A Glider - and a Crowd - Lifted on a Sudden Rush of Air
MY daughter and I stretched out on the platform overlooking the valley below, happy and tired. We had just climbed the three-mile trail up the mountain and had reached this delightful lookout point early in the afternoon on a beautiful, cloudless, weekend in Vermont. A few other people were there and we shyly asked someone to take our picture. Everyone looked out across the valley far below. The mountain was an oddity, thrust up from the flat land surrounding it. Someone speculated it was an old volcano, long extinct, with its summit worn down into a triple peak.Skip to next paragraph
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The talk around us turned to the obvious function of the platform we were sharing. ``I would love to fly a glider but I could never jump off that edge, could you?'' Others wondered aloud, too. No one thought they could actually fling themselves from the top of the mountain. I laid my head back, a stone for a pillow, and closed my eyes, no thoughts of flying, content just to have conquered the mountain.
There was a stir in the group around us. Out of the woods marched four young men. Three of them carried a long blue cylindrical object which we recognized immediately as the rolled up form of a packed glider. They laid it on the ground and the four of them strode up to the platform and looked out. The fellow who had been leading them stood at the edge. A few words were spoken about winds.
The leader was a few feet away from me. He was rather tall, slender, but plainly athletic. He could have been in his teens, maybe early 20s, no doubt one of those who loves a dare. Like those who jump from high rocks into little pools of water for the thrill. And yet as he quietly stood feeling the wind and watching the wind sock nearby, I felt as if an eagle had swooped down from the sky and landed beside me. He was not satisfied with the winds and spoke of an alternate launching site nearby. The four of them trooped off together.
Some of the hikers decided to follow them. I was content to rest. I had seen gliders fly before and I could imagine what it was like for them to launch. After a few minutes, my daughter convinced me to join them.
At the launch site, a small crowd of 15 or 20 people had gathered. The glider lay on the ground partially constructed. The young man, bare chested and in dungarees, moved about the glider bracing, tensing, sliding slender metal rods into key places. He worked silently, not hurriedly. His companions seemed to have disappeared. I recognized one mixed in with the crowd. The talk in the crowd was light and divided between curious speculation and downright skepticism. Everyone was waiting patiently for the launch, perched wherever they could find a seat.
Someone spoke a little louder. The word ``altimeter'' reached the young man. Silent until now, he turned to the crowd. ``Yes,'' he smiled, ``I have an altimeter and a vertical speed indicator, too.'' Now, the ice was broken, and a few moved closer.
A dialogue began between the man and the crowd - questions about his craft and answers. He plainly didn't mind having a crowd watching his preparations. The scattered pieces of glider, carrying cases, and other paraphernalia were quickly thinning out.