MYSTERY ON THE MIDWAY
Everywhere I went, people were buzzing happily with the news.
'The Fair' was coming! I was especially thrilled because the
biggest event ever to come to Chicago was going to be practically
in my back yard. I wanted to watch all of the preparations. My
father and I walked over to the fair grounds almost every day
and talked about anything new that we saw. There were lots of
white buildings including a really nice one that looked like
a palace. Dad said the famous art would be in that building.
There were gushing fountains and huge statues. But we were puzzled
by the work being done just outside the fair grounds on the Midway
The Midway Plaisance is an enormous grassy
strip, several blocks long, just across from the new University
of Chicago. I had played lots of games on the Midway-baseball,
tag, and fox and geese (the kind that you play in the snow, not
the indoors game). One day, while it was still very cold, some
workers roped off a very large area and began to work.
First, they dug very deep. But the ice
was so thick that it was hard to break. Worse than the ice was
a layer of sand underneath. We usually think of sand as something
nice and squishy between our toes at the beach. Not so for the
workers-they were in danger! Because the sand was 20 feet deep,
wet, and could shift, vibrating equipment could turn it into
quicksand, sucking the workers into the ground. The workers had
to work carefully in order to avoid being swallowed! But finally
they made the ground stable.
We watched as tall poles were fitted in
the ground. My dad said that they must be 120 feet high. I wasn't
sure what that meant but they were tall! Each day that we came,
we saw some new strange gizmo. (That's one of those funny words
that I got from my dad). One day, Dad exclaimed, "That looks
like an axle."
One of the workers overheard him and said proudly, "It's
45 feet-the largest single piece of forged steel in the world."
I was very curious now. "What's an axle, Dad?"
"It's the center pin for a wheel, something that the wheel
revolves around or it revolves with the wheel".
Revolves. I pondered a moment. "That's just a funny word
that means to go in a circle, right Dad?"
"Yes", 'revolves' means to roll, turn, or cause something
to move in a circle. But
it's not a funny word, it's a nice word," Dad grinned.
And so forth. That's how our daily discussions went. We would
ask questions, think hard, then share our ideas. When the fair
opened in May, we knew where everything was going to be and what
it was going to be-with one exception. The workers were laboring
harder than ever but the object on the Midway was still a mystery.
After weeks more of waiting, the workers
hauled the most tremendous, stupendous, gargantuan (That's a
word, isn't it?) wheel that I had ever seen to the Midway. It
was June 9th, more than a month after the fair had opened, and
we were there, as usual, watching them build on the Midway. My
father gasped and clutched my shoulders. We held our breath as
they lifted this gigantic wheel to hang it from the giant poles.
A huge crowd from the fair gathered. Everyone started shouting
and pointing. No one had ever seen a wheel that big. Or just
about anything that big. One man said that the only thing bigger
was the 'Eye Full' Tower. (My dad told me that it's actually
spelled 'Eiffel' and is named after the man who designed it.)
After a lot of effort, the wheel was up. But the workers were
not done. Something else needed to happen.
I watched as one of the worker's waved
his arm. My dad said that it was a signal, telling someone to
do something. And then, it happened. The wheel moved. "It's
rotating!", my dad cried. The wheel turned and turned. All
of the workers began to cheer and the crowd chimed in. I turned
to my dad and shouted, "Now we know what they were building-they're
"Not quite," he shouted back and winked. My dad had
a suspicion that there was more to come.
I was burning to know. What were they going
to do to finish the wheel? I asked myself over and over. I thought
about the wheel itself. What else did wheels do besides roll?
But they couldn't let this monstrous wheel roll because it would
crush anyone in its path! Was the wheel going to fall and sink
into the earth? After all, the wheel was very, very heavy. One
of the workers told me that it weighed over 2 million pounds!
I used to think my Aunt Gretel weighed that much. But although
Dad agreed that Aunt Gretel weighed about as much as a house,
he said that 2 million pounds was equal to hundreds and hundreds
of Aunt Gretels.
I couldn't concentrate on anything but
the Giant Wheel. Before I had pulled out all my hair, in a couple
of weeks, I had my answer. Let's skip ahead those couple of weeks
and get right to the exciting part. Now, there are several almost
train-sized wooden cars hanging from the wheel and I'm standing
right in front of one, waiting for the most dangerous ride of