When I was a little girl, I lived in a holler in West Virginia. Life was quiet and a lot of times I was left to my own imagination. My Ma bought me toys like the bags of plastic multi color animals, Star Wars action figures and one of my greatest loves of all – the Evel Knievel doll, complete with motorcycle. He had a cape (or maybe I made him a cape, I cannot remember) and a red wind-em-up apparatus that you locked the motorcycle into and after a couple of cranks would send him barreling across the room. The thing is, even at that age I could not understand why I would want to play with Barbie, who only concerned herself with shoes and purses when Evel… holy shit, Evel concerned himself with pushing the limits of how many cars he could jump over before barely cheating death. I would take all of my Hot Wheels, Tonkas and at the end the girlie Barbie dolls would be laid side by side, preparing for the eminent possibility of death. I would put Evel on his bike and “ride” him around my “arena”, all the while faking the uproar of the crowd. Then the moment would come when he would take that leap and he always miraculously cleared all of the cars, trucks and maidens in a row (ok, well, he might have skated across Barbie’s head a few times but only because I thought it was unfair that the boys got all the fun and the girls were stuck with “her”).
During those days when summer seemed endless and the woods behind my house was my playground, I would swing from grapevines that were cut at the root. I would carry the vine as far up the hill into the woods as I could. And then I would hop up, take a high grip and fly. As I swung all the way out, over the backyard fence, face looking to the clouds – there was that one moment when the forward momentum stopped and the swing back started. That few seconds of hang time. That is what it is like for me when I jump out of a plane. I am still a kid, caught in the feeling of that few seconds of hang time, when the world seems to stop and you are just there for the adventure.
I dreamed about that last night. Being a kid, swinging on those old vines – that feeling. That thought has kind of locked into place the reason it is we (or, I guess I should say “I”) jump out of planes. For those few moments when the world locks into place, your heart picks up speed and life gives you the ride of your life.
So, here’s to Evel Knievel who made me imagine that doing crazy stunts was possible (even for a tomboy from a holler in West By Gawd). And here’s to my skydiving brothers who allowed me to realize that an old crusty broad like me has the potential to bring those kinds of daydreams to life.