Many years during the 1980’s and 1990’s, we spent our Thanksgiving holidays in Mexico, usually in Puerto Vallarta. We could tell it was Thanksgiving when we were there because there would be a caged turkey on display in the lobby of many of the hotels.
These trips were planned and led by our good friend and travel agent, Jane Austin. The holiday crowd always included Jane and her family, Ken and Iris Blancett and their family and Jean and me. Often various other friends would join us for the several days of fun on the beach. Everyone could do his own thing or join others for the many activities available. Much time was spent lying or walking on the beach, shopping in the local stores and bargaining with the strolling beach vendors. And who can forget the marvelous food, beer and margaritas.
On one of the trips, our long-.time and close friends, Bob and Billie Suchsland, joined the group. The next morning after our arrival in Puerto Vallarta, we took Bob and Billie on a barefooted walk in the sand to explore the action on the beach. We had fun running from oncoming waves, watching the rollicking kids, bargaining with the vendors and dodging the occasional flying Frisbee.
After we had walked two blocks or so from our hotel and past a couple of large hotels, we noticed high above the ship in the bay a colorful object floating in the air. Soon we could make out that the object was a man hanging from a multicolored parachute. It looked as if he was having a great time, parasailing alone in the sky with a spectacular view. We all agreed that we should think about trying parasailing and possibly try it later in the week.
We soon came upon a sign that advertised that we could have the thrill of a lifetime for only five dollars and there were men nearby selling tickets. Upon seeing the sign, Jean said, “You all can think about it all you want but I’m going up right now”. I peeled out the five dollars. Immediately, Jean was surrounded by several good-looking young men in bikinis offering to help. The leader took charge and told Jean to listen to his instructions. We bystanders could not hear what he told her but we assumed that she understood what to do.
Before we knew what was happening, two of the guys strapped Jean into the harness and another one held the parachute. They all ran into the wind with great speed. The wind caught the parachute and the motorboat to which the rope was attached took off and Jean went high into the air. At that point all three of us left on the beach were ready to sign up.
An attendant in the boat had most of the control of the chute by maneuvering the rope he held. The other end of the rope was tied to the chute. Of course, gust of wind could shift the direction of the chute also. Jean had nothing to do but enjoy herself until the time for landing came. It would be Jean’s job to pull hard on the two straps on the parachute at the command of the beach attendants when she was immediately over the landing area.
After circling the bay a couple times, Jean and the chute were brought back to the landing area. The attendants on the ground yelled to Jean, “Pull, Pull, Pull”. Again, they shouted even louder to her, “Pull, Pull, Pull”. Jean smiled broadly down to them and waved. Jean had passed all areas on the beach where she could be brought down safely so the boat pulled her back out above the bay.
Soon it appeared that Jean was headed towards the big passenger ship docked in the outer edge of the bay. With the fear of a catastrophe, the men changed the direction of the parachute and brought her directly back. This time, everybody on our part of the beach yelled, “Pull, Pull, Pull”. By this time, Jean understood that she should pull something so with both hands she grabbed one of the two straps which held her to the chute. This time there was fear on her face. By pulling only one of the straps, the chute took off towards the tower of the nearby hotel.
Once again, in order to prevent a disaster, she was sent back out to sea. After circling the bay again, she was once again brought to the landing area. This time, Jean’s plight had been noticed up and down all of the nearby hotel beach areas and they all joined in the chorus of “Pull, Pull, Pull”. By now, Jean was aware of what need to be done. We could see extreme fear on Jean’s face. This time she pulled on both straps with all of her might and suddenly came straight down and four of the helpers were knocked down.
Jean got untangled and ran to us crying that she was really scared to death and exclaimed “I was up there alone – just God and me. I just knew that I would drift out to sea and never be seen again”. We three land lovers decided that parasailing would get no more thought from us. All four of us were weak from what we thought was Jean’s fate. It took some time for us to recover and decide to continue down the beach to find a bar.
In a few minutes, Ken and Iris came upon us standing there on the sand. Ken laughed and asked “Did you see that fool with her parachute who couldn’t get down”? Jean hung her head and replied, “That was me.” We were afraid to laugh out loud but there were a few snickers. We finally couldn’t hold it back and all burst into uncontrollable laughter.
After the laughter died down, Iris turned to me and asked “Jim, What in the world were you thinking when this all was going on? Jean could have been killed.” My reply was “I was trying to remember Betty Abernathy’s phone number.” The whole group jumped on me with all sorts of nasty remarks. I didn’t think I would live to tell the story again. I did live to tell the story again but I don’t include my reply to Iris’ question.
Jim Pershall 2