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.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Last Jump

When the rain stopped the skydivers hurried into their jumpsuits and gear. There was a sense of urgency to take advantage of the break in the weather. A crowd of about 40 people huddled under the tent and under the awnings guarding against the rain, some wrapped in blankets against the chill.

I recognized most of the faces from the funeral two days before. But now the suits and fancy dresses and sunny afternoon had turned over to casual tee shirts and gray skies. The ritual and formality of a church ceremony had given way to a more festive mood.

After the skydivers put their parachutes on they gathered in a circle out in front of the hanger. I knew they were talking about groups and exit order and making their plan for the moments ahead. I walked over and listened from just outside the circle.

The widow was with them, wearing a pilots seat back parachute and carrying a blue helmet that I recognized. The helmet had plastic bags in it. The leader of the group stood close to her and told who would be carrying __ with them and who was to be first and last out. His voice choked when he said __'s name and I could tell he was holding back tears as he gave his instructions.

Another of the skydivers asked to say something and proceeded to lead the group in prayer. I noticed then that more onlookers had followed me and a crowd gathered to listen closer. I watched men reach to hold their wives hands and the children in the crowd stopped roughhousing and listened to the prayer. By the time all the onlookers had gathered close a murmur or "Amen" passed across the field and the circle of jumpers broke and turned to the runway and the waiting airplane.

They held the widow close and guarded her as they approached the machine. She was helped aboard first and I could see through the windows that she took the seat next to the pilot. Then the skydivers climbed the ladder one by one and the ladder was taken away and the door closed. The airplane began rolling to the far end of the runway.

The onlookers did not move from their spots and gave a cheer as the airplane thundered down the runway and leapt into the sky. It climbed, circling the field and the crowd turned in place to watch it, rotating through all the points of the compass twice. The children grew more excited with each turn and the mother held close to her family with eyes glistening. Murmurs grew louder and talk became more excited in anticipation of a main event.

The airplane stood in a stark contrast, a small black silhouette against the cold gray skies. The skydivers themselves looked like tiny atoms as they dropped away one after another in a single file. The crowd gave a collective gasp of appreciation as the jumpers appeared and a child began counting them, shouting out loud "one, two, three, four…" all the way up to twelve, for each of them leaving the airplane. And then the sky blossomed with color as the parachutes came out and the smooth line of dots became a kaleidoscope of dancing flowers drifting in the wind.

The parachutes turned and spun and flew. There were too many to watch them all and the crowd produced oooh's and aaaah's of appreciation. And then from one of the parachutists a dusty cloud dropped away like a billow of smoke. The crowd put up a loud cheer and then the ash was gone. Blown and spread into the air and it was no more.

The skydivers quickly dropped down onto the field and the colorful parachutes landed one by one in the open space between the onlookers and the runway. The crowd cheered and clapped loudly as each of the skydivers touched down. Some of them dropped out of the sky quickly, swooping fast across the ground. Others came down with more caution and gracefully stepped to earth. The onlookers applauded and shouted for each of them as they touched down.

The skydivers gathered up their parachutes and strolled in from their disparate landing points. As they came together they would hug or touch hands. The onlookers spread out onto the field as well, encompassing the skydivers with hugs and congratulations.

The parachutes were carefully laid out in a colorful row, waiting to be folded up again. No one hurried to the work. Skydivers sought out their friends among the crowd. The mother wore a smile on her tear lined face. When the widow walked back from the landed airplane she carried with her the empty blue helmet and the sorrow on her face had a look of peace to it.

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How beautiful this is. Thank you for sharing.
A perfect good-bye if there had to be and prayers
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