Monday, February 27, 2012

The parachute jump...or why Mom liked me better than my big brother.

The parachute jump. We didn’t have television in those days. Some  had radios, we didn’t until later, but there wasn’t much on the radio for a kid except for the evening shows like Little Orphan Annie and Red Ryder.  We didn’t get bored, though. We could always find something to do…even when there wasn’t enough for a football or baseball game.  One day,  my big brother Jack,  in the absence of anyone his age to pal around with decided to honor Jimmy Rogers and me with his creative skills. He was going to make a parachute. Hadn’t he made kites for us! “After all, a parachute is just another kind of kite…one that a human could ride?!” He sold me. What did I have to lose!  And if I was sold, Jimmy, the only one on earth whose soul I could control, would like it too.

This was much easier than making a kite…and he already had the materials: an old thin (thin meant lighter, Jack told us) worn out blanket that he borrowed from Bubbles’ bed in the garage and some small gauge rope that he had cut in four pieces. He carefully tied a piece of rope on each corner of the blanket. “It was important” he explained, “that the rope didn’t come off the blanket when the chute opened.” That was before the expression of “duhh” but that’s what I thought. I didn’t say how obvious it was because Jack could be testy and I didn’t want to be excluded from his experiement. Jimmy, I’m afraid, didn’t have many “duhhs.”  Much to my relief he spared us the explanation of why it was important to make it secure, and safe, with each corner. I was flattered. Maybe he was warming up to me as an intelligent playmate. He finished by tying the four ends together with an even more elaborate dissertation of safety and how it would make it easier to hang on to the chute.

I forgot to mention that he put the thing together on top of the garage. I don’t remember whether it was our garage or the Rogers’. When he was finished, he stood up proudly and proclaimed, “It’s ready for the test” and looked straight at me. I blinked a couple of times and realized that he was going to order me to jump from the garage with his contraption in my hands. I shook my head violently and started to say NOOO!  He was quick and rather than risk an open rebellion, he turned to Jimmy and gave him the honor of being the test jumper. Seizing the moment, I turned on Jimmy and slapped him on the back and told him how he would be the hero of the San Gabriel Gang. (actually, I probably said other kids).  Jimmy was always eager to please me (except to share a candy bar or ice cream cone) and reluctantly agreed.

Jack took over from there, explaining how he had to hold the knotted risers firmly in his hand and jump as high as he could to make sure there would be enough time for the “chute to open.” Exact words. I was getting so excited that I almost wished that I had had the courage that Jimmy was displaying. Almost! With everything except a drum roll, Jack held the tail end of the chute in his hand behind Jimmy and yelled GOO! Jimmy went. Well, it turned out it wasn’t as easy as making a kite. The chute never opened. Jimmy went down from about ten feet high in a full streamer, as later paratroopers called it. It didn’t break his fall much, if any. But it did adjust his body position so he landed on his back instead of his feet. Jimmy looked up, stared at us as if to say, “When will I ever learn not to trust you two a**holes” and ran screaming home. Jack and I never even had time to get off the roof (we climbed down the old fashioned way), before Mr. Rogers was out of the house and calling us the names that Jimmy had wanted to. We were told that Jimmy would never play with us again. This was worrisome because he owned 95% of the equipment, bats, balls, etc.. And, as a matter of fact, it was several days before he was allowed to talk to us.