I NEVER MET LARRY WALTERS, but I wish I had – because he’s long been one of my heroes. Larry was a Los Angeles truck driver. But, for as long as he could remember, he had always wanted to fly. The thought of getting up there amongst the clouds used to fire his imagination. And his mother would often catch him on the roof of their house, picturing the day when he’d get airborne.
His parents had no money. And flying school was beyond his truck-driver budget. But every evening after work, he’d make himself a peanut-butter sandwich, sit outside in his aluminium deck-chair, and stare at the sky.
Larry Walters might’ve remained anonymous. Except … he didn’t.
The next chapter in his life was told by television reporters. And guess what? He was flying! He’d bought himself some helium-filled weather balloons. He’d tied them to his deck-chair. And he’d climbed onboard with a parachute, a CB radio, and a BB-gun to pop some of the balloons when it was time to come down.
But there was one small problem: he’d underestimated the helium. And instead of floating over the treetops in his neighbourhood, Larry took OFF! And, before he knew it, he was 15,000 feet above the city – in the flight-path to LA International Airport, where at least one pilot mistook him for a UFO!
He eventually popped some balloons with his BB-gun, and drifted back to earth. But not before he’d demolished some power-lines and blacked out an entire suburb.
Larry had a way with words. When he finally hit the ground, reporters asked him why he did it. “Well, you can’t just sit there,” answered Larry, grinning from ear to ear. When asked if he was scared, he said, “Yep!” And when asked if he’d do it again, he said, “Nope!”
But he didn’t have to, did he. Because, from 15,000 feet, he’d been sending back the message: “I’ve DONE it! I’ve DONE it! I’m FLYING at last!” And what an encouragement he is to the rest of us …
Look, there’s no shortage of tired, grumpy, burnt-out cynics who’ll tell you it can’t be done, it costs too much, you shouldn’t, you mustn’t, you won’t. But guys like Larry Walters are too busy tying balloons to
their deck-chairs to listen to that!
Good on them, eh!
JOHN, GRAPEVINE’S FOUNDING EDITOR, ADMITS: “I’M NOT AFRAID OF FLYING. I’M AFRAID OF SUDDENLY NOT FLYING!”