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Valley Mills, Texas History

 


JohnMincher  (D 4056)

Feb 27, 2010, 9:30 PM
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Valley Mills, Texas History Can't Post

 I've seen threads about Spaceland, Texas and the big-way RW that went on and still goes on there. I have not seen the history behind it. I want to tell some of that history and hopefully some of my friends will add to it.
Relative Work started maturing in a town called Valley Mills, Texas, just north of Waco. It was there that an Aggie jumping buddy of mine, Gary Lewis, brought his Twin Beech, giving the drop zone new life. Can you imagine a college boy buying a Twin Beech to operate at a college club? Anyway, Valley Mills was in the center of the state, so jumpers from Waco, Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston could get there on weekends. We developed such a family unity that it still lasts today. We started trying for 8 Man stars at A&M in Millican. One weekend on 7-05-70 Gary flew “The White Whale” to Coleman, Texas. The first 8 man star was made there by Ron Patterson, SCR 373, Phil Mayfield, Curran Phillips, Ric Schwandt, Dennis Clark, Chris Ranson, Jim Sutton, Jack Langford, and Jesse Hall in that SCR order. By one year later Texas had 44 SCR numbers in it, almost exclusively in Valley Mills. It wasn't long before a Twin Beech wasn't enough, so Gary bought a DC3. By that time people were coming from all over Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, and Tennessee to join in on the bigger stars and the good times we were having.
It was at Valley Mills that the first Texas 8 man team started. They went to Z-Hills as the V-Mills team and won first place. The team was David Arrington, Ron Cox, Jack Peck, Phil Mayfield, “Dirty Fred” Grant, Charles Waters, Gary Lewis, and Greg Hackett. The team evolved through the years to become known as the Texas Team and later Kalidoscope.
Valley Mills only lasted a couple of years, but large star skydiving made its entrance to Texas. We made it to at least 16 man stars. After a couple of fatalities, the pressure was on to shut it down. Looking back I would say it wasn't the most safety oriented dropzone. It got so commonplace for the Beech to have to unload early that on the way up one day, someone mentioned the words “get out” in an innocent conversation, and everybody unassed the plane.
After a time Gary moved the DC3 to Cleveland where he introduced me to the airport manager. I ran the dropzone, and Gary operated the plane. I'd have to make the same safety comment about Cleveland. We were just lucky. We made a 22 man star there, along with a lot of 10 man speed stars, guns, parties, 16 mans, mushrooms, and other large attempts.
In 1974 the 10 man speed star team that went to the Telequah Nationals was Jesse Hall, Phil Smith, Phil Mayfield, Greg Hackett, Ken Gillespie, David Arrington, Dave Boatman, Fritz Jackson, Vaughn Ruple, and myself.
Dave Boatman had previously brought a Twin Otter to Dickinson and Cleveland for larger attempts. So, about this time, he buys a Twin Beech, and after Eric Wizowatty shot out the runway lights, we got asked to leave Cleveland. I always wondered about the timing, but I got to be a regular jumper again. That was good because I was sure that sooner or later someone would be getting themselves killed at Cleveland. We were on borrowed time. So a new name, Boatman Hall Ltd, moved the jumping to Spaceland Airport. That place is now a residential neighborhood. Sad. Now Spaceland DZ is in Rosharon and is a big business. Anyway, Dave would teach you something about life if you pulled too low. We did sneak off and have our “safety meetings”, though.
In 1976 as 10 man speed star went “professional”, a new competition started, 8 man sequential. On this team were Ron Cox, Phil Smith, Phil Mayfield, Greg Hackett, Ken Gillespie, Wayne Mosley, John Shannon, Bobby Brown, and myself. We had 9 on it. John Shannon could take anyone’s slot if necessary. By that time Austin, Dallas, and Houston all had Twin Beeches. The team would split weekends in those places because we had team members from all of them. We would all camp out or pile into someone’s apartment on Saturday nights. I remember “Plug-In” and “Pigmy-Mau-Mau-California Style” as popular pastimes. We went to the state of Washington to the Sequential Sweepstakes and got second place in the nation. First place won by 1 point and went on to Australia to win the world.
Over the years the team saw other people on it, Fritz Jackson, Dave Bottrell, Ed Wescott, Robert Armstrong, Dane Nielson, Johnny Shannon, Dwayne Bruette, Bobby Brown, Bill Minyard, and I’m sure I’ve missed some.
Some other names worthy of notation, that made “As The Prop Turns” stories are Harvey Stewart, Dotty Stewart, Sandy Roberts Mincher, Cathy Bennett, Renny, Patsy Boatman, Jonathan Phillips, Lee Umpscheid, Sean Ferguson, Sarah, Robert Bottrell, Sandy Lewis, Kenny Patterson, Rita Patterson, Jim McIntyre, Bob “Spiderman” Vincent, Mike Vincent, Lee McMillan, Joe Stone, Tim Geohagen, Alvin Heathcock, Jack Moore, Cathy Minster, Lynn Mayfield, Mike Mullins, Gary Hall, Bobby Hilder, Howell Ponton, Ric Miller, Robert Bottrell, Elaine Lewis, Cathy Cox, Ron Lugenbill, Tom Bullion, Mike Babbineaux, Jim Baker, Jim Captain, Matt Farmer, Kent Farney, Paul Middleton, Cully Lyons, Eddie Flores, Mike Flores, Bruce Cunningham, Chris Ranson, Craig Ranson, Greg Nugent, Bob Pope, Steve Hazen, Clark Thurman, Mike Mullins, Marrilee Lafferty, Bobby Lafferty, Don Henderson, Bill Newell, Vernon Melancon, Rick Hankel, Rick Schwandt, Martin Bennett, Don Stewart, Carl Maroon, Mark Conrad, Rick Spigarilli, Greg Giles, Joe Svec, and I’m sure I’ve missed some more.
John Mincher
SCR 422


MrSkydiver  (D 3287)

Feb 28, 2010, 6:30 AM
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John,
Did you leave out Anita Howe (team Mom)?

Correction on V-Mills Texans Z-Hills '71

Fritz Jackson
Jesse Hall
Gary Lewis
Phil Mayfield
David Arrington
Ken Gillespie
Ric Miller
Curran Phillips
Ron Cox
Gregg Hackett

Wild wild wild time there!

