FALLING OUT OF THE SKY.
There are things we have all done that qualify as just plain stupid with a capital S. If we are lucky there is no one around when this moment happens and we can get away with shoving it into our secret closet with all the other moment in our life we dont’ want anyone to know about. Me, it seem I am not that lucky as most times, when my brain shuts off and I slip into “stupidity mode” it only when there is a crowd around to document the event.
Such was the case the day I fell out of the sky!
My day had started like many others. A beautiful sunny day just begging for me to skip school and head to the beach with some friends. Among them the Judges son who grandfather my high school was named after. hum now that I think about it Scott seemed to always be there when my stupidity was showing. I think I should have listened to my “smart self” this day cause what was in store for me would have to be ranked at least #4 on my “stupidity list”.
I decided that the beach was a good choice, wait again with a beach? ok maybe I need to stay away from beached too? This beach however was where we went to play because no one ever bothered to question us as to why we were not in school. So after getting on the school bus (so Mom wouldn’t catch on) I arrived at school just in time to find Scott and see if he was up for a day at the beach instead of boring math and science class. It didn’t take much convincing on my part and soon we had a nice little group put together. Eight of us in all which meant this was going to be a good day!
We did the usual routine at school. Checking into home room so we were counted as being there, then when the bell rang, out to the parking lot, pile into the cars, and head out for the day. It was about an hours drive to Kitty Hawk, Kill-Devil Hills so we decided to go by Scott’s house first and load up the coolers first. When we got there we packed the cars with food, drinks, blankets, and the other “must have’s” for any group of kids going to the beach. When we were about to leave Scott spotted the trailer in the backyard with the hang-gliders on it and decided to haul it along.
Now of this crowd only Scott and Jason had ever been Hang-gliding but it was something I had always thought would be great fun to do, so as we hooked up the trailer I asked Scott if he could teach me how to do it. I should have picked up on that silly sideways grin of his, as he told me “sure no problem, it’s easy”, but I guess my excitement just made my brain foggy at that moment. It wasn’t going to take long for me to get ‘TRUE CLARITY’ back.
We arrived at Killdevil and after parking all the cars we hauled the stuff down to the beach and set up camp. The music played, we tossed frisbee’s, footballs and each other into the surf. We did a bit of body surfing and the guys tried catching a few waves so they could show off. Around 2 everyone called home to let parents know we would be staying after school and then going to a friend’s house for a bit but that we would be home by 8 for sure. ok don’t judge me here…yes we lied but come on we were teenagers and fun was our main concern. Besides I bet you did it too..so there! After that Scott decided that him and Jason were going to give the gliders a go. For those of you who have never been there, Killdevil has a very large sand hill just perfect for hang-gliding because of the constant ocean breeze, and on most Saturdays you can go and watch as dozens of them take off to soar out over the ocean and back again. Not wanting to be left out I reminded Scott about teaching me. I put on my t-shirt and shorts, grabbed my flip-flops and off we went.
The climb to the top was the hard part they told me and after reaching it I believed them 100%. We set up the gliders and Scott went over all the things I needed to know one by one. After several run-through’s I had it down I thought. Scott and Jason were going to fly a few times first and I was going to watch, which was fine with me as the butterflies in my stomach were getting bigger by the second. By this some of our group had made the climb to watch as well.
All strapped in and ready to glide, Scott went first. As me and Mike held up the wings Scott ran towards the edge of the hill and with a jump was air born. What a sight! He caught the breeze with no problem and soared off, out over the ocean, looping back several times as he flew over us again and again. Jason had gotten off too with no problem and they were a sight to see. I couldn’t wait for it to be my turn. Bad, bad…idea!
By the time Scott landed on top of the hill I was ready to go. Jason landed behind him and they had made it really looked easy so I was not afraid at this point. They strapped me in to my harness this was one of those where you sit instead of lay out under the kite which was going to prove useful later on, and went over the hand controls one more time with me. All that was left was to make that run and JUMP!
Before I knew it I was up and flying! Hanging beneath a giant kite with the ocean breeze in my face and the feeling of being free that was like nothing I had ever felt before. I was out over the ocean and needed to make the turn to catch the breeze back in toward land. I shifted the hand bar and my weight and started the turn. Holy Shit…I dropped like a lead balloon but thankfully I managed to catch the current and climbed back up. ok so that turn didn’t go to smooth but I was sure I would get better at it next time around. I flew over them on the hill and they were shouting, pointing and laughing. The rest of the crowd had arrived and everyone was watching as I made pass after pass. By the fourth or fifth pass I had the turning down pat but I had decided that it was time to land and let someone else try this if they wanted to, after all it wasn’t hard at all!
On my last trip back a thought entered my brain that made me a bit nervous. The one thing they had not told me was….HOW TO LAND! OH shit!!! Now what?? As I passed over I tried shouting down to Scott…”how do I land this thing” but he either didn’t hear me or was just having too good a time watching what was quickly becoming a look of “terror” on my face. Around one more time and I shouted yet again. By the 3rd pass I was sure they had heard me because they were laughing so hard they were almost doubled over but I head him yell…”just stick you feet out”! and I thought to myself… “Yeah…great! you laugh as I spend the rest of my life flying in a circle. If I ever get down I am going to really give you something to laugh at”! With pass number 4 I decided to give it a try. Stick my feet out is what he said. I wasn’t sure that was right but hey he had done it so…
As I came around for the last time I was thinking…..Ok, landing….hum….well it was a large pile of sand right? Sand is soft right? Just aim for the top and stick my legs out I can make it and be back on solid ground again. I mean whats the worst that could happen…I over run it and just jump off again. Ok…ready….made the turn back and it looked good…I waved everyone out of the way and shifted to drop my altitude. OH HELL……TO MUCH TO FAST…..I was coming in directly at the side of that damn hill! No time to adjust I stuck my feet out and…..
CRASH….I burried both my legs in the sand hill up to my knees as I fell out of the sky! The stop was sudden and the weight of the kite flopped me backwards on to my back as I unhooked my harness when I realize I was not going to make the top and the tip of the kite was going to hit the hill.
So there I layed, upside down with my legs buried and the damn kite on top of me. It didn’t take but seconds for them all to reach me. I could hear them laughing as they pulled the kite up and off of me. I layed there glaring at Scott who was laughing so hard he couldn’t talk. He finally managed to get out an “Are you OK” to which I replied…I think so….but you better hope I don’t have legs anymore cause if I do your dead!
They dug me out, brushed me off and thankfully the only damage was to my pride. It was a silent trip home for me, but they just couldn’t help but go over every little detail of the day “I fell out of the sky”!
And no I never did fly again. I figured it was one of the few times that the gods of fate had not been paying attention, so it was better not to tempt them! Then again maybe it was the spirits of Orville Wright and his brother that saved me that day?THIS AUTHOR DOES NOT PERMIT
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