When my life passes from one chapter to the next there’s always a spectacular event that makes it official.
In spite of the fact that I haven’t jumped in three years I still consider myself a skydiver. For ten years it was my entire life. I was a skydiver even more than I was a musician or artist.
The woman I decided to have a family with was a skydiver. My son has 37 jumps in the womb. At the time that was more than was required for an A license. I’m convinced he was conceived at the World Freefall Convention in Quincy, IL in 1993.
The next chapter in my life would be father.
I was an instructor and made most of my income that way. My wife wasn’t happy being a weekend widow. Somehow having kids ended her desire be jump completely. She made it clear that she wanted me home. This was really the beginning of the stress between us.
I wanted my family with me at the drop zone and she thought that was inappropriate.
To be honest, our relationship was never really fair to her. I was in my mid thirties and she was in her early twenties. I had already become who I was and she was still figuring it out.
I knew that, of course. Before we got married I warned her I would never have money, I’d always be obsessed with music, and I would always jump. She assured me she understood.
After two years of marriage we had an argument and she actually complained about all three things. I reminded her about my warning. She said, “I thought you would outgrow all of that.”
I put music on the back burner for a while and it became clear that the airport was putting too much of a strain on our relationship.
One weekend I announced my retirement to my friends at Quantum Leap Skydiving in Sullivan, MO. It was the end of a large part of my life. We partied at the Blue Sky bar until closing.
As I drove my Suzuki Samurai through Eureka I was stopped by a cop. The cop said he had been following me for several exits trying to read my license plate. I had gone 4 wheeling through creeks and river beds that afternoon. (Man I loved that car.) The plates were spattered with mud.
As it happened, it was prom night and the cops were out looking for drunken teens. Although he had no problem with my driving, my car must have smelled like a brewery. He told me to get out of the car.
All of a sudden there were cops everywhere. They went through my car like they thought they’d find the mother load of all drug smuggling operations. I found out highway 44 is the main corridor for illegal drugs in the U.S..
I was terrified they were going to open my reserve parachute and I’d have to pay for a repack. That turned out to be the least of my problems.
They took me to the station and gave me a breathalyzer test. They held me in a cell until my wife came for me.
She called my mom to come watch the kids while she was gone. My mom said Kim’s reaction to the whole thing concerned her. Kim had her arms around the kids as she sobbed, “What are we going to do?” As if I was a fallen man and I was going to drag my whole family down into my personal Hell.
One of my very dear friends at the time was Kim Tucker. Not only was he a great skydiver and photographer, he was an attorney. Kim was the skydiving Fred Bird who always wowed the crowd at the stadium for the St. Louis Cardinals.
We were doing a skydiving demo at the Arch for the VP Fair and Kim flew around the north leg of it twice. He’s the only person who ever has.
Anyway, Kim represented me. When I went before the judge he raised his eyes without lifting his head and said, “The arresting officer says you were clean and polite.” I asked, “Is that going to help?” “No!” he said.
It cost $5,000.00, I wasn’t allowed to drive at all for a month and could only drive to work for two months after that. I also had to attend SATOP meetings for a while.
Our teacher was some other poor boob who got caught. He did give us some good tips though.
If you see a sign on the road that says checkpoint ahead, don’t get off. That’s where they’re waiting.
If you get a DWI, don’t let a friend represent you. It’s much cheaper to go to TLC and it doesn’t make a difference otherwise.
Blowing positive on that breathalyzer actually came in handy for me. I was stopped for speeding in Florissant a couple of years later and the cop said, “I’m going to give you a $10.00 ticket for driving without a seatbelt because I see you have a “Chemical” on your record. I was wearing a seatbelt.
Kim’s DWI would happen at the end of our marriage.
This pic of Kim and me getting on Mike Mullins' King Air was taken by Kim Tucker. Our skydiving wedding was out of this plane. Mullins is a character too. I'll get to him soon.