Gregg Hackett SCR-589


MrSkydiver  (D 3287)

Feb 28, 2010, 6:38 AM
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oops.

remove Fritz Jackson
add Jack Peck


JohnMincher  (D 4056)

Feb 28, 2010, 6:50 AM
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Hey Greg,
Thanks for the correction. Sorry, Anita. You are my favorite.
John


MrSkydiver  (D 3287)

Feb 28, 2010, 6:54 AM
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John,
You keep spelling my name wrong and I'll spell yours MEECHNER!

Gregg


FritzJack

Feb 28, 2010, 7:47 AM
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Gregg...You must be getting "oldtimers"...I was a member of the 1971 Valley Mills Z-Hills Turkey Meet winning team...Fritz


MrSkydiver  (D 3287)

Feb 28, 2010, 7:58 AM
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Must be CRS can't remember s___! So who did I add that was not a member? Gary Lewis? BTW who has the trophy, Gillespie?
Sorry Fritz.


JohnMincher  (D 4056)

Feb 28, 2010, 8:44 AM
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Hi Gregg and Fritz,
I started to run the 1st V-Mills team facts by you before I posted it. Since I wasn't there, I got my info from the picture with 8 of you from another thread. I would post that picture, but I don't know how to do it. Can you do that, Gregg? I thought it was a 10 man speed star event. Why did you and 1 other miss out on the picture, Fritz?
John Mincher


SlowHDRider

Feb 28, 2010, 10:12 AM
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Ahhhh, the good ole' days, and I still consider everyone as extended family. Looking forward to seeing as many as possible in April at Spaceland.
Let's see thinking back, Curran and Jonathan Phillps, "Dirty Pam", Sarah, Shawn Fergurson....I'm sure more names will come to mind., Don Devanny, Steven Hazen.....Vernon Melason (sp?) from Louisiana.
Sandy (Mincher) Roberts


nightBASE1  (D 2629)

Feb 28, 2010, 1:06 PM
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Not much to add without checking my log book, but the first dominant RW team in Texas (based at Valley Mills) was the V-Mills Texans.

The V-Mills team went to the Z-Hills Turkey Meet in the early 70's ('73 or '74?) and beat all comers for the big prize. Other teams included the James Gang (Bob Federman, Jim Bohr, Pirate, etc.), the local faves (captained by Jim Hooper), and a number of other good quality teams. That was back in the days when if you could average under 30 seconds for a 10-man (not "10-way"), you would probably win. And nearly everyone still jumped rounds and front-mounted reserves.

It wasn't until late '75 or early '76 that focus went from 10-man speed to 8-man sequential, as RWers were getting bored with race-to-the-base jumping. Then Z-Hills - always a few steps ahead of USPA's Nationals - added to their agenda for the Turkey Day meet with separate events for 10-speed, 8-sequential, 16-sequential, and 20-speed. I was lucky enough to be invited on Jerry Bird's team for the '77 meet. Since a Texas team wasn't in the works at that time, I quit my job just to spend a week or so in skydivers' paradise. That' still my all-time favorite meet.

Backing up to some points John made, V-Mills was the perfect storm of right place, right time, right jumpers. It was truly our own little world for a few short years, where we could forgot about the "real world" for many happy weekend adventures. And we made life-long friends from Kansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and other places.

Phil Mayfield - SCR 374


scs317  (C 7183)

Mar 1, 2010, 8:25 AM
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[blush]
OK Guys, all those names are great; but what started in Seagoville (near the Federal Prison), participated in Wacko, then retired to VMills, was responsibile for at least 10% of N Texas area beer sales and was reached via a twin beech out of Love Field (it had radar - we ued it once to pinpoint our location while above the clouds - landed about 26 miles from the DZ - had to thumb home. Anyway, please add CH Lyons, Stevie Ray Cartwright, EL Dunn (remember EL DUnn?), Tommy Harrison, and Kent Williams and a host of equally undesirables who hung out with one set of common characteristics - no visible means of support, little chance of getting any, and generally hung over.

Kent Williams


drjump  (D 2785)

Mar 1, 2010, 8:37 AM
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John-those are some names and faces that made skydiving history in Texas. I thought it was Jessie that rode the beacon with a Thompson shooting out runway lights in Cleveland. Remember when 'Wiz' tried to get the campfire brighter with a bucket of gas from the DC-3? Or the time Boatman lost the left engine of the 3 at about 5 grand? By the time he yelled for us to get out--he was yelling at the back side of the last man.
Don
D-2785


JohnMincher  (D 4056)

Mar 1, 2010, 4:00 PM
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Hey Don,
I remember Jesse shooting the machine gun at night, bouncing the tracer bullets off the runway. Man, the colors spun off in many directions. Of course, the chemicals made it look exadurated!
I will never forget the Wizzard catching himself on fire. It's a good thing he tripped so everyone could jump on him to put the fire out. He was pretty soaked. Too bad he fell down the elevator shaft on the job. He was a lot of fun.
I think we discovered that the rotating beacon was rideable at Spaceland.
I remember jumping out of the Twin Beech after the plane ran out of fuel and it crashing at Cleveland. Too bad.
What else do you remember?
John


MrSkydiver  (D 3287)

Mar 1, 2010, 8:57 PM
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Seems like quite a few people rode the beacon. Getting on was not the hard part .............the mushrooms made it a little more challenging though. The tracers on the runway were awesome as well as the artillery simalators.

Big Smiles Times,
Gregg


(This post was edited by MrSkydiver on Mar 1, 2010, 10:24 PM)


SlowHDRider

Mar 2, 2010, 6:20 AM
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John asked me for stories about V Mills....There are so many good stories.

Someone put a student out who pulled UNDER the formation. Pete Bandy went through the student's canopy breaking his leg(s) with bones protruding through his jump suit. I seem to remember Gillespie was involved? Two jumpers went out of sight behind a hill, we all thought they had bounced. A 3rd, Gillespie maybe, pulled very low. It was a good day, no one died. I don't think the student ever came back.

