I Remember Nothing After the First Bounce

From an album belonging to barnstormer Sergeant Carter G. Buton. Photo from latter half of the 1920s. Image found at San Diego Air & Space Museum Blog.

“It was a gorgeous day to jump from a perfectly good airplane. I, Mickey McGurn, was good at it, and I got paid well to do it.

But one day I got careless.

It was 1927, and parachute jumping was a new thing on the barnstorming circuit. It made people catch their breath when I jumped out of airplanes. They just knew they were going to see me fall straight to my death.

I would gather the parachute in my arms, without packing it, bundle it into the cockpit, and go aloft for a jump.

One day a number of my barnstorming friends protested at the way I handled the parachute. But I told them to mind their own business.

“Forget it,” I said. “I built this thing myself and I know what it’ll do.”

Well, I might have been wrong about that, because one day the ‘chute didn’t work. It opened only about a quarter of the way and I fell to the ground with a terrific speed. Those folks who were waiting to see me die almost got more than they bargained for.

Folks told me I bounced at least 10 feet into the air, but I don’t remember anything after I hit the ground.

The doctors said I broke pretty much every bone in my body, but obviously I lived, sort of.

I’m now hobbling around on crutches. I’m deaf, nearly blind, and can’t taste my food, or enjoy any of the things I used to.

My bones have healed, sort of, but not the way they were when I was a cocky young fool who felt invincible.

I guess I should have listened to my friends. They realized I was courting disaster, but I was too proud, or arrogant, or just plain stupid to notice it.

But they were right.

I suppose that no matter what you do, whether it’s racing cars, jumping out of airplanes, or walking on the bottom of the ocean, your friends are usually better at telling when you’re getting careless than you are.

I guess it’s similar to the way a friend can usually tell when you’re drunk before you can.


The above is a fictional version of an actual accounting by one aviation daredevil named Mickey McGurn, given to a newspaper reporter for the Syracuse American. The short piece appeared in the Sunday edition under a section called the “World of Aviation”. The publication date was February 26, 1928. The writer was Gordon K. Hood, a feature writer who penned several aviation-themed chapters for the paper, a collection of mini-stories such as this one, collectively called “Sprouting Wings”. Mr. Hood was himself quite an accomplished early aviation pioneer, as recounted in a 1939 edition of the Syracuse Journal.

I have taken the time to paraphrase this story due to its applicability to many potentially hazardous endeavors. Safety risks are not always noticeable to those at greatest risk.

The actual article is found below. It, and a full page copy of the 1928 newspaper page, was provided to the present author by Mr. Douglas Barnard, presently from Waldorf, Maryland.



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