We Went Skydiving, We Went Rocky Mountain….
by Frank Wilem
Leaping out of a plane nearly 3 miles up sounded like a great idea… right up until the instant just before it was time to make the plunge.
Skydiving was the furthest thing from our mind as my daughter, Brittany, and I set out early on a Sunday morning headed to Red Bluff, MS. Rather, our plan was to do some hiking and maybe geocache along the way. But as we drove through Lumberton, Brittany commented, “Isn’t that a landing strip?”
I glanced over and sure enough there was a small airport replete with parachutists landing right beside the highway. “Let’s stop and check it out,” she said.
What’s the harm in just ‘checking it out,’ I thought and replied, “Sure.”
We entered the tiny lobby amidst a buzz of activity. The lady who ran the front office gave us a quick overview. While I stood there attempting to digest all of this, Britt gave me the look. It was the look I saw on her face before we dove 140 feet into the Blue Hole in Belize. The look I saw before we climbed to the top of a pyramid in Tikal. The look I saw as she climbed into a drag racer for her first trip down the track.
So when I heard her next words, I was ready. “Hey Dad, let’s give it a shot.”
My mind was screaming, Are you out of your mind? But I heard myself say, “Sure.” Minutes later, we were watching a video by the father of tandem jumping who looked like he once played bass for ZZ Top.
He explained how being severely injured or killed was well within the realm of possibility. Of course, none of the guys in the testosterone-laden lobby area were about to back out. “Heck yeah, let’s stare the grim reaper right in the face,” someone said. It could have been me but I’m just not sure, what with the testosterone high and all.
Without bothering to read it, we signed the liability release form and got suited up. We boarded the plane and were seated behind the pilot … far from the door of death. I was happy to have lots of time to watch the other fools … er, jumpers.
However when the time came, all of the rest of the jumpers leaped out at the same time so they could hold hands on the way down. Suddenly, I was kneeling by the door with nothing between me and the ground but lots and lots of air.
We fell forward to begin our 120 mph free fall and it was really, really, really cold. My cheeks were flapping around like a dog with his head out the window of a moving car and the videographer was motioning for me to do something. I smiled my flapping cheeks and gave him a thumbs-up. Immediately, we began spinning in circles.
I had forgotten that the thumbs up signal meant: do acrobatics. When we finally stopped spinning, I foolishly gave him the thumbs up again and we began to spin in the opposite direction.
I tried to yell, “Noooooooo,” but with my 120mph cheeks flapping, it came out, “Hfiermfaldfk,” which apparently means spin much faster in sky diving language. Finally he popped the chute and in one-millionth of a second, we went from 120mph to roughly 1 mph. Everything that used to be in the top part of my body rushed to the bottom and my harness straps became a permanent part of my body.
We gently floated along until we it was time to land. We cruised in just like pros (which one of us actually was) and came to a complete stop in a seated position, at which time we fell over sideways in a slightly less than graceful motion. But we were on the ground safe and sound, not splattered and lying in little pieces as I had feared.