A big competition weekend with some outstanding smoke. Spiderman locked himself in his VW and would crack the window, muttering about primitive tribes and rituals. Kansas showed up in a big moving van. Tommy Bullion ended up hiding in the van for a very long time. Later that night, under the stars, passing joints around the huge peagravel target...until someone lobbed a couple of cherry bombs...at which point someone freaked, yelled "incoming" and some people were diving for cover. A lot of the guys were fresh back from Viet Nam and it was understandable. No one knew about PTSS then.

good times, good memories, and good friends.


drjump  (D 2785)

Mar 2, 2010, 7:26 AM
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Pete lives in Austin, Tx and still walks with a limp from that jump.


drjump  (D 2785)

Mar 2, 2010, 8:49 AM
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What about the statue of limitations? When Gary first came to Cleveland, Carl Maroon and I were operating a student S/L progran out of Gohagen's C-172. Gary asked if he could fly the DC3 there. Sure we said. Next w/e he shows up with it and a couple of jumpers. OK lets manifest and get a load up he shouts, but Gary I've only got 4 expirenced jumpers and some s/l students, I replied! That is OK, I can't tell all the jumpers around the state that I'm flying the 3 in Cleveland if I'm not. So we load up 5 S/l studends, after a "quick" door exit briefing and about 8 other jumpers. One jump run cross wind along the runway for the students and another at 12-5 for the rest of us. All the students landed on the airport. It took aout 3 weeks for word to spread to all the RW people about the DC-3 dropping jumpers in Cleveland before we had a full load.
Don


Jim_Hooper  (D 4019)

Mar 2, 2010, 9:01 AM
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In reply to:
The V-Mills team went to the Z-Hills Turkey Meet in the early 70's ('73 or '74?) and beat all comers for the big prize. Other teams included the James Gang (Bob Federman, Jim Bohr, Pirate, etc.), the local faves (captained by Jim Hooper), and a number of other good quality teams.
Phil Mayfield - SCR 374

What's wrong with your memory, Mayfield? It was the '71 Turkey Meet where you guys smoked the Ten High Bunch into 2nd place. Here's a photo taken a couple of days after the event, when a few from the above-mentioned teams stayed to make some hot skydives.
Hoop SCR242 SCS90 NSCR26
Attachments: 1971cTenHighBunch + V-Miils & Family.JPG (170 KB)


spotandfloat  (D 5063)

Mar 2, 2010, 9:39 AM
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I remember showing up at Cleveland as a very green skydiver. After jumping at Docs and Austin Paracenter it was certainly a change - no baby sitting at this DC.

The 1st time I drove up and got out of the car, I think the DZ was 1 short of a load. I was asked how many jumps I had, was I packed, and told I was going floater. I was on the plane about 5 mins after I arrived, asking the jumper next to me what is a "floater"?

After my 1st day I had made about 4 jumps and was just glad to land in open spaces and not in the woods. I also got to witness,, beer light on at noon, many "safety" meetings, tracers bouncing down the runway after dark and the Bottrell Brothers shooting fence posts in half with some sort of huge caliber rifle.

Lots of great memories there.

I remember a day where Arnie(?) The Norwegian spotted a load a bit long. He disappears for a few hours after the rest of us get back. He then shows up with a trash sack of mushrooms that immediately disappear..... It seems he was spotting himself for some mushroom prospecting. The DZ got very entertaining for the rest of that day.

It was here also I learned about Capt. Bluebottle. I was sitting in the rear of the DC-3 as we were climbing and looking up behind the door to the cockpit and seeing people clustered together. It looked like they were breathing air from a scuba regulator. I had no clue what was up and asked. Oh, that is Capt. Bluebottle. It took me awhile to figure what that was about. No wonder everyone was so happy on jump run. lol

Cleveland was great fun and I jumped there a full summer before going back to college and back to Austin Paracenter. It was gone the next summer when I was back in Houston.

A summer I will not forget. No rules skydiving, take care of yourself, pull before you bounce, this DZ ain't your mommie. I never felt unsafe there as it was my job not to be stooopid.

Today's DZs don't remember a "wild" DZ really is.


ed naylor


(This post was edited by spotandfloat on Mar 2, 2010, 9:41 AM)


kkeenan  (D 22164)

Mar 2, 2010, 11:30 AM
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Hi John. Good to see you found the spot where all of the "Old Guys" have been hanging out. Great memories of Cleveland - especially the automatic weapons and mushrooms, always a fun combination.

I didn't see any mention of Wills Point, between Dallas and Shreveport. I don't think the DZ lasted long there, but was a great place.

I moved to Fla. in '77, and started jumping at DeLand, but those days at Dickenson, Spaceland, Cleveland, Wills Pt., Angleton - Jeeze, there's too many to name. There just ain't nothing like Texas Skydiving.

Kevin Keenan


JohnMincher  (D 4056)

Mar 2, 2010, 1:05 PM
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Hi Don,
I'm glad for that statute of limitations. I'm just glad nobody got killed.
What I remember about the beginning of Cleveland was that Gary Lewis introduced me to Bob Geohagen, the airport manager. The only thing going on at the time was his C172 airplane training for the locals, so he wanted more activity. Harvey Stewart pushed things along by buying Gary's C180, that he later crashed, which we jumped along with the 172, and he got Dave Boatman to bring in Metro Airline's Twin Otter for a weekend. For quite a while, we waited on the White Whale, Gary's Twin Beech, that also later crashed, and Gary's DC3 to get ready. I trained students from gear I got from Boatman till you and Carl came along. I think you bought that gear. I'm glad you took over the student training, because I wasn't cut out for it. I really wasn't cut out for the dropzone management either, as you know because of all the outlaw stories. I was afraid the law might find me responsible if something bad happened. I couldn't keep myself above a grand, much less get everybody thinking safety. My one and only real safety meeting went something like this: Some California guys were in town. We were really having a good party. It looked like too much party! I called a safety meeting that noone wanted to come to. The Cessna had just taken off with Phil Mayfield and his wife, Lynn, and a couple of others for Lynn's first 10 second delay. Meanwhile down on the ground, everybody came around and Dave Boatman, group spokesman, asked me to give an example as to why I thought we needed a safety meeting. We stopped the conversation long enough to see Phil and the bunch leave the plane and make a 4 man with Lynn as her automatic opener went off along with her main. I pointed up and said, "That's why!"
John


drjump  (D 2785)

Mar 2, 2010, 3:04 PM
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You are right. My log shows 31 Dec 1972, two jumps out of the Metro Otter. Carl and I went back to Doc's in Dickenson untill May of 1973. when we moved back to Cleveland, C-172 and C-180 used until Aug. '73 when the DC-3 first showed up. The log reads "A whole DC-3 and only eight jumpers. I quess I need to edit some details on the last post. HA, HA, that is called a Senior Moment. The jump on 12 Aug reads-Fire Drill 4 man star with J. Mincher going through on his back. Did you get my private e-mail about the reunion?


