Montana Jones

Montana n: A state of the northwest United States bordering on Canada. Admitted as the 41st state in 1889. The fourth largest state in the union, it includes vast prairies and numerous majestic mountain ranges.
Syn: Treasure State, Big Sky Country, Last Best Place.

Jones n: slang. An addiction or very deep craving.

Sunday, May 01, 2005


In my life I have had a black kid stick a gun in my ribs. I have used poor judgement behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. I have found myself scrambling up cliffs and mountains that I probably did not belong on. I have exited an aircraft in flight over 300 times. I would like to believe I am comfortable with the idea of death, with putting my life in danger.

When I woke up, looked out the window at clear blue skies and knew that today I was making my next parachute jump, strange things came over me. I lost my appetite, I distracted myself with the computer overly long, I became indecisive over what clothes to wear. I was nervous. I reminded myself how comfortable I am with death. The guy in the mirror can be pretty hard to convince with bravado.

I don't like being uncomfortable with my skydives but the truth is a lot of them put me on edge. I have been jumping for over a decade now and the sport can play my emotions against me. When it is good my self confidence swells, my enthusiasm is unstoppable and I can catch an adrenaline buzz that expensive reefer can't match. On the mediocre days I experience a lot of fear and apprehension. I become reluctant and I have to force myself through the motions. I have never had a bad day skydiving; I have walked away from all of my jumps. Skydiving has taught me a lot about fear, it has taught me that fear is not a reason to quit.

It felt good to once again go through the rituals of the sport. Gear checks, manifests, dressing, strapping into the rig, zero the altimeter, wind checks. The basic confidence is there. I know my gear, I know how to use it and what to expect from it. I have no doubt of my ability to pitch a pilot chute or flair a landing. Then dammit, why am I still nervous? I check my handles one more time.

I usually feel like a new man after only one jump. This time it took two. Two airplane rides in the small pitching Cessna. Twice feeling the cold blast of air when the door opens. Twice surprised at the powerful blast of wind pushing my foot away from the step. I pitched forward and relaxed into the welcoming air, the motions felt as natural as sex with a favorite lover. Some turns, some flips. Maneuvers so simple that students are not even challenged by them. I chose to open a little higher than usual. Without looking the handle fell under my palm at the exact moment I wanted it there and I pitched the pilot chute strong and wide. I have been doing something wrong with my packing lately; both times the canopy opened a little slow and immediately dove into a hard right turn. It scares me when it does that. The bumps from turbulence scare me some more. I take my time with a complete control check before I relax again and enjoy the flying.

My apprehension was still with me after the first jump. The second jump left me feeling normal again. I have promised myself I will be back next weekend. I hope I don't get the case of nerves again. I hope I don't talk myself into postponing. Tempting death has given me so much in my life, I hope I am not chickening out now.

Wow, I am really impressed. You can almost feel the apprehension and excitement when reading this.

I admire the courage to do such a thing, especially since I could not.

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