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A funny thing fell out of the sky

I reckon about as serious set of circumstances as you can face is going through all the procedures to jump out of a low flying military aircraft loaded down with equipment, weapon, steel helmet, and onto an unfamiliar drop zone in pitch dark … or even in daylight, but as in most any other activity of life, funny stuff can happen.

Tree landings are to be avoided at all cost, but I remember coming down in a stand of pine trees on the coast one extremely dark night, and when my chute hung up in the top of that tree, bringing me to a sudden halt, I had to try to figure out how high I was, and the best way to get out of that situation. I loosened some straps in preparation for getting to the solid ground from however high I was hung up in that pine. For some reason or ‘nother, I stretched my legs, and pointed a toe. That toe touched the good old solid ground, and that was the end of that particular problem.

We had a cook in battalion headquarters, and Dennis probably weighed 140 pounds tops. We made a daytime jump in the desert with updrafts. Everybody landed safely, and began to unhook the harness, when somebody hollered out, “Hey, look a yonder at Dennis!” Our cook was caught in an updraft, and instead of descending, he was ascending. We kept yelling at him to pull risers to get out of the updraft, and for a while it looked like we might have to send a chopper up to rescue our hero. He was royally welcomed when he finally touched down on the green, green grass of home, and he fixed us a fine supper that evening.

Late one afternoon in the Virgin Islands I was coming in to the drop zone when I spotted two mean-looking dogs racing toward my descending parachute with muffed growls and bared teeth. I commenced to pray to the Lord about that matter, as I reached for my boot knife. Well, the Lord blew up an extra breeze, my chute billowed and made a flapping noise … just enough to convince those canines that they might ought not to mess with whatever that was coming down out of the sky making a strange noise, and with a little bark as they glanced back over their shoulders, they disappeared from view forever.

Then, there was the time when our unit was infiltrating into Nevada for a mission, and that was one big drop zone. Well, sir, as luck would have it, I glanced down, and right there in the middle of that huge open area was a big old power line right in my glide path. You just do not want to land in a power line when in a parachute, so here comes my usual praying, “Lord, please help me to avoid that power line! Please show me what to do to keep out of that electricity!” Wasn’t long before I saw I was clear, and I remember saying, “Thank you, Lord, I’ll take over now.” ‘Bout that time, just as I hit the earth, a wind caught my still inflated chute, and commenced to drag me through some Mesquite bushes, scratching me up, and tearing my fatigues. I finally got a cape well popped, and deflated that parachute, after which I lay there a few moments, surveyed my scratched up body and torn uniform, and started laughing as I reported back in the Lord with “Lord, I knew I should not have taken back over from you.”

Strange stuff up there sometimes. Made a morning jump in Italy, with no cloud in the sky, but about halfway down it commenced to rain on me. I did my landing fall expecting the ground to be all wet, but for some reason or ‘nother, my fatigues were soaked, but not a drop of water on the drop zone. Some foreign goings on, I reckon.

I’ll finish this up thinking about one of my dear military buddies, who has now passed onto the heavenly drop zone. Something about Joe that just flat out attracted a tree, and he lit up in many a one during his jumping days, sometimes way up yonder.

Jumping out of a perfectly good aircraft was, indeed, a different sort of a deal, but the ones of us who did it together had a bond that was unbreakable … and sometimes just plain funny.

— Tom Boggs is a columnist for the Demopolis Times and a native of Marengo County. His column,“Days Gone Bye,” appears weekly.

(This article originally appeared in the Wednesday, September 18 issue of the Demopolis Times.)