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by Ed Lightle
As morning’s breeze and Heaven’s blue do open up our eyes,
We see our friends all gathered here – this precious day in time.
Chutes are packed and dreams are made, and jokes they do abound,
But all in fun, camaraderie, not meant to bring us down.
5-minute call then loading zone then off to board the plane.
The engines hum a welcome tune: “Yeah, jumping once again!”
As we ride up to altitude, Earth far below our floor,
We let our troubles fall away and single spirits soar.
Open door, see clouds go by, Earth’s beauty at our feet.
A taste of Heaven all around; ah, atmosphere so sweet!
Climb out, line up and hear the count; now ride the mighty blast.
Earthly things don’t matter now; just let this feeling last!
As through the yonder blue we come, from ground we look like ants.
Then suddenly our chutes do bloom; we’ve given life a chance.
We savor one last thrill to soul as we come touching down.
Eager to do it all again; temporary is the ground.
It was a doozy of a holiday weekend here in the States. With so much terribleness, how about a quick laugh?
Back in the day, an unnamed jumper got in a little scuffle with a gator here in Florida. It turned into a kerfuffle of the sort only The Sunshine State can produce.
[date redacted], 1997
Florida Game & Fresh Water Fish Commission
In compliance with the order of the court, please accept this letter as an official apology for my involvement in the destruction of an alligator in [location redacted], Florida, in February of this year.
By way of explanation, I, along with a group of friends, have access to a parcel of undeveloped property on the banks of the [location redacted] River. We spend many weekends coming together in fellowship at this location. Our entire families, including our children, populate these gatherings which are typically characterized by traditional Bar-B-Que cooking and our oneness in marveling at the wonders of nature.
On the day in question–which has been etched in my consciousness as my personal day of shame–while conducting the children on a combination nature walk/prayer group, I came upon a large alligator on the bank of a canal bordering our fellowship area. In what could only be described as an inexcusable lapse in reasoning, I considered this animal to be a threat to the many children, ranging in age from one to 12 years, frolicking in the vicinity. Acting upon my irrational fears, I took it upon myself to eliminate the perceived danger.
Subsequently, my two arrests, in combination with numerous interrogations by the dedicated officers of the Florida Game & Fresh Water Fish Commission, served as the catalyst for my ecological awakening. Through sheer determination and single-mindedness, these officers–these guardian angels of nature–led me from the darkness of my own convoluted rationale to the light of a more knowing entity. Much like the golden rays of sun following a summer storm, years of clouded thought and perception have given way to undeniable clarity. Thankfully, I can now see the way.
The life of one, or even two children, is a small price to pay for the preservation of the magnificent species that populates the lakes, rivers, swamps, golf courses, parks, roads, parking lots, sidewalks, driveways, backyards and swimming pools of our great state. Their numbers, dwindling to the millions, must be protected at any cost. We can have more children! But who will mourn the demise of these great lizards alarmingly being harassed and hounded into obscurity by motorists, pedestrians, joggers, swimmers and housewives?!
As you are well aware a three year old [location redacted] county child was recently attacked and partially devoured by one of our leathery friends. I’m sure you will agree that the publicity surrounding this event was shameful. The alligator was portrayed as a vicious predator in search of human flesh when, in fact, we know this to be false. The alligator merely intended to consume the little boy’s dog! This entire episode only served to enforce the fallacy that alligators are a threat to humans. While an occasional human may suffer the consequences of an accident of nature, it has been shown time and time again that alligators are perfectly content with a diet of farm animals and house pets.
Although my debt to society has been determined by the courts, I feel compelled to impose an additional penance upon myself for my act against nature. In this regard, I will attempt to recruit the deceased child’s mother into my newly formed alligator appreciation study group. It is my sincere belief that with the support of this group, and, hopefully, counseling by officials with your agency, her loss will be put into the proper ecological context.
While speaking of your officers, I feel it necessary to offer additional praise in their handling of my case. Their two arrests of me, as well as their arrests of numerous acquaintances, plus their continual questioning of various friends (none of whom had anything to do with the incident). serves to show their uncommon focus on the task at hand. While on the surface their actions would seem to indicate a planned pattern of uncalled for and possibly illegal harassment and intimidation by an out of control authority figure, I have no doubt they were driven by their tenacity to see a job through and their enthusiasm to resolve a completely plausible conspiracy theory.
In closing, allow me to reiterate my sincerest and deepest regrets for my involvement in the situation leading to the untimely demise of a great Florida native. Be assured the time spent in quiet contemplation behind bars, the loss of income from my job, the fine imposed by the court, the thousands spent on attorney’s fees, and the inconvenience forced on many innocent friends cannot begin to approach the value of the lessons I learned and the philosophical changes I have undergone. No dollar amount can be places on the warmth and affection I now feel toward your agency and the judicial system. To witness firsthand these two entities working in harmony for the betterment of our state is truly inspiring.
Thank you for throwing me a lifeline of enlightenment when I was in danger of sinking below the ripples of selfishness and irresponsibility. I am forever in your debt.
Truly Yours In Nature,