe and#8212; the sun in the heavens and The Associated Press down here.and#8221; and#8212; Mark Twain
It gives me chicken-skin to picture Wallendaand#8217;s crossing. The greatest stunt I ever tried was to jump a motorcycle over a pile of dirty laundry at the Rusty Harpoon on Maui, and that modest feat had an ignoble end.
Imagine trying to keep your balance for thirty minutes while balancing over a raging torrent of water moving at a rate of 600,000 gallons per second, all while shrouded in a swirling mist. Granted he was tethered by a harness, but to Wallenda, a manand#8217;s reputation is more precious even than his life. and#8220;I feel like a jackass wearing it.and#8221; It was reported that Nikand#8217;s daughter wanted him to wear her Hello, Kitty sunglasses for good luck, but he told her, and#8220;Honey, itand#8217;s night, and I wonand#8217;t need them.and#8221;
Annie Taylor was the first to challenge Niagara when she plunged over Horseshoe Falls in an airtight barrel, stabilized with a bicycle pump to 30 pounds. Others who followed Annie did not fare as well. Bobby Leach broke both kneecaps and his jaw. Englishman Charles Stephens was less fortunate yet, as all they found in his broken barrel was his right arm. Vendors at Wallendaand#8217;s crossing sold chocolate replicas of the barrel used by Annie Taylor.
Of course Mark Twain had something to say about the falls. and#8220;At Niagara falls, when you walk onto the suspension bridge, you canand#8217;t help but to notice your chances of falling two hundred feet into the river below, or having the railway train overhead smash down upon you. Either possibility is discomforting taken by itself, but mixed together, they amount to positive unhappiness.and#8221;
In 1974, at 73 years of age, Karl Wallenda, Nikand#8217;s great-grandfather, attempted to walk between two ten-story towers on a wire, slipped and fell unceremoniously to his death. Gravity can be so unforgiving.
As he skipped from the wire in Canada, Nik Wallenda was greeted by a customs agent, and#8220;Welcome to Canada. May I see your passport, please?and#8221;
Next stop? Evel Knieveland#8217;s Waterloo, the Grand Canyon. So right now might be the opportune moment to invite Nik Wallenda to come out here and cross the Truckee River at Fanny Bridge as a warm up to the Grand Canyon. After all, Niagara Parks officials sold out 4,000 tickets in five minutes ... something for Marguerite Sprague at the Gate Keeperand#8217;s Museum to think about.
and#8212; Learn more about McAvoy Layne at ghostoftwain.org.