It was winter, and even though I was dressed in a leather flying suit, helmet and heavy gloves, it was still very cold. When I reached to pull the ripcord on my parachute, my gloves were too bulky to grasp the ring. So I ripped off a glove, grabbed the ring and pulled.

When the chute popped out of its case, it sort of exploded through my legs, so I guess I was upside down at the time. The canopy popped open and put me right side up with maybe 150 feet to go. The episode was so jarring the leg straps ripped my underwear. Moments later, I landed in a briar patch, tearing my clothes in the process. A farm kid came running up to see if I was dead or alive. What he found was a dirt-covered, tattered aviator who was angry and embarrassed in equal measure and spouting a blue streak of curses. The boy ran home to tell his mother what he had seen, but when she asked him to repeat what the pilot had said, the boy refused. He explained, "Mother, if I tell you that, you're going to wash out my mouth with a bar of soap."

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