A Matter of Life or Death

Excitement filled the air as throngs gathered near the mighty cataract of Niagara Falls that June day in 1858. Attention was riveted on the 1100-foot tight- rope stretched from the American side of the falls to the Canadian side. Charles Blondin, world- renowned tightrope walker, had just crossed the falls on that rope.

Turning to the sea of watching faces, Blondin spoke. A solemn hush fell over the crowd as they heard his challenge. He wanted to recross the falls with a man on his back!

”Do you believe I am able to carry you across?” he asked one in the audience.

”I certainly do”, replied the man.

”Then will you let me do it?” Blondin queried.

”Not on your life!” came the quick reply. Turning to another man, Blondin posed the same challenge.

”I believe you can carry me across”, the man said. ”In fact, I have no doubts at all.”

”Then will you trust me to do it?” the tightrope walker asked.

”I will!” the man agreed.

Breathlessly the crowd watched the two men start across the rope. Step after step they moved along. Soon they reached the centre. The rushing, churning water was unable to erase the sight of the ugly threatening rocks beneath. Slowly but surely, without hesitation, they moved toward the other side. Then they stopped. A guy line had broken and the rope was swaying dangerously!


Blondin spoke in even, deadly tones to the man on his shoulders.


’You are no longer yourself, Mr. Colcord. You are part of me. If I sway, sway with me. Do not try to move or balance on your own, or we will both die. Your complete trust in me is now a matter of life or death.”