This article also appears at dropzone.marketing.
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The beauty of travel is that it offers perspective on your own life. Seeing how people live and discovering the mentalities of other cultures allows for self-examination of what you hold to be important. That’s where I am today. I’ve just returned from a seven-week tour of Australia, having been given an amazing opportunity to visit 13 DZs to assist with their marketing. I come away having gained more than I gave.
During the tour, every DZ I arrived at offered a new adventure. I was introduced to a new world and community where I learned the history of how the DZ came to be. Every place had its own stories of highs and lows. Every place taught me something, whether through the stories of perseverance of DZOs who would never say die or through an unexpected meeting with a jumper that left an indelible mark.
Such a meeting happened at a little DZ 45 minutes outside of Adelaide in the small town of Lower Light. It was my fifth DZ stop and is where I met, as the Aussies would say, a beauty of a man.
Arriving at Lower Light is a little like walking into the past. This DZ has been around for more than 50 years and has trained some of the best skydivers and DZ operators in the history of Aussie skydiving. It’s a Cessna operation and has that club feel where the community is tight and lots of attention is given if you’re a student. You can literally feel the history of the sport oozing from the walls. The owner, Allan Gray, has forgotten more about skydiving than I’ve learned as he is a highly decorated skydiver both in the civilian and military parachuting worlds.
As you walk into the hangar you are greeted with the familiarities of every DZ: a full packing mat, the palpable energy of happy jumpers—and then something you don’t normally see. A man vigorously walking toward every new face with what appears to be a gray and pink bird on his shoulder. The man’s name is Eddy and his sidekick bird is Lenny. Lenny is a beautiful and very intelligent galah with a personality just as large as Eddy’s.
Eddy sticks out his hand and shakes mine and suddenly I’m in the midst of a human hurricane. We immediately cover the basics of names, where we’re from, what I’m doing there, the story of Lenny the galah and we become fast friends. While all this is happening, you can’t help but notice what Eddy is wearing. From head to toe, every single piece of clothing including his faded floppy hat is covered in gold or white puff paint with the word “skydive” written over and over again. His shoes, socks, pants, belt, shirt, vest—everything. As it turns out, everyone on the DZ has been gifted a hat by Eddy with its own customized artwork. To making things even more interesting, Lenny is constantly climbing in and out of Eddy’s shirt trying to nest … Eddy doesn’t even pause or miss a beat as Lenny makes himself at home.
Through the course of two days, we got to know more about the amazing Eddy. A former train driver, Eddy found Lenny on the side of the tracks by himself 18 years ago and reared him from near birth. They’ve been inseparable ever since. Eddy owns a house and lives alone, but hates being there. He’d rather live at the DZ full-time and maintain the grounds throughout the week. He often writes poetry and songs and has carved the lyrics into wood signs hung in the hangar. All the signage around the DZ has been painted by Eddy, including the road sign. Lower Light is Eddy. Eddy is Lower Light.
George Quilgley D.Zed Lower Light
Gonna get high in bullet speed flight
at the George Quigley D Zed at Lower Light
Travel highway number one
To a place of amazing weightless fun
A wonderful playground in the sky
It all comes together where we fly
Here we can slice and scorch the air
Boogie some freestyle or old armchair
Just drink in the shades of blue
Energy is raw, clear and true
Some people say our heads our spun
But this is how we get a dose of fun
Hell yes, we gotta be jumping
We gotta get that adrenaline pumping
The interesting thing about Eddy is his high self-awareness. He knows he can overwhelm those who meet him before they’ve had their first coffee of the day, but he can’t help himself. He’s too in love with living, sharing a story and making people smile. This guy is truly one of a kind and you can’t help but feel uplifted having met him because his energy is so real and uncontrived. He’ll tell you his faults, what he learned from them and laugh at his own silliness. He’s quick-witted and truly has a story for everything. No one is a stranger, just a potential new friend.
Eddy appears to have little by way of material possessions, but he’s wealthy in the sense that he is happy being who he is, living his life on his terms and in his own style with his friend Lenny. What Eddy has is what we’re all after.
To the Australian skydiving community: You’ve got a giant of a man in Eddy. He’s an ambassador for the sport and I can say that I’m better off having met him.
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