Days Gone Bye: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way Down

Published 10:09 pm Sunday, December 3, 2023

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By Tom Boggs

How many times have I heard somebody say to me about my years as an army paratrooper, “I can’t believe you would jump from a perfectly good airplane.”

Well, I reckon it ain’t natural…but I expect anybody who has done that sort of thing over a period of time, whether it be bungee jumping, cliff jumping, rappelling, sky diving, or bailing out with 75 pounds of equipment, weapon and ammo in a strange country at night, has got to have a sense of humor, and be able to recollect some funny things about those unnatural performances. 

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I’m thinking about a jump one time where our skinny little cook, Dennis Temple,  jumped out of a Chopper, and got caught in an up draft.  He started back up, and we thought we might have to figure out a way to go get him floating around up there. 

I remember one real soft night landing in a cabbage patch in Germany.  As I hit and rolled, I got covered in what it was that made it soft.  Fertilizer that smelled mighty bad.  Use your imagination. 

Landed in a tall pine tree one dark night down in Baldwin County.  No idea how far up I was, but was uneasy about getting out of that chute, and falling a great distance to the ground.  As I stretched to start unbuckling, my toe touched the ground.  Good tip off that all would be well. 

Made a demonstration jump at a Christmas On The River night parade one December evening.  As I prepared to unbuckle my chute for a water landing, I realized that a wind sheer was floating me across the river over to the other shore, right to the tip top of a Sycamore tree, where I hung.  Had the best seat in the house for viewing the parade of boats. 

Late evening jump down in the Virgin Islands, and I spied a power line in my direction of drift.  Got to praying for the Lord to get me over that electricity, and it worked.  Just as I sighed a breath of relief, what should I see below me but two barking and growling Doberman Pinchers coming toward me.  More prayers, and when that parachute billowed upon my landing, it scared off those critters.  Thank you, Lord. 

I was coming down in a barnyard in Italy one night, and spied some critter in a pen that looked like it might be a bull.  More praying, and upon landing in that pen, turned out to be an old gray mare that was more scared of me than I was of her. Amen. 

My great friend and soldier, Col. Jim Horak, came over from Spain to jump with us in Portugal one afternoon. He was a great parachutist, but had never had experience with that locked on Portuguese chute with no quick releases on the cape wells.    He hit the ground in a high wind, and commenced to be dragged, with me running after him, and laughing.  Jim never did laugh about that as I can remember. 

Look around.  Something funny is bound to happen, and you ought to laugh at it…and at yourself.