Shooting the Tube

Last week, two of my kids drove past the house I grew up in in Bountiful, Utah and sent me a picture. It looked a lot the same, and it triggered all sorts of nostalgia. As summertime is upon us, it brought back memories of one of those crazy fun things we did as kids…the kind of things that Mom and Dad didn’t need to know about.

Shooting the Tube.

A few miles behind my house there was a small canyon and picnic area called Mueller Park. (It is still there – canyons don’t move around a lot.) It was beautiful. There were picnic sites, a stream, places to hike, wild rhubarb, and even an occasional fish.

It was a young boy’s paradise, and super convenient. We went up there countless times for mutual and Scout activities. You could leave opening exercises and be building a campfire for your s’mores ten minutes later. We also did our snow camps there as Scouts. Good time, good memories.

(The following is from memory, so if anything is not exactly right, I blame age.)

The stream was small, but consistent. It grew during the run-off season as the snow in the upper elevations would melt. Near the entrance to the park, the stream ran under the road, through a culvert. The road was narrow, so the culvert probably ran under the road 40-50 feet before it emerged into a shallow pool of water.

In order to “Shoot the Tube,” my friends and I would take pieces of plywood or abandoned road signs and stop up the water flow at the entrance to the culvert. The dammed up water would form a small, temporary lake, the force of which would put more and more pressure on the blockade.

Some of us would stay behind and man the dam, while others would then run across the road, climb down to the steam bed and run back up the culvert to the dam – from the inside.

The culvert was maybe five feet tall, and made of corrugated steel. I couldn’t find a picture of it. (I don’t know if it is even there or accessible anymore.) But I found a photo that give the general idea from a place in Salt Lake called Tanner Park.

We would sit in the emptied corrugated culvert and wait. When the water rose high enough, the people manning the dam would pull the boards away from the opening. The pent-up water would flood into the culvert with remarkable force, pushing those on the inside through the culvert and out the other side.

It was a blast. The speed and force was exhilarating. Then we would trade places, and dam up the water again, and wait.

Great fun. Probably illegal, definitely dangerous.

I recall one time when we were seeing how high we could get the water to back up to increase the pressure. As the water rose, we realized that if we didn’t pull the boards soon, the water would flood over the road. So a couple of us ran around and climbed up the culvert and took our spots and waited.

And waited.

Apparently, the water pressure was such that the guys were having trouble pulling the boards away. Since the opening to the culvert was essentially covered, we couldn’t communicate with the others, so we waited.

They were never able to pull the boards away, but physics did it for them. The pressure of the water burst through the makeshift dam and came roaring into the tube. One of the loose boards clobbered me in the back of the head, causing me to fall forward. I “shot the tube” face down on corrugated pipe. It was the longest 20 seconds of my life.

Yes, it hurt and it was scary.

The guys came racing around the other side, whooping and hollering about how crazy it was. I was not whooping or hollering. I clambered to the shore and sat there, catching my breath and composure.

Then we did it again.

Such was the adventure we called “Shooting the Tube.”

Looking back, it feels a lot like life: Sometimes life can be exhilarating and move at lightning speed, other times, life clobbers you in the back of the head and drags you – face down – across corrugated steel in slo-motion.

I can’t help but wonder how much we understood about what this mortal existence would entail before we came here. It seems we would have been well-informed about the potential for joy, but it follows that we would have been warned about the potential for trials, struggles and hardship as well.

Obviously, we signed up anyway.

And here we are. Some of us are sailing through life, having fun, at an exhilarating pace. Simultaneously, some of us are painfully dragging through life in slo-motion, wishing it didn’t hurt so much.

One thing about social media that has been curious to me is that some people are very vocal about their struggles, while others seems to disappear when they are struggling. I don’t think there is a right or wrong in that regard, but it does reinforce that all of us have times – seasons – that are simply more fun and joyful that other seasons full of struggle and pain.

