Indiana Daily Student

Failing to fly

Fear of heights is only half the battle

Chris Lemmon grabs onto the trapeze bar while team member Holly Faulk looks on.
Chris Lemmon grabs onto the trapeze bar while team member Holly Faulk looks on.

All I wanted to do was soar with Bloomington's high-flying trapeze artists The Flying Haggertys. Unfortunately, trapeze flying isn't for the weak.\nI sat down in a lawn chair and waited for members of The Flying Haggertys to arrive for their daily practice. Larry, the stray dog that hangs around outside, was perched underneath a truck and barked until team member Chris Lemmon calmed him down. Lemmon looked at me and suggested I spritz bug spray on me, warning me the bugs are ridiculous outside.\nThe 35-foot-tall trapeze rig stretched across the entirety of an otherwise normal Bloomington backyard. Two swinging bars rested approximately 20 feet above a black safety net surrounded by a thicket of trees.\nLemmon and Holly Faulk, another member of The Flying Haggertys, wrapped their hands with tape and began to stretch. Marc Haggerty, founder of the team, sat down and watched them swing.\n"You're releasing too early," he said to his team members.\nAfter several minutes of performing aerial flips, Cogi Haggerty, a team member and Marc Haggerty's son, pulled up in his car and got ready to practice. Marc Haggerty, while still hollering suggestions at the three people flying over his head, pulled a pair of black spandex over his gray shorts and removed his shirt.\nHe quickly climbed the hanging ladder and placed himself on the second trapeze bar. After swinging himself back and forth for a bit, the team began flying. Each member would attempt to soar from the first bar to be caught by Marc Haggerty, then back. \nEvery time a team member would fly, my stomach would twist into knots. The pinging of the safety net against the rig made my stomach churn. "I can't do this," I thought. I kicked off my sandals and attempted to climb the ladder. Faulk said the hardest part for her is climbing the ladder. She said it exhausts her every time she does it. "She wasn't kidding," I thought.\nMy feet did not get much further than the second rung on the ladder before my arms started to feel numb from exhaustion. I attempted one more time before my arms completely gave out. I let go of the ladder and fell back to the ground.\nWhat Marc Haggerty has been doing for 20 years, I couldn't even do for one second.\nThe team's founder said his love for flying started when he separated from his wife and was looking for something to do with his son Cogi. They began climbing mountains, white-water canoeing and going to the circus. After building rapport with flying acts in the circus, Marc Haggerty was asked to go on tour with the Ringling Brothers Circus. \nThree or four years ago, Hollywood made Marc Haggerty an offer to train actors. He said he didn't say "no," but he would need to have certain living conditions in California. Hollywood has not yet returned an offer to him.\nThe Flying Haggertys have occasionally gone on tour but haven't had any recent shows. Marc Haggerty said they might start going on tour again but doesn't know when. \nFor now, they fly for fun.\nThroughout the practice, I thought to myself how cool it would be to become a \nhigh-flying trapeze artist. My lack of physical strength was not the only thing holding me back, though. I was scared. The fear of flying is something a trapeze artist has to learn to get over, Marc Haggerty said, claiming he has not feared flying in a long time. Cogi Haggerty, on the other hand, said he gets scared every time he gets up on the platform.\n"All students are afraid," Marc Haggerty said. "(You need to) build up confidence."\nLearning to fly is a process, he said. If somebody has an ambition to fly, he said he will do everything he can to get them up to the platform. And with a new wave of IU students back in town, he hopes people will join and take an interest in The Flying Haggertys.\nAfter the practice ended, I was dismayed about my unsuccessful attempt to fly, to even get up the ladder. I grabbed my backpack and made my way out of the backyard. \nFinally I returned home exhausted from not being able to fly. I quickly fell asleep, my head filled with the day's events. I woke up the next morning with about 20-something bug bites. Despite my willingness to fly, the thought of making it to the platform still scares the living bejesus out of me. And with every itch, I'm reminded of my failed attempt to fly and the fear that I never got to conquer.

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