The Feat

Big John Brittingham

Jim Nance was always a wild man and looked it. He had big, red, bushy eyebrows and a Yosemite Sam moustache. We were having a wine and cheese party around the pool at one of the Taos Soaring Fiestas (where the parable came from) when Big John Brittingham mentioned that he got warm that day and pulled off his sweater while in flight.

Jim came back with something on the order of, impossible, no one can pull off a sweater while wearing a parachute and strapped in the cockpit of a glider. Big John, who was known to bet on all sorts of strange things like which of two flies would take off first, replied, "Bet you a hundred bucks I can."

Now Big John didn't get his moniker for no good reason. He stands about six four with a fighting weight of about 200 pounds and the cockpit of a glider has been compared in size to a coffin. The discussion went back and forth for some time and the bet was set to be settled at the next Black Forest Labor Day Soaring Contest and BBQ. Big John would wear his Yale Sweater (while he looks like some big, dumb cowboy, he has a law degree from Yale and a Ph.D. in Botany from the University of Wisconsin) They even appointed three totally honest ;-} (Yeah, right) judges (me being one of them) to oversee the outcome of the event and hold the stakes in the bet. Jim's dad, who is a lawyer, wrote up a long, convoluted list of rules and conditions for "The Feat".

When the big day came, Big John donned his genuine wool Yale sweater emblazoned with the big "Y" and we inspected him to be sure it was completely on and in place. Then he donned his parachute over the sweater and was strapped into the glider. It was connected to the tow rope and off he went.

Now the tow wasn't as smooth as a flight instructor would like to see before kicking a student out of the nest but it never got to the point of any danger. John popped off tow at about a thousand feet, which took all of three minutes, opened the dive brakes and dove for the runway. He rolled to a stop right in front of we three impartial witnesses, opened the canopy and there was the Yale sweater nearly folded on his lap. An inspection of said sweater was done and we found no signs that it was damaged in the ordeal.

The bet was settled but people talked about "The Feat" for years.

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Copyright 2006 by Jim Foreman