Recently I went to the World Parachuting Championships in Ottawa, IL forty-eight countries were represented. The last one I went to was in August 1972 in Tallequah, OK. It doubled as a honeymoon having just got married. A lot has happened in the forty-four years since then. There were sixty-eight countries at that event. While I did not meet anybody that I could remember knowing back then, I did meet several people who were jumping at that time and we had many mutual friends.
What I found interesting at the recent one was that almost the first people I ran into were parachute riggers. That was my job when I was in the Army. The sport has changed a lot since those days, but riggers are still a necessity to the sport. Parachutes went from round to square for one thing. The squares were just becoming popular when I quit jumping in 79 due to a back injury. The views and attitudes however were pretty much the same as the last time I had an opportunity to have a multi-national conversation in France in 1974
There was one major difference for me. The last time I had such a conversation it evolved over a twenty hour period with about seven languages and fourteen nationalities involved in the conversation. To carry on a conversation I would speak to the person from Spain who would speak to the Russian, who would speak to the Norwegian. Then the answer would come back the same route. Of course people hearing the conversation in their language would want to put in their two-bits, which is part of why the conversation took over twenty hours
At the end of the conversation we came to the conclusion that “we the people” of the world could get along. We all wanted the same things, security for our families, a job, a home, an education, and being able to meet the needs of our families and loved ones. We also came to the agreement that the problems of the world were created by the governments, not the people.
That conversation was over forty –two years ago. My conversations this time were biased as I already knew what I wanted to ask and came away with one insight. People from all over the world watch our elections and are just as upset with this election cycle as the Americans are and they, like many Americans, are not happy with either option we have for president. Also one thing that has not changed is that the governments are still the problem.
Another insight I had is that it is a sport for skinny people. There were very few people that looked over-weight. When I left the sport I weighed in at 180 pounds. After almost twenty years of trucking and eating where they had three all you can eat buffets a day I peaked out at just over 350 pounds. I had lost 90 pounds by January 2004 when I had the big one. It caused me to quit trucking and go on disability.
The reason I was losing the weight was I wanted to start jumping again and the maximum weight for the equipment was 220 pounds. After the heart attack and getting my defibrillator I gave up on the idea of jumping. My logic was if I couldn’t drive, I couldn’t jump. Then in November 2013 I got my Agent Orange compensation from the Army and went to Florida for a few weeks in January and February of 2014.
That was when I met some really neat Canadians from the Ontario area. In the course of our conversations my problem came up and they said they did not see it as a problem and knew people in Canada who jumped with defibs. Over the next few weeks I discovered people in the USA did also. When I got home I asked my doctor and he said he had no problem with it. So now I am trying to lose weight again. I found 40 of the pounds I originally lost over the eight years between the two events. The good news for me was they raised the weight limit for the equipment to 250 pounds. So now all I have to do is lose 60 pounds. It should be a piece of cake as I lost 90 the last time.
The World Champion Golden Knights Four Way Women's Team
Almost half of the jumpers at the World Championships were females. In the day, meaning back when I was jumping, there were hardly any female jumpers. I certainly don't remember any female "teams" Of course that might have been influenced by the fact that most of my experience was in the military.
One of the good things that happened to me was meeting John King. Or as he calls himself “The King of Riggers” I originally met him at the U.S. Nationals in 2014 along with quite a few other riggers, of which almost half were females.
John is a pretty awesome experience to meet and he has a very outgoing and happy personality. John has been in the sport a day or two and is originally from England. He started jumping in 1966 and has managed to accumulate over 5000 jumps. He has jumped in 35 countries and about as many states. He has visited or been in over 66 countries. He is the self proclaimed head of the Black Death Packing Company and has packed over 50,000 parachute according to him, and has never lost a customer. As he claims, "they have always found the bodies." If you ask him he claims be a Nylon Compression Engineer.