Leave it to Elder Ronald Rasband to find an upside to this:

“Our personal journey through life provides us with many special experiences that become building blocks of faith and testimony. These experiences come to us in vastly different ways and at unpredictable times. They can be powerful spiritual events or small enlightening moments. Some experiences will come as serious challenges and heavy trials that test our ability to cope with them. No matter what the experience may be, each gives us a chance for personal growth, greater wisdom, and, in many cases, service to others with more empathy and love. As the Lord stated to the Prophet Joseph Smith in a reassuring way during one of his most significant trials at Liberty Jail, ‘All these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good'” (D&C 122:7). (link)

The idea that our struggles “shall be for thy good,” can be a better pill to swallow in the midst of our struggles. I imagine it was a tough thing for Joseph to hear in the midst of his horrible circumstances.

But that perspective is enlightening, if we allow it to be.

A couple years ago, I extended a challenge for us to write down our top ten most spiritual experiences. (link) At the time I thought it was a pretty good idea. Looking back now, I see it was an excellent idea. (I’m proud of my humility.)

If we have a ready access to the lessons and experiences God has already sent us through the Spirit, it can help us find that perspective, and boost our faith that we will, indeed, get through whatever might now be dragging us across corrugated steel.

Elder Rasband continued, “In these days of worldly intrusions into our lives, when trials and difficulties may seem to engulf us, let us remember our own special spiritual experiences. These building blocks of faith will bring us conviction and reassurance of a caring, loving Father in Heaven, of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and of Their restored true and living Church.”

Elder Quentin Cook echoed these ideas when he said, “My dear brothers and sisters, life is not easy, nor was it meant to be. It is a time of testing and trial. Like the old ships in Bristol Harbor, there will be times when the tide goes out and it seems as if everything in this world keeping us afloat disappears. We may hit the bottom and even be tipped over on our sides. Amid such trials, I promise you that living and maintaining temple-worthy lives will hold together all that really matters. The sweet blessings of peace, happiness, and joy, along with the blessings of eternal life and celestial glory with our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, will be realized.” (link)

I know some of my friends are going through some rough patches. Maybe you are one of them. Keep plugging. Those forces that hold us down can also push us forward.

In the immortal words of Dory: Just keep swimming.

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  1. Do you ever worry that things are going a little too smoothly? I’m at the age where I know it’s never smooth sailing continually, so sometimes when things get comfortable I start worrying about what’s coming up. Seems like we’re not meant to hang out in our comfort zones for long periods of time. Darn it.

  2. I took that challenge and extended it others as well who I know still benefit from it today. Thank you! ☺️

  3. I appreciate you message, for me I think in the pre-existence I believed I could handle any challenge. My own attitude led to the many challenges and learning experiences. But I am grateful for each one since I have been helped or carried each time I reached out for help, comfort or support. My faith and testimony continue to grow even as more challenges face us. ?

  4. I’m one of those that tends to disappear from social merits when life gets overwhelming. Or I scroll through and not really engage. If I do post, it’s a meme that amuses me. Nothing personal. But then, you already knew that about me. One thing I will always do, is look at your posts.

  5. “It seems we would have been well-informed about the potential for joy, but it follows that we would have been warned about the potential for trials, struggles and hardship as well.” wise words. If only we, as parents, could do as well by our children regarding all things of this life. I fear we generally fall very far short. It strikes me this should be our goal, perhaps especially in teaching about the emotional and physical aspects of life and relationships.

  6. I am 50+ years old. at my family reunion a few years ago, I discovered that there were several things that I did as a kid (and thought nobody knew about) that I was the only one that didn’t know that EVERYBODY knew about them. as related to a previous article…you can’t hide.

    We had the “Cooley” where I grew up. I big irrigation canal that ran through town. you could start at a park in the south end of town and take a leisurely hour long float on a tractor tube to the college at the north end of town. under roads and through culverts.
    I was looking for it on Google earth the other day. It looks like the whole thing is now closed in. Kind of sad. It was a great place to cool off in the summer.

  7. This made me think of all the things I did as a kid, too, that I didn’t bother to tell my parents about. I’m thinking we all have at least one. Great parallels to life and the gospel. I need to tackle that list you mentioned. God is great, life is good! Keep on swimming!

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