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April 20, 1975 - Image 3

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1975-04-20

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

laura berman
dan horns
contributing editor:
mary long



page four-books
page five-angus

Number 25 Page Three Apr

i 20, 1975


Taking the

plunge: A
flrst leap


on W1
jump is like going to church; it
takes fervent prayer and a close
rapport with the world beyond.
Don't ask me why I decided to
do it - I just wanted to jump. -It
wasn't an overdose of Ripcord or
grade B war movies. And as far as
has been determined, I am neither
mentally ill nor particularly sui-
It was lurking there in the back
of my mind - this desire to fall
from the plane, to see the world
from a new perspective, and to
know I would have another mem-
ory to stuff in my cranial filing
cabinet. One day the temptation
became too strong to resist, and
the nearness and know-how of the
University Skydiver's Club left no
room for excuses.
With a little coercion and a bit
of a bribe, I persuaded my friend
Paul to tag along in my craziness.
Together we braved the fears and
frustrations of "taking the plunge"
for the first time.
CTUALLY, THE jump was the
easy part. It's just like those
late-night movies you, John Doe,
Jane Smith, and Jim Beam settle
down to enjoy. It's not the power
trip, the fight against death, nor
man - against - nature struggle.
Rather, there is a sense of peace-
ful awe as you are suspended in
mid-air, watching the ground
slowly rise to meet your feet.
But the skydiving experience
begins long before leaving the old
terra firma. And for me it began
with Harold Lange.
Harold is 'the professional man
in the University skydiving club,
and also the owner of the para-
chuting service the club uses in
Tecumseh, near Saline. He's a ro-
bust ex-military men who knows
and appears to relish just about
every metaphor known to man for
death and injury - and then some.
bly go wrong, you will hear
about tonight," he affectionately
told the quaking cluster of students
at the first three-hour training
session in E. Engin. "The game we
play is a deadly game. If you goof
around, that's the way you'll end
up - all goofed up."


igs of
As Harold continued his spiel, I
suddenly found my doubts con-
firmed. But it was too late; I was
there to stay. Somewhere in the
corner of my consciousness Harold
blithered about further atrocities.
"You pays your money, you takes
your chances," he snorted. "There's
no horsing around out there or
you'll need a transplant to get your
ankles out of your ears."
And he went on and on - how
to land in water, in power lines, in
trees, intact. It seemed a bit exces-
sive at first, but as Harold later ex-
plained, fear in times of stress is
the great protector. "If you lose
those butterflies, look out," he said.
"One thing you always want to be
is scared."
W7ITH THE flurry of skydiving
abominations floating around
in my head, it was no wonder my
night's sleep before the big day of
the jump was not exactly restful.
My "pals" were less than consol-
ing. Just before drifting off into
fitful slumber, I heard my room-
mate chirp, "Well, chump, it's been
nice knowin' ya."
JT WOULD HAVE been' reassuring
to take my first jump over
acres of soft marshmallows or cot-
ton candy but anything would have
looked better than the threatening
trees and crusted cornfields that
grace the area over which Harold
Lange's Parachuting Service flies.
I learned, however, that jumpers
generally land unharmed. Still,
jumping is believing.
Eventually the class trickled in.
It was the usual random sample
of Americans: two policemen from
Grand Rapids, a "Walking Stilt", a
man who bore an uncanny resem-

blance to a weasel, and a fellow
Paul and I later nominated "Most
Likely to Die."
At center stage was Jim Olson,
a skydiving club member, a senior
in civil engineering - and our in-
structor. Standing in his multi-col-
ored jumpsuit among the bug-eyed
novices, Jim began explaining the
three real essentials of elementary
skydiving; jumping, landing, and
deploying the reserve parachute.
was the Parachute Landing
Fall (or PLF in skydiving lingo)
which involves rolling from foot to
calf to thigh to back to distribute
the shock evenly throughout the
The "Walking Stilt" managed to
hit the appropriate places on his
body, and "Most Likely to Die" ex-
ecuted a delightful belly smacker
landing square on his nose. "Go,"
hollered Jim when my turn arrived,
and I plopped off the platform,
landing 'smack on my hip. But
practice made perfect and after a
few more jarring attempts, my
feeble body managed to do what
my feeble mind was telling it to do.
We practiced jumping with
arched backs from a mock un of a
plane similar to the one we would
be using. The task wasn't exceed-
ingly difficult. though, - at least
root on the ground -- and soon the
biggie was upon us, using the re-
serve parachute.
Somehow, I made a fool of my-
self. The motions were simple
enough: Count to 6.000 by thous-
ands, check the main canopy for
partial or total malfunctions, place
your hand over the reserve to keep
it from springing improperly from
the pack on your chest, cross your
legs so the chute won't fall down-
ward and tangle between them'
and, finally, pull that old ripcord.
Ease no? So I went through all the
motions and nulled the ripcord.
And pulled and pulled and yank-
ed and swore, but it just didn't
want to come out.
Even "Most Likely to Die" did a
better Job than I did. Fortunately,
when the time came, my main
chute deployed perfectly and I had
no need for the finicky reserve
chute anyway.
THE TIME WAS UP, the training
was over, and I felt strangely