SlowHDRider

Mar 4, 2010, 10:21 AM
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I think it was Caddo west of DFW, watching the pilot sit in the back of Gillespie's van (I think it was Ken's) reading "Screw" magaine. A little skinny dead white complected dude, but a good pilot. He brought a twin beech out there....it was so hot the heat waves looked like water in the air..watching the pilots white ball cap bob up and dog as he JOGGED around all 3 lengths of the run way. Everyone else was trying to cop what ever shade they could find, Texas on an airstrip with no trees in the middle of summer. I flew back into Dallas with him on a sunset load, beautiful colors (somewhat chemically altered), only to have a very bad storm come in and flood the area. He wouldn't take the plane back until the next day due to the storms as he was responsible for it.
That's the plane he was piloting when he crashed with Jim Croce onboard and all on the plane died.
In reply to:


SHazen

Mar 4, 2010, 4:55 PM
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Skydiving
I can’t believe there is nothing in this computer about Skydiving? This is one of my most signifigent early adulthood events about confronting fear. I was a sophomore in College (1970 UT Arlington) when Dennis Burt burst into our apartment on Cooper street. “Guess where I’m going this weekend?” He said. “Skydiving” “You mean We are” I said. That started a chain of events that culminated 6 weeks later in our first jump. First the weather was bad. Then the plane was broken. Then the pilot didn’t show up ( hung over again? ). We kept driving to Cedar Hill, Texas just south of Dallas.
Finally everything was ready at the same time. My log book shows that on 3/14/70 I made my first jump. It was out of a Cessna 180. Ben Gutierrez put me out on a static line. There was a voice in my head. It kept saying over and over “Oh my God I’m going to die” I said “Shut up you have wanted to do this for six weeks” and it said louder “Oh my God I’m going to Die!” I looked down and saw what looked like ants. They were cows. I got out on the step in the wind blast. I could hardly hear myself think for “OH MY GAWD I’M GOING TO DIE!!” screaming in my head. Then I jumped.
You fall a long ways even with a 7 foot static line to pull your parachute open. The canopy has to come out of the pack. Then the lines stretch. About 75 feet but you are looking down at thousands (3,000). Then the canopy jerks you upright and everything is quiet and blissful. There’s a couple of good minutes before the next crisis, landing. I hit in the middle of some field and did OK.
Strangely the first jump is not the worst. For me it was the third. On the first you don’t really understand what is going to happen. I mean you discuss it and study and observe but none of that is like the real thing. Lots of things happen real fast in those three seconds between jumping off the airplane step and hanging under an open canopy.
Even on the second jump it’s too fast to comprehend but by the third you have a pretty good idea of what is really going to happen.
By that time I had a good instructor an older man (probably 50) Langondon F Son. I made several jumps with him and he taught me well. It turns out that the Cedar Hill group are a sort of outlaw group with a bad reputation. Ben Gutierrez was one of the worst. A time later on I saw Ben make a low pull. He came so close that I could read the military style name tag on his jacket and see his boot laces in free fall. Then he pulled his rip chord and his canopy came out inflated but twisted. He untwisted then hit the ground 10 seconds later.
Anyway I made my required five static line jumps with Langdon and learned more about how to fly my canopy. On my sixth jump I did a short free fall and landed 100 yards from the target. I remember making my first 10 second free fall back at Cedar Hills. I could hear and feel the wind build stronger as my velocity increased. It takes 10 seconds before a human body in free fall reaches equilibrium between the weight of gravity pulling it down and wind resistance not letting it get any faster at about 120 mph called ominously enough Terminal Velocity.
Thirty seconds of freefall is a pretty standard jump. It takes 10 seconds to fall the first one thousand feet then 5 seconds for each thousand thereafter. With rip chord pull at 2,500 feet this means an exit from the airplane about 8,500 feet. I made my first 30 second delay on my 12th jump in May of 1970. We did relative work on that jump. In other words another skydiver flew up to me and we joined hands in free fall. On the next jump three of us joined together.
When school was over for the summer, I moved back to Houston and began jumping at Dickinson then Conroe and later at the Montgomery County airport. Along the way I met Pete Bandy. We made lots of junk jumps and learned a lot that summer.
By next year I had one hundred jumps and an hour cumulative time in free fall. We were chasing the elusive 8 man hook up jumping out of a twin Beechcraft at 12,000 feet over Waco, Texas.
One of the memorable jumps along the way was at a meet in Valley Mills, Texas. We competed on 4 man relative work. In other words, how fast we could make a 4 man star. We did it in less than 10 seconds. That was remarkable. I did some of the work. I went in second. That means that one person fell as base or just remained stable. I went to him then two others came in from left and right (which is harder). We did it all before reaching terminal velocity at 10 seconds or full speed. We were hot shots for a day.
My worst jump had to be when Pete got hurt. We had a put together junk load at the end of the day without a full load. Six people went up in the twin Beech at Valley Mills. One of them was a student with about 30 jumps. He borrowed a parachute from Gary Lewis. Gary kidded him telling him that it was an old parachute and would probably work. This kid got separated from the group in freefall. Normally we separate at 3,500 to open at 2,500. The kid didn’t see anybody (we were above him) and pulled at 3,500 because he was worried about that old parachute.
The rest of us had made a five man hook up. We had just broken up and were turning away when I saw a flash of color go by me. Pete hit the kid’s open canopy. At 120 mph it was like hitting concrete. He also hit the kid and it broke Pete’s leg in freefall. Pete still had to open and land with a broken leg. Meanwhile the kid is knocked unconscious with a stremering parachute. He hits another jumper. Ken Gillespie had just watched his Paracommander open with a frontal tuck (pretty typical of PC’s). The kid comes right through the opening and nails Ken’s left wrist against his reserve breaking his wrist. The kid keeps falling and spinning and falling. From above it appears several times that he must have hit the ground. He is falling about 60 mph under a torn up parachute. Suddenly he wakes up, sees where he is, pulls his reserve (without cutting away his main) and has a 10 second canopy ride to the earth. Whew! But he did have broken ribs.
Meanwhile we land and Pete lays there in the grass yelling “Help, I’ve got a broken leg.” Sure you do I say. I walk over to him and he really does have a broken leg! Half that load went to the hospital with broken bones that afternoon. Pete’s leg wasn’t set well and he walked with a limp ever since.
Well that’s depressing. Let me tell you some good stories. John Mincher and I did a water jump for our C license. It was summer in Dickinson Texas. We wore life jackets and each had a trick. John jumped his ParaCommander and landed so close to the edge of the lake that he barley got his feet wet. His good parachute landed on the shore and didn’t even get wet. I made a giant handkerchief type parachute out of a shower curtain. I flew off line and released my reserve under the rig and it floated clear of the lake and remained dry, hence did not need a repack ($30). I went for a swim.
The best jump ever occurred in Valley Mills. We loaded 30 great jumpers in the DC 3 and climbed to 13,500 feet. I was one of the last out. The hardest position. By this time I had over 200 jumps and hours in free fall. As I stood up in the aisle, I felt slightly dizzy from the altitude. Our objective was to make a large star. The world’s record at that time was 20.
The exit is one of the key points. In freefall one falls 1,000 feet in 5 seconds. This means that if I am 5 seconds behind the first person out the door, they will be 1,000 feet or almost a quarter of a mile below me when we all accelerate to terminal velocity and about 500 feet behind because of the forward motion of the airplane. So we practice getting all 30 people out the door in 5 seconds. For me this means jumping 10 feet before I get to the door with 3 people still in the way just figuring that they will all have a clean exit(not bump the edge or slow down) and leaving the door already diving head down.
Immediately after the exit, you pass through some rough air from the airplane but you try not to alter your head down position very much because it will slow you down. The wind noise grows until it is screaming at 200 mph. You have to watch everybody else. At these velocities people have been killed in free fall collisions.
I don’t dive right at the forming star knowing that as I flare there will be lots of forward throw. The wind tries to pull my arms off as I come out of the dive. The forward throw has me closing on the star at up to 80 mph horizontally now. The star does not stay still. It floats up and down and breaths in and out and slides sideways. Six or eight jumpers are making simultaneous approaches. I have to watch them too. If one gets under me, his burble will cut off my air and I will fall on him. I bide my time. My job is to come in last. As I get near I can see that the other side is in danger of breaking up. The star slides under me and suddenly I am coming straight down right between two jumpers. The hardest approach you can make with a burble on each side.
Usually you grab two jumpers arms, shake, then they let go and you are in. Today with the star breaking up I punch in, slam into the arms and break them open in one motion. I look right and left. I am sandwiched between two of my mentors, Curran Phillips and Phil Mayfield. The 18 man star holds the required 5 seconds. We break at 3,500 feet track away from each other and the thunder of 30 parachutes opening rumbles through the air. That’s a good day.
Stephen hazen


