Look, Up in the Sky!

Published 7:53 am Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury


If you were driving recently in picturesque Palo Duro Canyon, don’t think the high elevation was getting to you, hallucination had begun or that your eyes were in trick mode.

Pshaw, it really may have been a 103-year-old man zooming down the zipline. More specifically, it may have been Elvin Howell from the Carillon LifeCare Community in Lubbock.

The able-bodied centenarian wasn’t alone. He was joined by 18 others who made the 90-minute bus trip to the canyon where a thrilling ride and picnic awaited. If you think “bucket lists” came into play, give yourself an “A.”

At one of their “what-shall-we-do-next” sessions prior to the outing, they watched a movie promoting zip-lining at Palo Duro Canyon. The prospect of zooming down a cable rising as far as 230 feet from the canyon floor seemed appealing.

They’re still talking about the experience, and Howell, a retired Tulia educator, is delighted to learn he’s the oldest person ever to ride the zipline, which now is in its fifth year of operation. Perhaps least surprised are his two sons, three grandsons and six great-granddaughters, who have been advised that riding the Ruidoso, NM, zipline now is near the top of his new “bucket list.”

The next oldest Carillon rider recounting the zip-lining adventure is Bernie Wilson, a 91-year-old widow from Snyder. Be careful not to dare her. One of her 17 grandchildren did so at a Six Flags Over Texas rollercoaster years ago, and she hopped aboard. Bernie also has 14 great-grandchildren and four surviving sons. They’ve all learned it to be pointless to suggest restrictions.

Most of the zip-liners were in their 80s, with some in their 60s and 70s.

The youngest–a woman 59–agreed to take the first ride.

She made it fine–twice. This provided the “green light” for other Carillon participants to get strapped in for the fast ride down.

Someone said that we are once an adult and twice a child. I’ll go along with a child-like approach in later years.

Another sage said, “I want to be like green tomatoes. As long as we’re green, we grow. It’s when we think we’re ripe that we start to get rotten.”

If you visit the Carillon, expect to hear animated conversations about what residents want to do next, and more zip-lining may be included. If so, it’ll be interesting to learn if residents in wheelchairs choose to go. They also are invited, since there are no age or physical restrictions unless weight exceeds 350 pounds.

Oh, they make more sedate trips, too, including visits to Fredericksburg, Caprock Canyons State Park and the Abilene Zoo.

They may one day visit Amarillo’s Wonderland Amusement Park. When I hear about this attraction, I think about Six Flags Over Texas marketing officials’ unintentional faux pas several decades ago. Unaware of any theme park named “Wonderland,” they plastered billboards around the state “playing” on the Alice in Wonderland story.

The message: “After Alice visits Six Flags, she’ll never want to go back to Wonderland.” Clever, of course, but folks in the Amarillo area didn’t “cotton” to the billboards at all. The high plains billboards came down in record time.

Be assured, though, that if the Carillon folks winds up visiting Wonderland, they’ll take on the park’s most challenging rides.

Should you hear shrieks of laughter, don’t mistake them for a Jingle Bell promotion, even though the old-timers may be “laughing all the way,” whether or not they are dashing through the snow. Laughter is high on their “bucket lists” daily.

I like the credo many senior adults have long since accepted. Count me in, too. One of these days, we’re all going to die, but all of the days until then, we’re going to live. And when our “bucket lists” bottom out, let’s get larger buckets. Better yet, we might make a big push for “barrel lists.”


Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Inquiries/comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com. Facebook: Don Newbury; Twitter, @donnewbury.