When I was 5 years old, we lived near Castle AFB in central California. The Vietnam war was in full swing as was the Cold War. I wasn’t old enough to understand all of that, but I was old enough to be fascinated by all of the Air Force jets I would see taking off from this base every day. I loved the fighters and I so wanted to be a fighter pilot when I grew up! Our neighbor was a retired fighter pilot. He was always so kind to me and if I annoyed him with all of my questions, he never let on about it. One day I learned he owned his own plane! Of course, you already know what I began to bug him about and one afternoon he was kind enough to take me on my very first plane ride! Almost 50 years later I still remember that day like it was yesterday. That day sealed the deal and just increased my desire for anything airplane-related!
One day, I was outside in my front yard and the roar of jet engines was exceptionally loud. To me, it seemed like hundreds of jets, of all kinds, were filling the skies all around me. I was an adventurous little boy with an extraordinarily strong will. Did I mention I lacked fear if my desire or my curiosity for something was strong enough? Well, wanting a better view, I climbed the neatly stacked firewood next to the house. It didn’t help much, but I realized I may be able to use the stacked wood and the adjoining fence to climb onto the roof to get a better view and the view was awesome!!!
How I didn’t kill myself on the climb to my top of “the world” I may never know! I was absolutely mesmerized by all of the planes. My imagination was in full swing and I have no idea how long I was up there before my mother began to call for me. Apparently, I had been quiet for way too long. Let’s just say, she was not happy about my newly found perch! The fear I lacked for my climb up to a greater view now gripped every part of my soul. I was sure if I didn’t die on my way down, death was indeed imminent when she got her hands on me! Now it is obvious I made it off of the roof that day. I even survived the subsequent good old fashion spanking and there are two things I will always remember about that day, my view and that spanking! (Yes, it was worth it!!!)
As days passed, I continued to watch those planes takeoff from the vantage point of my yard. I would run around the yard with my arms outstretched, pretending I was a fighter plane going off to shoot down bad guys somewhere just over the horizon. Life was exciting for this 5-year-old boy! While zooming around the yard one day, the roar of jet engines grew louder. I looked off in the distance and sure enough, these cool delta-winged fighters were taking off. They usually took off in pairs with one trailing just behind the other. They would climb into the air and bank hard into a turn and disappear in the distance. Sometimes though they would turn towards my house and zoom over the top of my neighborhood. That was always a special treat for me!
On one particular day, things were about to get even more exciting than usual. Those delta-winged fighters were taking off in large numbers. I watched as one was climbing high into the air when suddenly there was a flash and then lots of smoke from the back of the jet. It banked hard and looked as it was falling from the sky! The next thing I saw would consume me for weeks. The pilot ejected from his stricken plane and appeared to float gently to the ground. To me, that was the coolest and most exciting thing I had ever seen in my short life! The pilot’s thoughts at the time, I am sure, were not as pleasant as mine. I knew later from the news reports, the pilot survived and flew another day. This bit of information also helped to strengthen my belief that this was still the coolest thing ever!
I spent more and more time reliving that moment watching that pilot floating towards the ground. Now not only did I want to fly, but now, I also wanted to parachute out of a plane! Much to my disappointment and no matter how much I begged my mom or my pilot neighbor, this new dream was not going to happen anytime soon! I was crushed…until one day watching my mother fold one of her fitted bed sheets and my realization it looked like it could be used for a parachute! That image was burned into my brain and I wondered, “How could I test my sheet could be a ‘parachute’ theory?” I thought to myself long and hard and decided, “I will get the fitted sheet off of my bed and see if it will fill with air as I run with it.” So, while my mom was busy I slipped off to my room and took the fitted sheet off of my bed. I went to the backyard and wrapped each end of the sheet around my wrist. With the sheet draped behind me as I held my arms high, I took off and ran as fast as I could. To my glee, the sheet inflated, sort of…well, it was enough to convince me it would work as a parachute. Now I just needed an opportunity to try it out for real!
A few days passed and my opportunity came, my mother needed something from the store. She called one of our neighbors and asked if they would keep an eye on me as she went to the market. They agreed and bingo my mind began to plot my parachuting adventure! My neighbor allowed me to play outside, for their own sanity I am sure, and my plot was set in motion. I went home and retrieved one of my mom’s queen fitted sheets from the hall closet. I figured bigger was better and mom’s queen sheet had to be better than my twin sheet. I went to the woodpile on the side of the house. I carefully climbed the pile of wood to the fence. As soon as I could reach it, I put the still folded sheet on the roof edge and then carefully climbed up. When I got to the top middle of the roof facing the front yard. I unfolded the sheet and wrapped the ends around my wrist before gripping the sheet as tightly as my little hands would allow. I took a deep breath and ran down the slope of the roof with the sheet trailing behind me. I could feel the tug of the sheet behind me, and I was sure it was filling with air as I stepped off the edge of the roof…(TO BE CONTINUED)
Don J Thompson
PS I hope you come back to learn how my first jump went! Stay up to date and connect with Don on this page. Also, you won’t believe where I learned to build this blog and how I began my making money online journey!!! Click Here
Feel free to comment below and share one of your stories with me!