SHazen

Mar 5, 2010, 3:41 PM
Post #25 of 47 (10829 views)
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      So sometimes we would play this game of Chicken. Gary would fly the Twin Beech real low and buzz jumpers as they walked back to the DZ. I rode copilot with him one time. We flew 4 feet off the ground at 200 MPH and had to go up to clear a barb wire fence.
I swear, all this bullshit is True! I was there. I lived in a small (4x6) tent on the DZ during the summer of '71. My clothes closet was a wrecked C-180. The doors still locked. I taught people how to sky dive (about 6, made $300 all summer) helped around the field and got FREE jumps all summer. I had two rigs so I could hit the ground and make the next load. My log book shows 5 jumps some days.
One day I put this student from the Rotary club out, then followed him out the door. As he got close to the ground ( I was 200 feet above and behind him) I yelled "Turn into the wind and put your feet together" He couldn't see any body and was scared shitless anyway. He thought it was the voice of GAWD talking to him.
I'm surprised any of us lived through it. We used to play with dynamite. Our official excuse was that we were digging a swimming pool in limestone bedrock. One day someone took a nap on the pea gravel target. We snuck out there with a half stick of dynamite. Kathump. He looked up briefly, rolled over and went back to sleep.
It was real quiet around there on weekdays. Nice to recover from the crazy weekends. Nobody knew the meaning of "Statutory" back then. Girls from town would come out for the party. Do you remember Cricket? She must have been at least 16. We would follow cars down the dirt roads with our lights out when they went to the creek to make out.
We would use the town tractor to mow the 640 acre L shaped section. I almost ran over somebody one day. I was driving it out from town and he stopped to talk. I thought the tractor was in neutral and let the clutch out. It jumped a foot. He was standing right in front of the wheel and he jumped 3 feet. I slammed the clutch in real fast.
I helped Gary change spark plugs on the Beech one day using only a pair of pliers. We flew to Poto, Oklahoma in the DC-3 for Nationals in '72. On Saturday night every one was doing Acid. We walked around in the dark making beeping sounds doing make believe relative work by echo location. The next day we couldn't find the pilot. Gary had a paying gig in Talequah so he flew and put me in the right seat (still tripping'). "Now if we have to feather an engine, hit that red button up there. Call off the airspeed and pull up the gear when I tell you to. Ready?" Sure. So when we get there, we're going to make a jump on the way in. I go back to suit up and there are women, kids and dogs walking around in the isle with no door on the plane. So I follow some people out the door but I haven't even see the ground in a few minutes. I'm thinking " I hope there's an airport down there. Hell I just hope we're not over water." It went fine.
We flew the DC-3 to Cozumel. I flew it at night over the Gulf (who needs a stinking license). The oil rigs looked real pretty going by.
In Whaco (Waco - V Mills) we ran out of gas one time in the Beech. We were up to 4,000 feet and it got real quiet when both engines quit. Gary went up front and consulted briefly with the pilot. Then he walked all the way to the back of the airplane before yelling "Get out". He was the first one out. We actually got some RW on the way down. When we landed in a field, I didn't even know which way to start walking but somebody saw it from the field and picked us up. The plane made it back.
Would I lie to you?
Stephen Hazen


