I took my first roller coaster ride on the hills of Iowa County, Wisconsin. My cousin Jack Powell was generous enough that when I visited, he’d take me along when he delivered milk to the Dodgeville cheese factory. After the milk was dumped and the cans refilled with whey for the hogs, Jack stopped at the local gas station and bought me a candy bar, a rare treat at the time.
Going home, we drove a couple miles south down Highway 151 to where I smelled the terrible stink that radiated from a hog farm. That was the marker to turn east onto Brennan Road. I was glad to escape that terrible smell, but on days when the wind blew from the west, I had to hold my breath for a painfully long time before it was comfy to breathe again.
Now, the fun began. Brennan Road was a series of short, but steep hills, and Jack, intent on giving his young nephew a thrill, drove those hills like a roller coaster operator drives his coaster—up a steep hill, then off the top, and downward so fast that I had to swallow hard to keep my stomach contents from decorating the truck’s dashboard.
I’d just begun to feel normal when we turned upward again at the hill’s bottom. Knowing what was ahead and hoping to keep everything in place, I clutched hold of my stomach, but it slipped away again as we flew off the next hilltop. I swallowed several times before we hit bottom.
I’d no sooner decided that I’d make it home without embarrassing myself when we flew off the top of another hill. I was certain that we’d never touch bottom this time but instead would fly from the top of that hill to the top of the next one. But that’s when gravity took charge, and we shot toward the bottom once more. Those abrupt ups and downs continued for five miles to Jack’s farmhouse, at which time this green-faced and dizzy-headed boy emerged from the truck and ran as fast as he could toward that little house in the backyard.
A few years later, my friends and I visited Chicago’s Riverview Amusement Park. They whooped and hollered as our coaster car surged up and down the tracks. But for me, that was pretty mild stuff compared to those days that Cousin Jack and I flew across those Brennan Road hills.