Dear County Agent Guy

Taking the plunge


People on vacation often have a list of must-see attractions. Many moons ago, when our two sons were grade schoolers, my wife, our boys and I went on a family vacation to the Black Hills. One of our must-see attractions was Hot Springs, South Dakota.

Located on the southern edge of the Black Hills, Hot Springs is a quiet little community that boasts several unique features. For instance, Hot Springs is where young ladies go to participate in the annual Miss South Dakota competition. On the opposite side of the coin, Hot Springs is also where a trove of gnarly old mammoth bones were discovered in an ancient sinkhole.

Hot Springs is probably best known for its namesake’s natural hot springs.

Among the most famous hot springs are those that serve Evans Plunge. Evans Plunge is a humungous indoor swimming pool that’s fed by the warm springs bubbling up through its gravel floor. Bathing in its mineral-laden water has been touted as being the cure for everything from acne to zinc deficiency. But, our sons weren’t interested in curing anything unless it involved a waterslide.

The whole way out to the Black Hills, all we heard from the boys was “Hot Springs” this and “waterslide” that. Their mother and I got so sick of these constant reminders that we couldn’t wait to visit Evans Plunge just so we could finally quit hearing the word “waterslide.”

We wended our way to Hot Springs, checked into a hotel (My wife is a big fan of credit card camping.) and jumped into our swimsuits — all except for my wife.

When asked if she was going to join the fun, my wife took a pass, citing her total lack of a tan. I was astonished that she didn’t want to tag along to keep an eye on me. “After all,” I teased, “there’ll probably be some of the latest swimsuit fashions on display at the pool.”

“That’s not a concern,” she replied. “By the way, why don’t you let me hang onto your glasses for you?”

Drat! She had obviously caught onto the fact that I can’t see squat without my glasses.

My wife dropped us off at Evans Plunge, and our sons immediately sprinted off to the waterslides. I lagged behind with a towel wrapped around my waist. Being ogled by strangers suddenly made me feel self-conscious about my neon-white legs.

Evans Plunge has monstrous waterslides, one of which is a soaring blue tube that spirals downward like a giant corkscrew. I was skittish about the thing, so I observed it for a while from a safe distance.

Little kids would clamber up the waterslide’s stairs and, with no apparent fear, hurl themselves into the tube’s gaping maw. They would come out of the bottom at a stately pace, settling into the 87-degree water as gently as thistle down.

“Heck,” I thought. “If those little kids can handle that waterslide, so can I.”

This is the kind of thinking that causes so many guys so much grief.

What I didn’t realize is that there’s a specific law of physics that applies to waterslides: weight plus gravity equals speed. The puny little kids who were riding the waterslide were nearly at a stop when they reached the bottom. Those of us who are more, shall we say, substantial, go faster — a lot faster. People who are really substantial can attain relativistic speeds; time stands still for them.

I was ignorant of all this as I began to hurtle down the devilish blue tube. Acceleration built at an alarming rate, and a frightful feeling gripped my gut. Water sprayed into my eyes, nearly blinding me as I sped down the ever-tightening spiral.

I was ejected, totally disoriented, into the pool at warp 9, splitting the water with a thunderous kersplash. Many onlookers thought that they were witnessing a recreation of the parting of the Red Sea. My landing was most undignified, with high-pressure water being forced into my nose, mouth and ears and into places that I don’t care to mention.

On the plus side, I was able to expand my vocabulary that day. As I clumsily hauled myself out of the pool, I overheard a couple of teenaged boys snicker and call out, “Hydro-wedgie.” This new phrase had the double effect of being both uncomfortable and true.

I decided to spend the rest of the afternoon quietly soaking in the soothing waters of Evans Plunge until I resembled a giant pink prune.

And, I discovered one more thing that Evans Plunge can brag about: I finally got rid of all that gunk from underneath my fingernails.

Jerry Nelson is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, South Dakota. He and his wife, Julie, have two sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry works for Dairy Star as a staff writer and ad salesman. Feel free to email him at [email protected].


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