JohnMincher  (D 4056)

Mar 5, 2010, 6:43 PM
Post #26 of 47 (2806 views)
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One time when the Beech quit on the way up, Phil Mayfield looked at me and, I believe, Paul Middleton, and said "Let's make a 3 man." I didn't know how high up we were, but we said Ok anyway. We jumped out and I caught Phil pretty fast. As Paul was coming in I could read his altimeter on his chest reserve. It said 900 ft. He was there by 800 where we broke off and dumped. As it turned out, only one fuel tank was empty on the Beech. The pilot's name escapes me, but I went to A&M with him, and I heard he was killed a few years later in a plane crash.
John


AggieDave  (D License)

Mar 5, 2010, 6:51 PM
Post #27 of 47 (2804 views)
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Do you know the story about a small memorial plaque near the old Corps dorms on Northside at Texas A&M about someone who died jumping?


JohnMincher  (D 4056)

Mar 5, 2010, 9:59 PM
Post #28 of 47 (2794 views)
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Hi Dave,
I might be able to help you a little about the fatality at A&M. I didn't know the guy, and I don't remember any details. I think it was a no-pull. I didn't know about any plaque. It happened in 66. I went to a club meeting just after it happened, and they said they were going to suspend any student training for a while. So I started jumping in 1967. Skip Heard and Dave Burrows ran the operation with a Cessna 195. They had gotten pretty safety conscious by then. The only one I'm still in contact with from then is Gary Lewis. He'll be at our reunion on April 17th. Maybe you want to come? Send me a personal email if you want.
John Mincher
Aggie Class 1970
SCR 422
john.mincher@yahoo.com


AggieDave  (D License)

Mar 6, 2010, 4:27 AM
Post #29 of 47 (2787 views)
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Was your group jumping at Coulter or around the other DZs that have been talked about in this thread? For instance, I'd love to find out when the pea pit was put in at Coulter Airfield in Bryan.


drjump  (D 2785)

Mar 6, 2010, 7:04 AM
Post #30 of 47 (2779 views)
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How about some of those rainy Sat. nights in Angleton? All of the oh's and ah's from your tent made a great show for the rest of us that were trying to sleep. That was some funny smelling mosquito repellent fog!
Hi Steve, those were great times. The young jumpers today do not know what they missed.
Don


lapster  (D 8241)

Mar 8, 2010, 8:24 PM
Post #31 of 47 (2721 views)
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All these folks plus Al (XL) Covert were folks that in the mid '70's got me motivated to learn to skydive as I was bored with my 85 military S/L jumps, they were heroes to me. Thanks for the memories folks, for all of it and not just the safety meetings but the executive safety meetings as well. Bless Dave Boatman and Twotters in Texas much before most other places...golden times for sure. Not really sure how I lived through it. Kindest Regards Mark "Lap" Dunlap (for short while) Sacramento, CA. Retired and just livin' the dream!!


JohnMincher  (D 4056)

Mar 10, 2010, 9:11 PM
Post #32 of 47 (2680 views)
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Hi Aggie Dave,
I can’t tell you when the pea gravel target was put in at Coulter Field. I can tell you that we were jumping at Hearne, Caldwell, and Millican the 4 years I was at A&M from 66 through 70. We had a pretty large target in Hearne. In those days of target accuracy, a DZ didn’t rate much if there wasn’t a target. I had heard that A&M jumped Coulter before I was there. The club disbanded in 70 because a girl named Darlene went in shortly after a near miss from a fatality by Houston jumper,Gary Hall. He streamered in and lived to tell about it. Here is how that all evolved, and it’s kind of important to the start of large RW in Texas.
As I said in another post, Skip Heard and Dave Burrows ran the club in 66-68. We had a C195. Everybody in Houston, Dallas, and at A&M were trying for a 5 man star at that time. CG Wallace in Houston had C195 and a couple of guys from there, Tim Hinkle and Don Devenny, came periodically to help us. A DC# owner, I think friends of Skip and Dave and Tim and Don, brought his plane up to Hearne. A large crowd from Houston came. We did a couple of jumps from 16,500 ft. Don lit up the first joint I ever saw on the way up. The airplane owner wanted to make a 60 second delay on his first jump. Skip taught him, and he made a successful jump. It surely caused a big stink among the Texas Parachute Councel, though. He brought it another weekend, and the Houston bunch came again. The weather was lousy, so we all flew down to Mexico and went to Boy’s Town. Now, that was a party! Anyway, all this had an effect on our wanting to do large stars.
The club passed to our younger generation. Mike Melvin, RIP, and I jumped Gary Lewis’s J3 Cub many afternoons for $.50 a jump. It was target accuracy from 1800 ft. We got flying lessons while we cut class, flying over to Somerville Lake to buzz fishermen and run deer and cows and flew along the Brazos River bottom. The turns were scary. We found some good duck hunting places, too. Too bad Gary’s dad took the airplane away, so we would study more. We made some trips to Valley Mills for meets and got to know those folks well. The old man Lafferty had been running the dropzone and had recently died. Mrs Lafferty was still running it and had the help of her jumping kids, Bobby, Danny, and Merilee. Drinking to the Good Cardinal Puff was popular then. We met Charles Waters, Jack Peck, Clark Thurman, and others. Meanwhile, back at Aggieland Gary Lewis got married to Elaine and decided to buy a Twin Beech. That plane got the name, White Whale. He needed some income, and we all wanted to make stars. We took the club to Caldwell and later to Millican. Caldwell is where Gary and a couple of others packed an unmodified 28 ft for my main. Later in V-mills I got him back. I turned his PC around backwards. It gave him a malfunction. I’d have been sorry if he had gotten killed, but he didn’t. the guy’s got 9 lives. Millican is where Gary dynamited trees and graded a runway with a rise in the middle. One time on takeoff, Gary had to shut the Twin Beech down because of a stray cow on the runway. He was so PO’ed that he killed the cow. He found out the hard way that cattle rustling is still a serious offence in Texas! Anyway, that’s when Darlene got killed, and that ended Aggie jumping for a few years. Gary moved the plane to Valley Mills, and the rest is history you can read at the first of these Valley Mills Texas History posts.
The only other thing I’d like to add is about our first 5 man star. Pat Works has a thread here at dropzone.com about the first 5 man stars being made in Texas. Anita Howe, Phil Mayfield, Pat, and I were trading emails about it. I wrote an email about ours. Here’s is how it went.
Hi Anita, Pat, and Phil,
My first 5-way was at Hearne, Texas while I was still at A&M. It was out of Gary Lewis's "new" Twin Beech. Date: 4-19-69. The largest one so far had been a 3-way. There were only 5 jumpers on the plane. The fifth one in was going to do style, but decided to watch us 4 instead. I don't think we really knew what we were doing! But, 3 weeks later we held the first Texas RW meet that I know of. I got to make the rules. The score would count even if the formation was tumbling! We won first place and actually got another 5 man.
John
There are many more stories before I have to start making them up.
John Mincher
SCR 422


