Dreams of ‘chutes’

Published 3:00 am Saturday, October 18, 2014

Mama’s dream was for me to get married in a wedding dress made from Daddy’s white, silk parachute from World War II.

I did not.

Curiosity got the best of me.

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I was fascinated by parachutes. We made them from handkerchiefs by tying strings to each of the four corners and tying the ends to some small objects, usually from the tool box, like nuts and bolts. We would hold the handkerchief in the middle with our fingertips and swing it back and forth to get velocity and then fling it into the air. Gravity would right the handkerchief parachute and it would float slowly to the ground. Sometimes, we would get on top of the chicken house and throw the parachute into the air from way up there. It was amazing to watch the parachute drift to the ground.

Daddy was a pilot in the Ferry Command in World War II. He flew planes to Alaska for the Russians to pick up. He often told me stories about being snowed in for a week at the time. I was so fascinated by those stories that I played pilot a lot.

My plane was a high limb in chinaberry tree and I was feared more than the Red Barron. I could hit a chicken in the head with a clump of chinaberries from my lofty perch and no one my size dared come around when I was in the cockpit. If they did, they would get blown to smithereens.

Daddy kept all of his army stuff in a trunk in a storage shed in our back yard. He had rabbit fur boots and gloves and coats lined with wolf fur and scarves made out of wool from sheep. I’d dress myself in all of that and fly off on my plane.

One day, I got the idea to open Daddy’s parachute and float myself down from the roof of the chicken house. Now, I didn’t know how much silk was in a parachute. Much more silk than a ten-year-old needed to float from the top of the chicken house. It was enough white silk to cover the roof of the chicken house like a blanket of snow and it did.

The wind got under the silk and it began to rise in the air and Mama saw it ballooning up and came running.

I learned a very valuable lesson that day. You cannot put a silk parachute back into its pack. You cannot even put half of a silk parachute back into its pack.

Usually, Mama sent me out to the hedges to pick a switch. That day, she marched right out to the peach trees and picked the longest, keenest peach tree limb in the orchard. And, I danced the switch dance all over the yard. Mama striped my legs until they looked like two knock-kneed peppermint candy sticks.

I haven’t parachuted since that day.

Jaine Treadwell is features editor of The Messenger. She can be reached at jaine.treadwell@troymessenger.com.