In our youth one of the coolest places to go to find useful stuff at a cheap price was the government surplus depot. It was a veritable promised land of equipment for those of us who were cutting edge outdoorsmen. Whether you wanted a truck or just a pair of real life combat boots you could buy it there for a song.
We were friends with a noted adventurer whose name must remain undisclosed under the United States Security Act. I didn’t know it was classified information. I just thought he was a nut. Maybe he was a government spy. Anyway all I can tell you was that he pulled some of the wildest stunts anyone could dream up and the supply depot was the source of one of his daring deeds. He was the guy who coined the phrase “Ya’ll watch this”.
So my creative, out of the box thinking friend saw a parachute for sale at this depot and his mind immediately clicked on a plan. Our shallow minds could not conceive of what was to transpire from this purchase. No airplane was available to us and that was the only sensible option for a parachute. It should be noted however, that the word “sensible” and our friend’s name did not often collide in the same sentence.
A few days later we were gathered at the lake where our friend lived and his strategy had begun to take shape. His plan was to use the parachute as a parasail to glide out over the waters of Lake Oconee. He had been hard at work in preparation and had only one minor engineering problem. The “chute” was in pristine condition except that the harness was missing and our buddy’s genius and training from the Stone Age School of “How to figure stuff out” was at work on that small quandary.
The overall design was stunning in its simplicity. The makeshift harness was made of two pieces. The top half was attached to the ring on the parachute by tying a half inch rope to it with a very impressive quadruple granny knot. The other end of the harness was devised to attach in such a way as to slip over his head and under his arms so that not only would it be secure but the flight would allow his hands to be free during the exercise (the better to wave at his audience). Of course the last piece of the puzzle was to simply connect the whole thing to a boat cleat and it was complete.
The group of onlookers scientifically appraised the contraption and concluded that it wouldn’t work even though they gave no reason for their opinion. Our friend scoffed at the doubters and prepared for his maiden flight of the “chute”.
The launch was traditional in theory. The parachute was placed on the ground behind our participant, and as the boat began to move our boy would run along the ground, the sail would fill with air and he would take off in glorious flight. All went according to plan until a flaw in the engineering setup was discovered.
For the first few moments it seemed that a miracle would occur and success would be found. Upon gaining a small bit of altitude however, it became obvious that our government spy had overlooked the fact that he had made himself the fulcrum. His waist was the connecting portion of the entire apparatus and all of a sudden the poor guy had become the weak link. He hung like Hercules between two great horses and the prize they fought for was our friend.
Stretched out like a banjo string he began flailing his free arms to the boat driver and the great experiment came to a drenching halt. After ointment had been applied to the rope burns we discussed whether our buddy possessed great skill and courage in eluding death by dismemberment. In the end it seemed clear that he, like other great adventurers and spies, was just lucky to be alive.
Alvin Richardson is a contributing writer, retired educator, and public speaker. Contact him at email@example.com