Upon some philosophical reflection,
I'm reminded that sometimes we must
relearn some of the simplest lessons...
File this one under:
Never judge a book by its cover.
It was just at sunrise on a chilly and damp morning,
I hadn't gotten any sleep because of a long ‘put away’
memory being unlocked and replayed,
because of where I was and what I was there to do.
There was a stiff breeze from the East
blowing in across the Mississippi.
Making the weather feel worse that it probably actually was.
In truth, the air tasted exactly like it did
the last time Id stood here.
I reached up touching with one hand,
the stainless steel was icy,
...just like I remembered.
I laughed out loud, thoughtful of the ongoing paradox.
A thing of genuine beauty, a work of art
that I never could look at.
As the first ray of sun graced its peek,
the entire St. Louis Arch seemed
to sparkle and come alive.
20 years before, a fellow skydiving instructor,
a mentor and a friend died here
after trying to land on top.
With his wife watching from below and
his best friend looking down through
the open door of a Cessna cockpit...
“This is my favorite time of day to be here.”
Words that snapped me back into the present,
came from a squeaky hillbilly voice from behind me.
Looking at the source of the interruption,
I see what looks like ‘Jabba the Hut’
in a Park Ranger Uniform.
My inner voice mimics Jerry Seinfeild’s whine,
The park is empty,
but Ranger Bob starts into his spiel...
“It's a parabolic arch, 630 feet tall...”
“Yeah, I know” I said,
“And 33 feet across at the narrowest point”
(A little tight...I thought to myself.)
“Oh, come ‘round here often?”
No not really,
It's been a while... I'm from out of state.
What brings yawl back?
Well, I'm on the parachute team that will be
jumping here this weekend for the show.
Just thought I’d look the place over.
“Ya know... that's somthin’ ah always...”
As I turned up the setting on my ‘bullshit filter’,
I thought to myself...
Hey dumpling, 3 inches taller and you'd be round!
Best you stick to riding herd over the tourists...
In a somber mood and wanting to be alone,
I gave him a quick nod and turned to walk
back to my car.
‘Simba’ following on my heels,
goes back into his canned mantra...
“This parabolic arch,
because of it’s design characteristics
and slick construction material,
actually acts much like an airplane wing...
creating unseen and often violent
vortices of wind turbulence...
“Oh yeah?” I said digging for my keys, “Great!”
He continued in a mindless monotone,
“It'll flip yer perryshoot round
like ‘yasina’ turnanaido'.”
Gimme a break Sneezy,
I’m thinking, ...Somewhere in town,
Snow White's got an empty chair at the breakfast table.
“How many jumps did you say you had?” I asked,
as I shut the door and started to drive away.
...Nothing worst than an “Expert Wuffo” I said to my self,
Give some people a fucking badge...
Later that afternoon we were scheduled to do a
Flag jump into Cardnial Stadium
prior to the start of a baseball game.
We wouldn't be able to do a practice jump into the
actual landing area as we like to do for stadium jumps,
but we could make one into the park next to the arch
where we would be landing the next few days
during the Air Show.
We could at least get to see the stadium from the air,
and get a general feeling for the winds...
and ‘knock the dust off’.
2500 feet in the 206,
throwing a WDI at the top of the St.Louis Arch...
that lands someplace in Nebraska...
We decide to take the spot WAY out...
Over the river into Illinois in fact!
Which was fine with me, for some weird reason,
I just don't like exiting over water...
Any water... Any time!
Four of us do a hop and pop from 4500’
and form up in a line heading across the
‘Mighty Miss’ toward the “Gateway to the West”
Though not a performance per say,
we did trail long Red, White and Blue banners
just to give those that happened to notice
something to look at.
Going across the river headed toward the city
was an indescribable experience,
St.Louis is a beautiful city and visiting downtown
in this manner is highly recommended!
As we near the Missouri side,
the park is busy with vendors and promoters
setting up their equipment for the 4th of July
celebration and Air Show.
Not crowded just busy...
I was tail end Charlie on the line and was delighted
to see the #1 guy go straight through the arch
1/2 way between the top and the ground...
I was half a mile back and to be honest
the perspective gave me a cold chill.
A chill that was instantly washed away as I set up for
my approach to ‘Run the Arch’
I was on an even level with the observation windows
at the top center and made eye contact with some people
taking pictures from inside...
the whole thing was awe inspiring,
and I was laughing and hoopin’ at the top of my lungs...
riding 1/2 brakes to slow it down and make
the ride last as long as possible.
About 100 yards past the monument that;
“Will be here longer that the Pyramids”
(...more ‘canned’ Ranger quips)
I started into a slow 180* hook
to get headed into the wind and set up for landing.
SUDDENLY AND WITHOUT WARNING!
You guessed it!
First... I’m looking at my pilotchute...FROM BEHIND!
In the next instant...
I'm falling backwards toward the collapsing nose...
transfixed on how the slider is climbing back up the lines!
Hell..If I had a pull-up,
I could get this thing repacked before I LAND!
Talk about a time-saver!
Taking a wrap to hopefully assist...
I buried the steering lines to initiate a stall,
and at least get me back below some of this nylon...
Landing AFTER your parachute,
packed or not, ...is still bad form!
Knowing from years of competition accuracy
how to “pump” a stalling / sinking canopy
to stabilize and recover...
I started flapping like a gooney bird.
Fortunately I was using a 260 sqft. 9 cell,
the same rig I’d intended to take into the stadium
later in the day.
I actually hit straight down,
with no forward or backward drive
from the parachute or winds.
I stood there for a few seconds...
UN puckered...took a DEEP breath,
and wondered if I’d perhaps missed
a page or two in the “SIM”...
As the four of us were walking back up the hill
toward the equipment van,
comparing ripped jumpsuits and scrapped helmets,
Who should I spy
but my Park Ranger Acquaintance
from the sunrise stroll...
“ Ahh tried ta tell ya!” he drawled,
“ Ah bin watchin’ perryshoot guys tryin’ to land here
fer tin years now, nobody believes me!”
“Only happens when da win is from the East...
like today, but I tells ‘em all...
an all of ‘em think I’m jest a dumb country boy!”
EATING CROW isn't 1/2 bad...
smothered in adrenaline ‘Hot Sauce’!!
....I took “Officer Davis” to the van where I outfitted him
with a team pin, patch, hat and a tee-shirt.
As I repacked for the afternoon jump,
we traded tales like old friends,
I told him about the jumps both today and 20 years ago...
He told me about demo jumpers "dielemmas" at the
Archway Park that he'd witnessed and assisted with
going back a decade.
We exchanged business cards and handshakes,
and I recalled something my dad said to me years before,
Listen to more to WHAT someone is telling you,
and less to how and why they say it!
Stadium jump went great!
The grass is so perfect...
Depth perception is off, much like over water.
That and I was somewhat distracted just prior to landing...
Some movement caught in my peripheral vision
caused me to look left...
I still get kidded about the astonished expression
on my face, when I recognized my 50 foot head...
Live feed on the ‘Jumbo-Tron!!!”
Make a Skydive...Get a Check!
~ If you choke a Smurf, what color does it turn? ~