BOWEN COLUMN: Jus’ when you thought you’d seen it all

Published 9:30 am Thursday, February 17, 2022

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Going way back to August of 1997, what you’re about to read is the third column I ever wrote for the LDN. I guess the column kind of serves as a theme for the entire twenty-five year journey, as I’ve seen, I’ve heard, I’ve recorded, or I’ve made up a hundred stories that make you shake your head and say, “My, my, just when you thought you’d seen it all.”

Here’s how I looked at it way back then, back when I was just a bit younger than I am now:

I’ve been thinking for a long time about writing a book with the title you see in the caption of this column, and recently I ran across a story that resurrected the idea.

This story came to me about third hand, so I don’t know all the details (but it isn’t hard to fill them in with just a little imagination). I don’t even know where this fella who apparently had a few wires dangling loose was from. I don’t really need to know, except Anyway, this fella went and got himself a bright idea. I guess he was getting tired of the same-oh, same-oh down on the ground, so he thought he’d like to spend a little time in the air. He took his lawn chair, attached four big helium balloons to it, and thought he’d go up in the air and hover, oh, let’s say, 30 or 40 feet right above his house. And to show how well he had it all thought out, he took a pellet gun with him so he could shoot a few of the balloons out whenever he decided to come down. And, of course, he carried along a six pack of beer for the ride.

The best laid plans of mice and men.

As soon as this fellow cut the rope that held the chair down, he shot up in the air —BOOM! — like a rocket. The next thing he knew, he was 30,000 feet in the air.

30,000 feet! As I said, I don’t have all the details, although my imagination tends to soar a bit at this point. I don’t know if his hair was standing up on his head. I don’t know exactly how white he was by the time he reached the top. I don’t know if he emptied his bladder, say, every ten thousand feet or so. I don’t know those things, but I have one of those sneaky suspicions.

The way he was discovered was a plane flew by at — I still can’t get over this — 30,000 feet and spotted him. I can’t help but wonder what the pilot and his passengers thought when they saw this man … in a lawn chair attached to four helium balloons … with a six pack of beer … and a gun … 30,000 feet in the air.

I don’t know exactly what they thought, but I have another one of those sneaky suspicions.

I don’t know for a fact that every single passenger and the pilot and the crew fell on the floor and rolled laughing. I take that back. I do know that. There’s no way you could fly across the sky and see this fella in a lawn chair with a gun and a six pack and moisture dripping from the chair without rolling on the floor laughing. It’d be impossible to do. And then the pilot — once he had gathered himself and regained control of the plane and his laugher — had the unenviable task of calling this in to the air controllers (who obviously weren’t doing a very good job of controlling the air). I can hear that now:

“This is the pilot of flight 907 … You’re not going to believe this, but …”

Those fellows down on the ground had to suspect that the pilot had taken a nip or two of what the fella in the lawn chair obviously had been nipping on. Finally, the pilot persuaded the air controllers that he was telling the truth, and they sent a helicopter out and rescued the man. I have to tell you: I thought I’d just about heard it all until I heard that story. And I think it’s in order for me to give that fella a word of advice that I’m sure he’ll appreciate when he comes out of shock.

Fella, next time you think you need to get some excitement up in the air, why don’t you think about something a bit less dangerous, like skydiving, or bungy jumping, or maybe instrument-free hang gliding.

Or, if you really want to do something stupid, ride the roller coaster over at Six Flags. That’ll give you all the excitement you need, and it’ll empty your bladder, too, all at the same time.

At least it always does mine.