Note to the reader: the series of articles entitled Background to Buddy were extracted from a Christian nonfiction work that formed the basis for the novel Buddy, which is available from either Amazon or Signalman Publishing. Directions are noted on the page entitled Buddy on this blog site. The purpose of this work was to explain the reasons why I consider the Holy Spirit to be functionally female. Adventure episodes and humor were added for the entertainment of both the reader and the author.

Chapter 3: God – Up Close and Personal (continued)

After our first landing Danny was totally pumped. He flung his arms akimbo and strained to speak. I understood him as clearly as if his speech was perfect. Harold and I were both pumped too. It probably was the most significant moment of my life. No bones were broken, Danny and I were alive, Harold hadn’t fallen off the cliff and we had acquired the experience of a successful venture. We could, in fact, do it again, and now without the fear of the unknown.

It’s best to wait until the adrenalin leaves the system before attempting something that demands logic. We didn’t and it was almost our undoing. Grinning stupidly at each other, Harold and I both said “Let’s do it again!”

We returned to the top of the big hill and set up the glider once more. Harold wrapped the rope around his waist, tugged on it, and took Danny and his harness in his arms. I signaled and began to run, and Harold followed and flung Danny off.

It being later in the day, the wind had changed. I had checked it before launching, and knew about it but it’s hard to argue with invincibility. On the other hand, it’s also hard to ignore the laws of physics, as I now found out. It’s about the first thing that hang gliding instructors tell their students, usually expressing the importance of it by shouting: “Don’t launch downwind! It won’t work!”

Indeed. Human power is notoriously weak. The hang glider pilot needs all the help he can get to attain flying speed. Anything less results in a stall, which means that gravity rules over everything else.

So here we were, heading downward in a stall. Theoretically, we had a thousand feet to sort things out and recover. The cliff, however, had a prominent ledge a couple of hundred feet down. Trees resided on the ledge. Big trees, over a hundred feet tall. By the time Danny and I had attained flying speed, we found ourselves below the treetops and rapidly heading toward them. Most fortunately, the wing itself remained above the tops and our combined mass was sufficient to plow through them. We were through the gauntlet, and after that the flight was uneventful. But we didn’t fly any more that day.

The next flight didn’t work out too well either. The flight itself was fine, but my landing lacked perfection. I was too low in the flare-out, just about kissing the grass. Danny’s chin was lower yet. When he gets excited he drops his jaw. When we land he remains prone, thus making his jaw the lowest part of his body and, in actuality, the entire hang glider system. This would have been acceptable if the field contained nothing but grass. But it didn’t. Cows grazed there. They ate the grass. They did other things on it, too, so it was inevitable that Danny’s jaw would scoop up a cow pie.

It wasn’t as funny as it sounds. He was choking and I was terrified that he wouldn’t be able to breathe. As soon as I could I scrambled to clear his airway by poking my finger into his throat and pulling out the poop. His gasps reassured me that he was able to breathe, and I continued to kneel there, thanking God for His mercy in the face of my stupidity.

When we returned to the nursing home I felt compelled to tell the nurses about what had happened, because I wasn’t sure that he wouldn’t need a shot of something to immunize him against infection. The fact that Danny was there and he was alive and apparently in good spirits lightened up the situation considerably. They asked if there were flies on the poop. When I replied in the negative, they said that there was no real problem. Then they began to laugh. They were still laughing as I left the building.

We had four more flights together after that, three of which were made without untoward incidents. But the next flight was a real doozy.

To this point we had one very successful flight together, followed by two more somewhat marginal ones. The next flight was marginal too. In fact, it was the scariest of the lot. As before, Harold ran next to me with Danny, flinging him into the air as I reached the edge of the big hill. This time there was an added spin to the thrust, causing Danny’s right arm to loop around the left flying wire that ran between the left tip of my crosstube and the left tip of my basetube.

