Looking out your airplane’s window as you approach Salt Lake International, please note a large number of trampolines dotting the yards of the little houses below. See the small black circles amid the small patches of suburban green and consider that a view from the same window, while arcing into the stratosphere above Phoenix or Las Vegas or Los Angeles, would yield crystal-blue, kidney-shaped pools—watery benefits of flatland climates and a special desert-dweller’s denial of resource limitations.

It’s doubtful you’ll be able to discern any jumpers from your lofty perch but, if school’s out and there are exasperated mothers inside the teensy homes below, you can be sure that a gang of neighborhood kids will be tramping and bouncing their stockinged feet on those little black circles. Know that they’re aiming grubby outstretched fingers to touch the cloudy trail your plane paints across the crystal blue sky. 

TRAMPOLINES ARE THE POOLS OF UTAH. 

They are not unique to our state. Anyplace, USA, is trampoline country. They sprout up wherever there are kids and yards and parents hoping for a little peace. But here in Utah, with our large families (one whole child more on average than the national average, 2.5) trampolines flourish like summer camps, Boy Scout Jamborees, public pools and, tragically, McDonald’s Playlands.

I met my best friend from age 5 to 10 based on access to a trampoline. His family sold trampolines—surely the path to enlightenment for a 5-year-old. We learned the requisite gymnastics: seat drops, back drops, tummy drops and the twin Holy Grails of front-flip and back-flip. We learned how to steal someone’s bounce (double jumping to take the spring out of an opponent) and to “super charge” by lending gravity to a partner, often with disastrous, too-high results. And, of course, there were the sleep outs, scared and huddled sleepless under the stars with the wind whipping through the trees. I was even involved in sales, got paid $12—an unheard-of amount at age 8—to demonstrate the wonders of the trampoline at an area mall while other boys endured shopping for school clothes with their mothers. 

But before all that, there was a waiver—“Mom! Can you sign this?” Parents of big families who sell trampolines are well informed of liability issues. But after this first encounter with our litigious society, I was free to bounce and darn near kill myself along with the rest of the neighborhood. 

Trampolines are dangerous. Consider the springs. Most of your finer backyard trampolines lack pads, cushy protection from the equally dispersed holes rounding the bouncy bed. On a good, windless day, you can “supercharge” an equally weighted partner into the sky twice your fourth-grade height and, with the right angle, it’s either the springs or the ground. A trampoline purchase is often reconsidered in the emergency room.

But still, we persist. Perhaps it’s the practical genes of the Mormon pioneers coursing through our communities. Pools are complicated, decadent and, well, what about all the leaves? Compared to this steel-springed pile of unleashed gravity, a pool—with its expense and effort—pales by the fact of its complexity. The hard-headed nature of our forebears doesn’t include considerations now commonplace to our helmet-wearing times. Potential injury is tabled in disdain for the vanity of a swimming pool. If great-great-grandma so-and-so walked across the Great Plains, surely we can survive the trampoline. What, are you bored? Go out and jump on the tramp.


This story is from the May/June issue of Salt Lake magazine. Subscribe here.