drjump  (D 2785)

Apr 20, 2010, 9:28 AM
Post #33 of 47 (2575 views)
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John--Thanks for the "old farts fest" last w/e at the 'new' spaceland DZ and the party in Pearland. Not everyone is still actively jumping, but no one has forgotten how to party!


JasonRanson

Jan 14, 2012, 12:27 PM
Post #34 of 47 (2311 views)
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I am Chris Ransons son. I recently spread his ashes and I really didn't know him very well. Any of you that my have jumped with him in the 70's I would very much like to hear any stories you have that could help me to know who he was and what he was like back then. Thanks.
In reply to:


SCS292  (No License)

Mar 23, 2012, 1:12 PM
Post #35 of 47 (2208 views)
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Howdy Steve, how are things? That was me trying to sleep on the pea gravel when you guys decided to enlarge the pool. And it was 1972 when we spent May, June and July in V-Mills. We left in August for three months in Europe. I wish life could be that easy again.
Rick Johnson


SCS292  (No License)

Mar 26, 2012, 12:37 PM
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The first time I met Pete Bandy he was still in a cast and Steve Hazen was trying to get me into skydiving. I'm not sure introducing you to someone with a broken leg is good salesmanship but I bought Pete's rig anyway. A note in my logbook says I paid $75. I got a 28' 7TU a 24' "hipo" reserve and an Army harness and containers. I also got his red and black jumpsuit with a hole in one leg. I patched it with a piece of white terry cloth and wore it till I quit jumping. I never had the money for one of those fancy bell bottom jobs Phil Mayfield sold (or as my logbook says "dleifyaM lihP" except all the letters are perfectly backwards - license # too). I was too skinny for bell bottoms anyway, I never would have quit floating. Looking as ragtag as I did I guess I understand why I always had to go last on big loads. Odd coincidence, when I upgraded to a PC I bought the PC and a 26' lopo reserve from Chuck Storer who had broken his leg a year or so earlier on a downwind landing. He quit jumping but he still liked to party. I met him in V-Mills and we have been good friends ever since.


(This post was edited by SCS292 on Mar 26, 2012, 12:46 PM)


FWL

Apr 2, 2012, 8:29 AM
Post #37 of 47 (2085 views)
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Jason,
Your father got me into skydiving. I first met Chris when I was in high school in the late '60s. We were in an astronomy club in Dallas. He mentioned to me that he jumped and I went out to Cedar Hill, Tx to watch one day. I was hooked. He "trained" me and sneaked me out to a DZ in Roanoke, TX, gave me a logbook that indicated I had already jumped before, and there I made my first two jumps. I made my next two in Valley Mills. I have a photo of my first jump and it shows me wearing a helmet with "RANSON" on the front.


SCS292  (No License)

Apr 4, 2012, 4:11 PM
Post #38 of 47 (2042 views)
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Reading about Jess Hall's machine gun reminded me about some of the other guns he had. Do you remember when he would shoot off that little cannon? Did you ever get to squeeze off a round from his nickel plated 1911? I blew a beer can clear out of the future V-Mills swimming pool with it. Did you ever come into a star and grab onto the .25 auto he had in his jumpsuit sleeve pocket just in case he landed in another farmer's field who wanted to hold him for ransom? Nice times sitting in the Airstream relaxing with some herbal therapy and a bottle of Lancer's too.


SCS292  (No License)

Apr 10, 2012, 12:06 PM
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John, I remember an emergengy jump from Mike Mullens' twin beech at V-Mills. He had the fuel selector on a tank that ran dry and he dead sticked it back to the airport. He came in hot and ground looped at the south end of the runway and put a 2" scratch on one rudder where it knicked the barbed wire fence. He switched to the full tank, cranked it back up and taxied back to the trailer. I had just read a statistic that said most skydiving fatalities were from plane crashes and on the second sputter I headed for the door.


texascrw  (D 18006)

Apr 10, 2012, 9:35 PM
Post #40 of 47 (1962 views)
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Love to hear the history. It is great!


SCS292  (No License)

Jun 26, 2012, 6:30 AM
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The Summer of '72 in V-Mills, Tx was a magical time for me. I quit my job in Houston in early May and moved into my VW van at the DZ in V-Mills full time. Steve Hazen followed as soon as school was out and we had some others make extended stays as well. Larry Gossler from Z-Hills stayed in his VW camper for a while. Jess Hall brought his Airstream and split his time between there and Houston, Matt Farmer and the Kansas bunch came for at least a week. And of course the population on the weekends swelled with people from all over coming to camp out and jump from the Twin Beech and the DC-3. The Texas 10 man team was practicing every weekend for the '72 Nationals in Tallequah and there were some exciting garbage loads that followed them out. We did lots of great RW with jumpers from Kansas, California, Louisana and all parts of Texas. But when the weekend was over and things got quiet, Gary Lewis couldn't fly so he started dreaming up projects for us lay abouts. There was a spare bedroom in Gary and Elaine's trailer where the engine for the J-3 Cub lived. Gary found an A&P to rebuild the engine in exchange for free rides in a glider Gary bought and brought to the DZ. That worked great till the guy stalled it and nosed in, breaking both legs. The glider then became a gathering spot to indulge in some herbal therapy and swap stories. Gary borrowed Alvin's flatbed painting truck and we went over to McGregor airport to pick up Gary's clip wing J-3 and bring it back to V-Mills. The wingspan of a clip wing J-3 is 28' and Gary didn't want to bother with anything like a permit and escort so we travelled the back way on the dirt roads. The Cub wings were well off the ground and above all the barbed wire fences and we were able to weave around the high gates but occasionally we came to a place where there was a tree in the fence line on both sides of the narrow road. We simply sawed the smaller one off at the top of the fence and kept going. At one point I had to get on top of the cab and cut a huge liveoak branch that overhung the entire road. We hoped Alvin wouldn't notice the dent in the roof that one caused. We made it safely back to V-Mills without any trouble with law enforcement or irate landowners who had their trees cut. I left before Gary got the J-3 back in business but Gary's plans for the hanger we were building had doors wide and tall enough to fly the J-3 through. I wonder if he ever did?


