In freefall, 1964
I have had many interests in my life—obsessions, some might say. My earliest memories were dreams of flying, and airplanes. When I was six or seven years old, every time a plane flew over, I never failed to look up. I always wondered how the pilot and passengers were able to make themselves small enough to fit inside those tiny airplanes. I started building model airplanes when I was twelve or thirteen and transitioned to flying real ones during the summer of 1950. I soloed on October 16, 1950, at Marshall, Missouri, when I was sixteen years old. At that time, it was the biggest adrenaline rush of my life, a life’s fantasy fulfilled.
In 1960, just before I married my lovely wife, I heard about a skydiving exhibition at a small airport near Springfield, Missouri, where we lived. When we saw those jumpers—those tiny dots—dive from their airplane at 12,500 feet, trailing what appeared to be smoke, but later turned out to be flour in sacks tied to their legs, I was hooked. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was going to do that.
At Lincoln, Nebraska, before I made my first jump, I dreamed constantly of freefalling through space. It was a powerful attraction I couldn’t resist. I made my first jump on June 18, 1961, at Wilber, Nebraska. Each successive jump raised the adrenaline high to a new level. After seventeen years and 517 jumps, I stopped skydiving to try hang gliding. It, too, was a great adrenaline experience, but I could never let myself forget that a hang glider was the most unstable airplane I’d ever fly.
I returned to flying in 1969, and earned an instructor and instrument ratings. In 1984, I bought a home-built Volksplane airplane that I flew for ten years. I loved flying that bird, and still wander back in my memories to a time when I flew low and slow over Kansas wheat fields, and along the Arkansas River in the rays of the setting summer sun, accompanied only by an occasional hawk.
Every once and awhile, when I see a video taken of jumpers in free fall, or from an airplane doing aerobatics, the old rush returns.
Another obsession along the way was oil painting. Take a look at my galleries—at the paintings, and the photographs that represent the golden time of my life.
As you might guess, when writing my memoirs I have a lot rich memories to draw upon. The inspiration for my fiction novels comes from another place—from my twisted, fertile imagination.
Third-place winner for First Pages of a Novel, 2008 Kansas Writers Association writing contest
My first novel is a supernatural horror story about a young couple who move from New York City to the young man’s hometown in Mississippi. The house he buys had been lived in by an elderly woman until her recent death. Before he moved in, a neighbor informs him that the woman had been an evil witch in life, and that her evil spirit is destined to wander the earth forever unless she can tempt or otherwise persuade the new owner to let her spirit in at night. If that should happen, they would switch places, the house would again become hers and he would become a lost, wandering spirit.
This essay took third place in the Memoir category in the 2008 KWA contest
November 1, 1965, was a benchmark in my beloved sport of skydiving. The event occurred on a warm breezy autumn afternoon during my 235th parachute jump…
For more about Richard Walkup and his writing, go to his website: http://richardwalkup.com/