I can't say I'd call Cowboy old time, but....
Yes - he was well known at Sandwich, the "old" Skydive Chicago, and at Hinckley. I first met him at Sandwich when I was a student, and he was one of the “skygods” I looked up to.
Cowboy would have really disliked being called a skygod...
Details of what happened may never be known, but another Freak Brother has passed on to that great drop zone in the sky. If his ashes are to be scattered, I hope the winds carry him softly and cradle his soul.
He’ll be missed by all who knew him and heard his ‘twang’ when he got wound up in the evenings, after jumping. We’ll toss one back for ya, old friend. More than one, I bet.
And I'd add politely that he did not "drift away" from his skydiving friends as others have suggested - in fact, he remained in contact with some right up until before his passing. I think it’s more a matter of who those friends were, and where they hung out.
Cowboy was one of a kind - a 4-way genius, a party animal, and absolutely hilarious. He will be missed greatly by those that knew him.
I was on several teams with Cowboy as camera geek - I could write pages about those experiences. One of them was “Metal Descendants” and anyone at the “old” Skydive Chicago probably remembers us, and Cowboy, as we, um, well...we had a reputation.... I can vouch for the fact that we deserved it.
More than once he looked rather gray on jump run – and a lesser man would have remained on the ground, dropped over, or stayed in the plane. Not Cowboy. And please – spare me the lectures.
But one treasured memory of Cowboy has to be the ten-way team we put together in 1998 that won the Iron Man meet at the "new" Skydive Chicago.
That team was the "Hinckley Teamsters” and is one of my favorite memories of Cowboy, and absolutely my favorite moment in the sport. In honor of Cowboy, here is an abbreviated version:
The Teamsters had decided to return to Skydive Chicago for the Iron Man meet – all of us were previously jumping there regularly, but had drifted north on the wave of change. A famous skydiver had told us all that “4-way isn’t skydiving” and it always rubbed us wrong. We “couldn’t swoop, couldn’t dive, and couldn’t shoot accuracy.”
For years, the meet had been scheduled opposite the Nationals, but this year we had a chance to prove how wrong those words were. And oh, did we prove them wrong!
Around the infamous bonfire at Hinckley, the plot was hatched. There can be no denying we went to prove a point – and that is why the team name was “Hinckley Teamsters.” There were many innuendos behind the name, and that was half the fun.
The morning of the meet, we met in the parking lot of a local Farm & Fleet and drove to the drop zone in a caravan. I will never forget that – we pulled in, got our gear, and walked into the hangar. An old friend said, “Here comes the winning team...”
But we probably never would have won that meet if it were not for the sheer genius of Cowboy and his incredible ability to “see” the formation. After years of 4-way and 8-way competition, Cowboy had the experience and the vision of a seasoned competitor.
Each dive went together almost exactly as we rehearsed it. I was privileged to watch from above as their vidiot – and with a lot of competitive experience under my belt, I do not think I was ever so concerned about blowing a video, as I was that weekend. I did not want to be the one to screw things up.
From the first round of the meet, we were in first place and never looked back. We won handily, and it was a sweet moments as the team stood on the loading stairs holding the plaques for first place. One team member, who had been, shall we say, “asked” to leave the drop zone earlier that year in a real and bitter misunderstanding, won best skydiver of the meet. It was sweet and I will never forget it. In fact, I am willing to bet no one on that team will forget it.
That evening I returned to Hinckley with one other team member, and as I drove in to the parking lot, honking my horn from a mile west of the drop zone so they would know I was coming and screaming; the entire drop zone came out to greet us. We were treated to one of the best buzz jobs ever by a delighted pilot who was well aware of what we had just done.
I treasure that entire experience – and it would not have happened the way that it did if Cowboy had not been there to show us the way.
Personally, I pray Cowboy has found the peace he needed. I last saw Cowboy at Hinckley – he was selling his gear, and I had a chance to talk to him for a while. I am so glad I took that time to talk with him – I wish there was more I could have done or said.
Cowboy – you were and always will be – one of a kind.
I will miss you.