The Nutty Balloonist
I spent 2 days convincing a nutty balloonist that I needed to ride! In the summer of 1974, I spent an agonizing number of hours being a Balloon Groupie in hopes of earning a ride. The Briarwood Mall had a two day promotion, each day ending with a hot air balloon launch.
During the day hours, a wacky balloonist named Mike partially filled his red, white and blue balloon inside the Mall, allowing children to play inside between blasts of hot air. I did more than my share of kid corralling for him. Then I helped lug equipment to the parking lot in the evening, reminding Mike repeatedly that I would love to go up in the balloon, since it was my dream... "Yeah, you and everyone else," he reminded me.
The first evening I was hopeful...
... until the mall manager suddenly arrived in his leisure suit, expecting a ride. I watched the balloon lift above me and drove home with twice the
I returned the second day for the same routine. Mike and his crew were growing amused by my overdone enthusiasm. But that evening after helping in the parking lot, two other "VIP" men arrived for their complimentary rides. Mike shrugged at my disappointed face. I continued helping the crew untangle some ropes.
Mike and the two men climbed into the basket while I helped the crew hold onto the wicker. Voices hollered orders over the blasts of the
burner. I was ready to step back and watch when Mike looked at me and chuckled softly. "Oh, get in." I scrambled over the edge and smooshed myself into a corner. "I've never had four in this basket." Mike laughed.
As we lifted above the heads of the small crowd, Mike suddenly put his foot on the lip of the basket and hoisted himself on the edge. "Whoo Hoo!" he hollered as he playfully reached for a dangling string above. I think he was just pretending to slip as he placed his feet on the tilting basket, then twisted and jerked into a falling pose. He laughed as he climbed back into safety. I was relieved to have an excuse to shriek and release a little of the exuberance bottled inside. With Mike back inside, the balloon lifted higher and caught a flow of wind moving it over a nearby meadow.
I really don't know how long we floated. I do remember the chase truck following us below on country roads.
I remember the silence when the burner was turned off and we drifted above fields and then the sound of the wind against the balloon, and then Mike's voice, bragging... about how he was the only balloonist to ever survive hitting power lines.
I'm not sure I picked the best pilot for my very first ballooning experience. I only pondered that worry for a moment. Suddenly it was time to land and Mike showed a bit of concern. "We're going fast." He announced firmly. "We can land this like a baby, if we all get on the opposite side and duck!" My nerves made me laugh with that suggestion. There was no where for any of us to move.
Suddenly we scrambled to the floor and the basket hit with a jerk and it felt like a million bodies on top of me, as we bounced and tumbled along the ground. Instead of panic, I felt a giddy wave of giggles and I tried to suppress them. The basket suddenly stopped and I couldn't move under the wieght. Mike yelled, "Put out the pilot!" The flame was burning near the oat field, where we had landed and Mike was suddenly out stomping as I crawled free. I ould see a huge path of ruined oats, where the basket had been dragging. The truck arrived and the heavy basket was heaved into the truck bed. Moments later, I was sitting in the back, grinning as the truck bumped down the dusty road. I was thrilled with every strong swerve, that gave me an excuse to hug the wicker basket once more.
Back at the Mall
I couldn't stop thanking Mike and the crew. Mike told me to be quiet. He claimed (with a grin) that the only reason he told me to get in was that he thought I was going to cry. And I probably would have.
I said good bye and headed to my car, making no attempts to hide my Dorothy style skip. Just before I reached the car I saw a little girl point to me and tell her mother. "Look, there's the balloon girl." I have never had a prouder title!
BARBIE BUCKET LIST
I was 8 years old when I got this embarrassing Barbie diary ... about 2 years before my real DIARY YEARS. (12 years of never missing a day) I was more into Trolls than Barbie, so I stashed it in a drawer and forgot about it.
Over the years my family moved numerous times and this super mod diary ended up burried in boxes over and over. For at least 12 years, whenever I ran across it, I would grab a pencil and jot down something ridiculous on the corresponding day. It was like a never ending doodle pad, fillled with more nonsense than reflection. The penmanship and horrendous spelling makes it difficult to read today, but the best discovery is a Bucket List that began on April 27, 1974!
Click on THE BEGINNING to see the LIST and how it evolved.