If Danny’s arm had been capable of flexing at the elbow, this wouldn’t have mattered. The arm simply would have slipped back down, allowing Danny’s harness to come back alongside mine when I went prone and put my hands on the basetube for control.

But Danny’s arm was quite rigid at both elbow and shoulder, causing him to remain where he was, on the left side of the glider rather far away from the basetube.

If hang gliders had control surfaces common to airplanes like rudders and ailerons, that might not have been so terribly important. But hang gliders are controlled in flight by weight-shift, making control surfaces unnecessary under most conditions. Therefore, most hang gliders don’t have control surfaces.

As didn’t we. There we were then, flying marginally above stall speed with the glider sensing Danny’s position as a rather stern command for a sharp left turn. A sharp left turn at that point would have brought us back toward our launch point. The problem with that, of course, is that now we were well below the launch point. As we began to turn, the cliff face came back into sight. It wasn’t a pretty picture. Although he was fully aware of the situation, Danny’s handicap prevented him from moving his arm. His frustration was extreme, matching the intensity of my terror. All I wanted then was my mama. I think that Danny wanted the same. I prayed to God. I think Danny did too.

I had no choice. Tugging on the right flying wire, I pulled myself (scrabbled would be more accurate) out to the right to compensate for Danny’s position. We straightened out and I was then able to turn us away from the cliff and back into unobstructed airspace. But in that position my control was marginal, especially with respect to pitch. We were flying, but barely. Setting up for a landing and then executing it without compromising our health would be extremely difficult under those conditions.

When we had enough room to recover from a complete loss of control, I took a few deep breaths to calm myself and let go from my precarious but relatively stable perch, swinging over toward Danny. As the glider, under our combined weight on the left side, began a turn again to the left, this time more abruptly than the last, I reached out and attempted to unhook the arm. Failing to do it, I scrambled back to the right just as the glider began its entry into a spiral from which it may not have recovered.

Noting with dismay that we were closer to the ground and were approaching the point where we’d have insufficient altitude to recover from that kind of attitude, I took a few more deep breaths and repeated the maneuver. Spurred on by desperation, I did so more boldly than during my previous attempt. This time we were successful. We returned to stable flight greatly relieved and breathing heartfelt thanks to God for getting us out of that situation. The landing turned out to be good.

Danny and I, with Harold’s continued help, had three more flights after that. They all were relatively uneventful. Then a number of significant events occurred in my life, all of which were unrelated to Danny, but which conspired against any further launches with him.

It was an experience that I’ll never forget, not for the scares, but for the joy of the doing. I don’t think Danny will, either. I suppose that I could feel guilty about having exposed Danny to such danger. But, given that he survived intact, his life ended up being far more meaningful than it otherwise would have been. I’m sure that Danny would agree to that also. Besides, God was in charge all the time. And I feel that, having had that experience with Harold and Danny, I know something about the Holy Spirit that maybe some theologians might not. That claim isn’t meant to be arrogant, because such experience as I’ve had with the Holy Spirit is more humbling than anything – I have a full appreciation out of it of my incapability of doing anything worthwhile on my own.

Most of all, it was through these experiences with Harold and Danny that supplemented a reading of Scripture in a very real and immediate way that I developed a deep appreciation of the Holy Spirit as both noble and ennobling, and in the process acquired a comprehension of the awesome, majestic beauty of that nobility. I’m pretty sure that this understanding was a big part of the reason for the exercise.

Moreover, I’m convinced that in return for my trust in flying with Danny, the Holy Spirit rewarded me with much knowledge about God that I would otherwise lack.


General Notes:

1. All bible references are taken from the King James Version
2. Only the first appearance in each chapter to an item to which a note is associated is subscripted.

Chapter 3

1. Rotor, Arthur Perkins, published 2004 Falcon Books, portions or all available on request to

2. Family of God, Arthur Perkins, published 2004 Falcon Books, portions or all available on request to


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