(This post was edited by SCS292 on Jun 26, 2012, 7:57 AM)


skydiveKid79

Oct 25, 2012, 9:04 AM
Post #42 of 47 (1638 views)
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Thanks everyone for the history! My father is Ron Patterson, SCR 373 and watching him jump was one of my fondest childhood memories. I ran across some old pics that i thought someone may enjoy.
Attachments: SkyDive_2_old.jpg (35.7 KB)
  SkyDiveOld.jpg (34.9 KB)


MrSkydiver  (D 3287)

Oct 25, 2012, 10:02 AM
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John, here is the picture of the V-Mills Texans from Z-Hills '71
Why didn't someone tell us we were not supposed to win?
Gregg Hackett


(This post was edited by MrSkydiver on Oct 25, 2012, 10:04 AM)
Attachments: V-Mills Texans Z-Hills '71 1st Place (back) small.jpg (83.6 KB)
  V-Mills Texans Z-Hills '71 1st Place small.jpg (179 KB)


JerryBaumchen  (D 1543)

Oct 25, 2012, 3:22 PM
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Re: [MrSkydiver] Valley Mills, Texas History [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Gregg,

I particularly like that guy on right in the photo, with his StyleMaster reserve protecting the family jewels.

For you not familiar with an original StyleMaster, you will notice that the harness does not have a chest strap.

The reserve container ( when 'properly' located Tongue ) is what held you in the harness.

JerryBaumchen


Krip  (Student)

Oct 25, 2012, 11:45 PM
Post #45 of 47 (1604 views)
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Re: [JerryBaumchen] Valley Mills, Texas History [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
Hi Gregg,

I particularly like that guy on right in the photo, with his StyleMaster reserve protecting the family jewels.

For you not familiar with an original StyleMaster, you will notice that the harness does not have a chest strap.

The reserve container ( when 'properly' located Tongue ) is what held you in the harness.

JerryBaumchen

Hi Jerry

I thought the guy in the pic was the inventor of the low rider pants style for the boys in the hood. A man way ahead of his timeSly

LaughLaugh When the home boys try and run from the Po po and their pants are falling down around their ankles.Crazy

R.


SCS292  (No License)

Jan 27, 2013, 6:07 AM
Post #46 of 47 (1290 views)
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Do you remember the pilot in training Gary had flying the C-180? Paul Stall. I always thought that was a great name for a pilot. He was working on his commercial license so if you were on a load he was flying you just made a donation instead of paying for the jump. Funny how the donation amount equaled the price of a jump. The 180 had an air door on it which was really nice in the winter and I remember the ass chewing Paul got from Gary when it blew open and got ruined in a power dive after the jumpers got out.


SCS292  (No License)

Feb 15, 2014, 7:20 PM
Post #47 of 47 (851 views)
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Does anybody remember the "Green Bastard"? it was Gary's '49 Ford F3 one ton pickup with high lift springs. We had quite a few adventures in the Green Bastard in 1972. Gary was building a hangar at the airport and he was using used drill stem pipe for the arched trusses (you know most of that shit is radio active). We would go into Waco in the Green Bastard and buy 6 or 8 stems of pipe and run them under the truck, over the front and rear axles, tie them down with some bailing wire and drive back to V-Mills. Drill stem pipe is about 30' long so it stuck out 6 or 8' front and rear. How the hell we made all those trips without getting stopped I don't know but Gary always had me drive, go figure. If we made a sudden stop we had to get out and shove the pipe back under the truck to even it out since the bailing wire wouldn't keep it tight. Gary built an ingenious jig and we would screw the joints together and he would have all the jumpers available get on the pipe, waist high and bend it around the jig to get in the proper shape. For a guy who was one calculus course from getting an engineering degree from Texas A&M he was a genius at figuring out how to get things done. Who remembers being on the far end of the pipe? I think it took at least 4 joints of pipe for each truss. Talk about crack the whip, if you were out there when the pipe sprang back it just ran over you if you couldn't back peddle fast enough and you wound up on your ass in the dirt. After each bend we moved it a few feet into the jig and made another run at it. The crazy thing is, it worked and the hanger had a nice round shape.

After the hanger was taking shape Gary made a deal with Jack Peck for a Coke machine that Gary thought would be a nice addition at the DZ and might bring in a couple bucks. Jack's shop at the airport was getting a new machine and I think he gave Gary the old one. We took the Green Bastard down to Waco Muni and picked it up. Considering the height of the Coke machine in the bed of the jacked up Green Bastard, needless to say, it was a little top heavy. We didn't have much in the way of tie downs and not wanting to go buy anything, we made do with what we had. I was driving again and trying to be really careful but on a right curve before we even got away from the airport boundary, over the side it went, bottle tops spraying all over the road. Gary got out and surveyed the damage and had me just back up an push the damn thing out of the road since it was square in the middle of the other lane. He went back to the truck and got a screw driver and pried the serial number placard off and we headed back to the DZ, leaving the dead Coke machine on the road side. I don't think he even chewed me out for that one. Must have been one of his mellow days or maybe my memory is bad and Gary was driving.


(This post was edited by SCS292 on Feb 15, 2014, 7:51 PM)



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