Well now, in all fairness to the outraged 2nd lieutenant, he did have a point, but no matter how thin the pancake, there are always two sides. I exited the plane a few seconds before he did, so that put me below him after our chutes opened, and as we approached the ground, I probably did drift underneath him and steal his air, resulting in him hitting the ground faster than 22 miles per hour, which was the standard rate of descent.
However, in my defense, being below him, with a thirty-five-foot-wide-canopy above me, I was not in a position to know if someone was above me. Likewise, the guy above had the responsibility to steer his parachute away from others.
All this was lost on the fuming and spitting 2nd lieutenant, and although I really did feel sorry for his hard landing, I really didn’t care; I wasn’t in his unit and he wouldn’t ever see me again to extract his revenge.
As to the events surrounding my exit from the aircraft and being enveloped in nylon, after much pondering, I deduced the following: My exit from the C-119 hadn’t been vigorous enough; I didn’t push away from the door on the aircraft with sufficient energy to avoid contact with the aluminum skin of the plane; rather, my exit was a bit, shall we say wimpy, which meant I made contact with the outside of the aircraft several times before hitting blue sky.
As to being enveloped in nylon, I surmised that I plunged through the parachute of a trooper who had exited the opposite side of the plane just moments before I did. His chute was just opening when I plunged through it, thus the feeling of being wrapped in nylon like a caterpillar’s cocoon. The loud pop I heard was my own chute opening which momentarily stalled my descent, allowing the chute below me to fully deploy and permitting me to walk off the top of his chute. As I saw it, it was all in a day’s work, and for this lifetime experience, I got paid an extra fifty dollars for hazardous pay, which went towards my school tuition. Being nineteen and still having nine lives, that was a great time of life.
Up and up I climbed, pacing myself so as not to cause a meltdown in my respiratory system, and continued to gain ground. I passed Lower, Middle, and Upper Devil’s Peaks and topped out in a wide basin, just above Kangaroo Spring at mile marker 1,672. Along the way, I was passed by Wendy, Band Leader, and Sky Eyes. Together, we all went down to look for water at the spring, but decided we could find better sources than what this spring had to offer.
There was much smoke in the valleys from forest fires burning as far as sixty miles away, and were it not for the smoke, from my vantage point on the crest of the mountains, I would be able to see the snowcapped volcanic cone of Mount Shasta far to the east and the Marble Mountains to the south.