Draft of story by RW

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Memorable Jump. (Jumpers ignore "lessons")

In 1962, while living in Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia, at the age of eleven , I was in Boy Scouts. Robert Klein was a Scout Master. At age 30, Klein was also a teacher and the band director at Ras Tanura Senior Staff School. Boy Scout life was something else. Our “camp outs” took us to remote areas of the planet that Stateside kids could only dream about. My most prized memory is laying in the red sand of the Rub' al Khali on a cool moonless night looking skyward. Never before, and never since have I seen the stars and galaxies the way I did on that trip. Camping took us to many places in Arabia, and Mr. Klein was on all of them.

A few years later, in Ras Tanura, he would be helping coach the football team. He was memorable to me, mostly due to the fact that I had a lot of contact with him.; first with Boy Scouting followed by my short lived involuntary servitude in BAND, (It was not my idea to play a clarinet) my existence in his English Literature class and finally as a football player in 1965.

In 1978, with life in Saudi Arabia well behind me, I decided to make a parachute jump. Despite ending up in power lines half a mile from the target, I was talked into making another jump. Following THAT rough landing I got it right on the third jump. By the year 2003 I had well over three thousand skydives, including over five hundred jumps as a tandem instructor. Briefly, tandem parachuting is a form of skydiving utilizing a dual harness and dual parachute. The tandem instructor literally takes the passenger on a sky dive with minimal participation by the passenger. (Some participation is required, such as maintaining a good body position on exit from the plane.)

In May 2003 I was preparing to go to the bi-annual Aramco Brat Reunion in Tucson, where, as the time before, I had organized tandem parachute jumps as an alternative activity to bowling, golf and tennis. (Brats are the former dependent children of then Aramco Employees.) Already almost a dozen Brats had signed up. I noticed, via the Brat web site, that my old Scout Master would be attending the reunion of his former students. Hmmmm. Over the years I have pretty much been able to determine what kind of person would jump from a perfectly good plane, and I figured Mr. Klein would go for it. It didn’t hurt to ask.

Not only did he agree to make a jump with his former student, he eagerly looked forward to it. He even brought a vintage SIXTIES jump suit with him that he borrowed from a former Navy SEAL friend. He stayed on after I told him that the oldest tandem passenger I ever took was 72, and that we had a parachute malfunction necessitating the implementation of PLAN B.

Well, on Saturday, May 25, 2003, I, at age FIFTY TWO, picked up SEVENTY ONE year old Bob in the hotel lobby, and we drove to Marana Skydiving Center. My first Passenger, though, would be Candy Riley, the daughter of William “Bill” Riley, the principal of the Dhahran Senior Staff School in the Sixties and Seventies. (Oh, yes, Dad Riley, who was also at the reunion, was THRILLED with that idea! Not.) Having survived a serious cancer scare, Candy was now ready to jump out of a plane. She had been offered the opportunity, by me, for years in the past, but, the concept left her panicking just thinking about it. Our jump went well and Candy described it as total exhilaration and total FEAR. She didn’t really get scared until the scary part was over.

The parachute was re-packed by drop zone handy man Bobby “V” Valenzuela. Bobby V once made a jump in all fifty states in ONE year, traveling only by Suzuki 650 motorcycle.(Yes, he rode the bike onto a tanker to Hawaii!) After suiting Mr. Klein up for the jump we boarded the Beech King Air for the short ride to altitude. When it came time to attach Bob’s harness to mine, he informed me that he would NOT be getting on his knees for me because of the bum left knee. After coming up with a plan to have him sit in my lap while I was seated on the floor of the plane, I managed to get him hooked up. We were assisted to our feet by a jumper standing nearby. The walk to the door was about three feet. Bob correctly assumed the “position,” and we left.

Having your face shoved out the door of a plane flying 10,000 feet above the desert is the ultimate reality check. I recall thinking, “What the HELL am I DOING here?” when the door of the rickety Cessna popped open for my first leap. Seems like I forgot all about my desire to be adventurous. I’m sure Mr. Klein felt that way! The door jam was one of the moments he later talked about with such fervor. The wind from the flight is about 110 mph. The “falling feeling” is minimal, and it transitions quickly to floating on a LOUD cushion of air at 120 mph. After 30 seconds of falling the opening was good. We quietly drifted back and forth over the parachute center, watching the other tandems below us land. All went well, and our landing was smooth as silk right in front of the cheering Brats.

Afterward, myself, Bob ,Brad Johnson, (another of Klein’s former scouts) and Brad’s wife downed a Moosehead Beer at a very cold dark Arizona bar.

Back at the reunion, I could tell that this was a significant event for Robert Klein. Every time I bumped into him he was talking about the dive. He never came back down as far as I can tell.

The greatest pleasure in taking people on that first jump is the knowledge that I provided an experience that will NEVER be forgotten. Taking Bob Klein on his was, in a way, payback for some of those fantastic scouting trips into the wilderness of Arabia. It was also a message that you are never to old to be BOLD.

Russell M. Webb
405 Main Street, Suite 530
Houston, Texas 77002

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Awwwhhhh...Russell, thats so...so...well, you know! But not near as cool as your purddy little face COMMANDING me to exit a little Cessna for my first jump in '82! I do believe it was Coors Lite that evening instead of Moosehead, though!!! Love ya man!


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