Friday, July 4, 2008

Swoop the Meramec

There have always been two great skydiving parties in the St. Louis area. Archway’s December “Chili Party” and Quantum Leap’s “Swoop the Meramec” party. This was a July 4th event.

The first one we held was a little farther up the river from where it ended up. We had to move because the park rangers didn’t allow drinking. This doesn’t work for skydivers!

We had to learn a few things about landing in a river valley. It’s a little intimidating looking out the door of a small Cessna at 5,000 ft and seeing nothing but a green forest stretching into infinity with a small sliver of river running through it. As you land you face into the wind only to have it disappear as you hit the tree line. There’s a sudden acceleration in canopy speed. People did get hurt.

I was still a skydiving instructor back then. When we finished swooping the river we were asked to do a demonstration jump at the Sullivan fireworks show. This was held at an old abandoned airport. I scoped out the landing area and discovered a temporary fence that was held in place by iron poles. This was right at the end of our landing area. I asked them to remove it.

Three of us made the jump, my boss Jimmy, a friend named John, and me. These guys were world champion competitors. I’ve always been very lucky about the people I’ve jumped with.

I wore a red jump suit. Jim wore a white one and John’s was blue.

To impress the crowd we swooped in very fast. I was glad I had asked them to remove the fence because I finally came to stop about 4 feet past where it had been!

Anyway the river party got larger and larger every year. There was barbeque and eventually even a helicopter to take jumpers back to board the airplane at the airport.

One year I brought my county friends to the party. They sat on their lawn chairs in the river getting drunk. I decided I was going to impress them with a spectacular landing. I came screaming in, skimmed my feet across the water and produced a plume of water behind me. I was very proud of my landing.

Unfortunately the jumper before me landed off course. He swooped right into my friends who all dove into the river to avoid him. They didn’t see my landing at all. I figured I’d never repeat it so I sat in the river and started drinking.

There was a terrible plane crash at the airport that killed several of my friends. Sullivan decided they didn’t want skydiving around anymore. New people took over the drop zone and they moved the operation the Bowling Green, MO. Every 4th of July I get nostalgic for the party.

I’ll post a story about the Chili Party one of these days.

The pictures are of Jimmy swooping the river and me under my favorite canopy. I posted a picture of me playing the Miller stage at the VP fair in the middle to late 80s because it was on July 4th. This was when I was doing my solo thing. The band were The Heaters, Blake Travis and Monica Reed. They tried to get me to play a guitar that was shaped like the Miller logo but it had terrible action. I don’t endorse products when I play anyway -- Especially Miller! I just spoke with Sharon and she reminded me that I should mention the music I was playing when I did the solo thing. I was doing my own material with the exception of the song “Different Voices” which I always performed for an encore. This was written by Fojammi and it allowed me to do an almost endless guitar solo.


Anonymous said...

Have a happy July 4 John Gorski

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