The summer I was 7 we visited my paternal grandmother’s home. My cousins had a cool new fun thrilled activity. They had found a big tire from some piece of construction equipment. The center was just right for an “idjoit” kid to curl up and, and ride it down the ~500 foot hillside to the river. OK, troublesome is not really a river, it is like 2 miles short of meeting the ‘legal’ definition, but it looks like a river and is as deep as a river…

So I agree to go last. I had some doubts, but I figured if they survived I would.

And what a ride it was!

We had a fun filled afternoon, ride the tire down the hillside into the river, a big (very big) splash, then fish it out and use the tractor to haul it back up the hill. I was too short to use the tractor. When I look at the hillside today, and think of a bunch of foolish kids, I still cringe.

It was great fun until Dad decided to check up on what I was doing….

And that was that.

Dad put an end to that particular brand of insanity.

We had a nice bonfire that night with the large tire as the guest of honor.


The next day one of my older cousins needed to go to Jackson, that fun filled metropolis, the county seat of Breathit County.

I had wanted to ‘experiment’ with quicksand.

And oddly enough there is small community on the way to Jackson by the name of “Quicksand”, named after a small patch of, yea, quicksand.

I still had the 60’ of ½” hemp rope from the cave, and my parents (foolishly) allowed me to bring it to the “hills”.

I snowed them with some story about mountain climbing.

One of the locals, another cousin, knew where the quicksand patch was. And he was willing to help in our “experiment”.

I tied the rope off to a support. Notice any vagueness as to actual location? I double then triple checked my knots. While knots drove me crazy, I didn’t learn to tie my shoes until I was in the 7th grade, but I could tie a very good square knot.

I then tied the rope around my waist and went in. Sure enough the sand was soft, even squishy feeling, quite unlike anything else I have ever experienced. As I waded out into/onto the sand it started ‘grabbing’ my feet, so I backed up and dove as far as I could.

And yes I am in quicksand.

And it is every bit as scary as one might expect.

I was in as deep as my ankles, then my knees, then my waist.

OK, enough is enough and I start pulling myself free.

OMG it won’t let go…

While I was rather scrawny, looking half staved was a frequently heard term, I was strong enough to do 20 pull ups.

And I was pulling as hard as I could and nothing was happening. I am not sinking, but if I was getting lose it is in fractions of an inch.

My cousins are now wide eyed and one starts to come in after me.

I am thinking, “OK, one fool is more then enough, while God is great, let’s not overload him.”

I shout something like “Keep Out! It really is dangerous.”

My cousins finely get a clue and grab the rope and pull me out. For a while I thought they would pull me in half. But the goo let go, and little by little they pulled me free.

After I am out on the bank I ask if anyone else wants to give it a try…Hum no takers….Maybe my cousins actually do have some sense.

And when we get back to ‘Granny’s’ they can’t wait to tell everyone about our fine adventure.

I managed to stay out of trouble (sort of) at by pointing out all my "safety precautions." I wisely didn’t mention how close a call it really had been.

My dad related the time he had done the same experiment when he was a kid, but without the rope!

And that nonsense about swimming, yea it works great in the field-guides, but in the real world, once your feet are in the quicksand, you can’t swim….

By the time it is to your knees you are in real trouble.

The next day Dad, Mom, and my baby sister, went back and we (I) tried it again. Folks I tried several times and the only way to ‘swim’ in quicksand is to stay above it. My swimming skills were ‘iffy’. I had NO body fat and I would sink like a stone. But I could dog paddle with the best of them. And from the surface there was no sign of the goo below. After several tries I did manage to get one foot stuck, and by paddling like a fool managed to ‘swim’ enough and pull the foot lose.

There was a good sized stand of sugar cane growing nearby and dad cut a nice ‘staff’ and showed me how to ‘feel’ the bottom and ‘sense’ quicksand. It is hard, no impossible to describe, but ‘easy’ to tell when that normal looking sand is quicksand.

I scooped up a small bucket of quicksand and a bucket of normal sand and there was NO difference.

NO as in NONE. I had a microscope and I examined the grains of sand and they were all the same….

Dad had some water-soluble dye, nontoxic as Dad was a conservationist long before the Sierra club hit the big times, and ‘dumped’ the dye into the water.
And just like the encyclopedia said, there was an ‘inflow’ of water beneath the sand. Hard to describe, but plain as the sun in a clear day. Dad released the dye upstream and as it flowed across the quicksand, clear water worked it’s way up. I can’t describe it and I wish I had a video of it, it was interesting.