Memoir: After All, How Big Could a Sinkhole Be?

Just heard a story about a couple sinkholes not too far from where I live that opened up overnight. One of them in a road I’ve driven on a few times, Foothill Road near Hwy 154 in Santa Barbara. Now, I’m thinking about the first time I thought about sinkholes.

So now, I’m picturing holes with cars and houses in them and remembering the first time I ever heard about sinkholes.

I was about nine. The radio newsman was talking about a sinkhole in Florida that swallowed a house and he was making no sense to me. After all, the holes in the sinks I was most familiar witha bathroom sink were pretty small, I’d dropped a toothpaste cap into the hole in the bathroom sink once, but even the kind of house people used for their model trains would be too big to get swallowed by a bathroom sink hole or even the hole in a kitchen sink. You’d have to break it up into little pieces to wash it into such a tiny hole, but a regular, full-sized house, even a tiny one like the one next door would never fit into the kind of sink holes I was familiar with.

So the next thing I wondered was what kind of sinks they had in Florida. I knew some people had swimming pools in their back yards, but would a swimming pool have a hole big enough to swallow a house and if it did, did people in Florida have sinks the size of swimming pools?

My mind was spinning trying to come to terms with this. For a moment I was pretty sure I didn’t ever want to go to Florida. Usually, my mom had the answers to things like this, but not this time.

“Mom, could a sink hole swallow a house?” I asked.

She thought a moment, probably wondering why I was asking a question that for an adult, had an obvious answer. “I suppose they could, but not very often.”

On the one hand, that was a relief. It didn’t happen very often, so I’d probably safe on a trip to Florida. On the other hand, that didn’t explain how it could happen in the first place, but it wasn’t an impossibility as far as she was concerned. Since I wouldn’t be seeing any of my teachers for a while, there was only one thing left to do.

I headed over to the library and to the encyclopedias. Of course, I found the answer, but it took a little while to understand the relationship between a big hole in the ground and the hole at the bottom of a sink.

Now, I’m sitting here, amused by my childish innocence and perception of the world around me.