If there’s one thing that my nephew was NOT going to do at Storyland, it was walk the plank.

For a hot day, we had done well at the kiddie amusement park. My two nephews, ages four and six, had not had a meltdown on the line for the Polar Coaster. They didn’t complain about the kiddie-sized ice cream cone even though they had eyed the jumbo sized sundae bar. They didn’t lose their lunch on the magic tea-cups. All in all, things were going along swimmingly. Until, that is, we boarded the Buccaneer.

When I was little, my family would go to Wild West City, the cowboy themed-amusement  park near my home in Northern New Jersey.  We loved the games and rides, but there was one particular attraction that both petrified and thrilled me: the train ride.  During the infamous train ride, there was a “hold-up” by some not-so-friendly cowboys who would tease the conductor.  It was a rite of passage for every four-year old in our county to wet their pants… and then want to go on the ride again.

Now, as I sat next to my four year old nephew on the Buccaneer pirate ride, I was reminded of the thrill of fear. The Buccaneer was an innocent enough-looking ship that puttered around a natural cove on the outskirts of the park. Little did my nephew know, though, that the Pirate Captain would become the character he most loved to hate.

As we boarded the ship, the Pirate Captain instructed the kids on board that they would be responsible for rowing the boat on a nearby crank handle. (Clearly, the kiddos didn’t hear the roar of the ship’s engine since they were so focused on the Pirate Captain’s orders.) “If any matey stops rowing their crank, they’ll walk the plank,” he arghed from the stern.  The fear popped through my nephew’s eyes as he started rowing ferociously. Sweat poured from his brow and sunscreen dripped down to his chin as his pale arms pushed as hard as possible in ninety-degree heat.

“You can take a break,” I whispered to him. I pointed to some of the older kids who had stopped cranking their handles and were simply enjoying the ride. But he looked at me like I was insane. He rowed harder and harder as we made our way through plunging cannonballs and other pirate surprises.

In that ten minute ride, I believe my nephew could have qualified for the crew team at the Rio Olympics. He rowed non-stop until the moment we reached the dock. The poor kid was so beat as we exited the boat that we had to go sit near a sprinkler and take a rest.  I was worried about him until he muttered the five words that every aunt loves to hear…

Can we do it again?

I was proud of that little pirate.

July 18, 2016

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