Photos by
Pauline Lubens'
More pictures
back page

prepared to conquer the world -
or the skies as the case may be.
But while the session had calmed
my fears of ineptitude, I still had
a sense of anticipation of the un-
known. It all looked too easy.
Ceremoniously we donned our
harnesses, but it was a ritual with-
out purpose. Tremendous ground
winds suddenly made jumping im-
Two o'clock, three o'clock, still
no change in the winds. I passed
much of my time gorging myself
on hot dogs and fingernails. Aside
from the winds, the weather was
beautiful, and watching the ex-
pertsdescend in their multicolored
chutes was reminiscent of not be-
ing allowed to swim on a hot sum-
mer's day. I wanted to jump. I
wanted to say I had "done it." I
wanted to get it over with. But all I
finally ended up doing was going
this time I was prepared. A
six pack of beer and total seclusion
was the answer and before I could
say, "What is it all for," I was on
my way back to Tecumseh.
The weather was perfect, the
winds were willing, and so was I.
The airfield was cluttered with
every sort of devotee -- from the
very professional to the very petri-
Ralph Glasser, a University
sophomore, was there bright and
early, waiting for the first ride.
Landing in a tree the day before
had left him undaunted. "I
thought it was a bush." he re-
marked nonchalantly, "when all of
a sudden it grew." Ralph equates
himself with Jonathon Livingston
Seagull in his quest to master hu-
man flight. And he's just as fana-
tical toward his end as the famous
Fellow club member Judy Van
der Molen was there with him.
Judy prides herself on her quest for
adventure. Aside from skydiving,
her favorite sport is mountain
climbing. She says she's fearless,
but her friend disagreed: "Fear-
less? She's just dumb."
I)AVE SAUVE, proparachutist-in-
residence at Tecumseh was

if I lose, but no matter what I'm
doing, I'm gonna play to win."
But winning was the last of my
worries. Survival was first priority.
And as Jim appeared with my para-
chute in hand, I doubted whether
even that was possible.
Jim attached my harness. "Re-
member to count, remember to
arch, remember ,to land," I kept
telling myself. The chest straps
went over my pounding heart.
ber to arch, remember to
land," I mumbled, continuously as
I stuffed myself into the back of
the aircraft. I was to be the last
one to jump.
When the door was shut, there
were five of us in the plane; me,

It would have been reassuring to take my first
jump over acres of soft marshmallows or cotton
candy but anything would have looked better
than the threatening trees and crusted cornfields
that grace the area over which Harold Lange's
Parachuting Service flies.

breathe with that air whipping
him in the face," I wondered
frantically, forgetting no skydiver
has died from suffocation.
Stoically he grabbed the strut
under the wing and swung his body
outside to await the "Go" signal
from Jim. And then he disappear-
ed. I clambered to the window to
watch him fall, but he was gone
-reduced to the little pounch that
had formerly contained his para-
chute, which Jim reeled in on the
static line.
"Most Likely to Die" stopped his
babbling and soul-searching and
took his place with his back to the
instrument panel. As I replaced
him at his perch near the window
a horrendous thought came to
mind. The airfield. How was I go-

Paul, the cigar chomping pilot, Big
Jim, and -of course - "Most
Likely to Die."
It was impossible to ignore the
Writing etched on the plane wall
facing me. It read: "I don't want to
The engines began roaring and
my stomach began turning somer-
saults. "Remember to .. . what was
that again?" It wasn't too late, I
could still turn back, but I had
come this far. And the plane began
its rush down the runway.
4 S THE AIRCRAFT steadily
climbed, I tried to take my
mind off my roving stomach by,
observing "Most Likely to Die." He
alternated tellingly between glanc-

ing to spot the airfield from 2,800
feet in the aii? I looked longingly
at Jim, but he was busy reducing
"Most Likely to Die" to another
little pouch. And then it was my
"JIM, JIM, how am I ever going
to spot the airfield?" I asked
in a panic. "Don't worry, you'll see
it," he added with a reassuring
smile. "Now put your feet out."
Mechanically I responded, turn-
ing my body to face the incredible
nothingness. As I stuck my legs out
over the wheel, the wind whipped
my feet away, and I had to strain
to keep from plunging.
And as Jim ordered me out on
the wing, I had to strain with all
my might to keep my stomach

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