Grumpy Gimpy Old Farts With Attitudes Meet 2009

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Story By: John Bull

Saturday, May 23rd began like no other.... "Grumpy, Gimpy Old Farts With Attitudes".... began invading Taft drop zone from points near and far.... The occasion ???... To celebrate "Stormin' Norman" Van Pelt's 40th year in skydiving, and also his 56th birthday. It was an impressive turnout & there was more "SKYDIVING ROYALTY" present, than you could shake a baton at. Bill & Mary Stage attended the event, and it was an INSPIRATION to ALL, that even in frail health, Bill would NOT be denied the opportunity to attend the bash !!!

The day began with perfect weather. The first Old Farts load of the day, a planned 18-way did not complete, nor did John Velardo's video camera work.(which was probably for the best)....Then at pull time, Rick Schlueter had a malfunction & had to chop his main. He landed just fine under his reserve and once his heart rate returned to normal, he was able locate his free-bag. Thankfully, Taft rigger & Air Trash Guy "Mikey" Martin managed to find the time to repack Rick's reserve.

As the day progressed, a steady stream of Old Farts continued pouring in at the Taft place as the fun and excitement of old friends being reunited, filled the air. A total of seventy-eight people signed the attendees list, but there may well have been others who never got a chance to sign the roster. The combined total years in the sport of everybody who signed the list came to 3,024 years !!!! Next year, we will be asking for everyone's jump numbers too. That should make for an IMPRESSIVE tally as well....

As sunset approached, Jim Wilkins organized an 18-way to celebrate his 45 years in the sport, 40 years of flying jumpers & 44 years as a pilot. The formation didn't complete, but everybody gave it their best shot. As nightfall approached, the party began. Norman dished up bowls of his famous chili to those who were fortunate enough to be lurking near his trailer when the dinner bell rang. In addition, drop zone owner/operator Dave Crouch provided a tasty dinner which included: barbecued beef, chicken, and all the fixings. Also, Dave donated a keg of beer which was much appreciated by the thirsty guests.

As the evening progressed, an impromptu meeting was organized. Norman was presented with a flask that featured the logo of his favorite NFL team - 2009 Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.. Also during the meeting, two new members of Air Trash were inducted. Long time veteran skydiver & POPS Guy Len Zack, and also Norm's good buddy & Taft regular, Kenny Hamner were brought forth into this illustrious, freefalling brotherhood. Congratulations/condolences to you guys & welcome to the lowest point of your lives.... THEM ! THEM !

Several gag gifts were awarded as well. Famed "Parabat Skydiver" & "Arvin Good Guy" Brian Williams, aka ... SCR # 8 & SCS # 0, began skydiving in 1951 and was "officially crowned" .... SENIOR RANKING OLD FART IN ATTENDANCE !!!... The Brian Guy was presented with a coffee mug which read : "How The Hell Did I Get This Old"..... As residents of Hawaii, Stan & Mariann Troeller won the prize for the furthest distance traveled to attend the bash and were presented with a canister of "Metamucil". May they spoon their way to good health, one BM at a time.... And lastly, Don Henderson, SCR # 007 was given a toy ukulele, so he could go sit in a corner & play by/with himself.....

The meeting adjourned as the band fired up their amps & instruments and began playing. The remainder of the evening was spent as old friends swapped stories with each other, shared photos & swilled "cold adult beverages"....

As Sunday morning arrived, the space shuttle "Atlantis" flew over on it's final approach to Edwards Air Force Base, giving Taft drop zone two sonic booms, thereby announcing NASA's official blessing of this year's successful Grumpy, Gimpy Old Farts bash....

Special thanks to all the many fine skydiving pioneer guys & gals who traveled near & far to attend the event. Without your participation, this whole stinking mess would not have been possible. A BIG thanks also, to Dave Crouch & his dedicated staff, for making this event possible & for going the EXTRA mile in spending the prior week installing the beautiful NEW shade cover, which now hangs over the grass packing area. This allowed folks to pack in comfort & "stay in the game" longer during the heat of the day..... Thanks Norman, for inviting everybody to Taft, and for the great job you & Patty did on designing those T-shirts commemorating the event. A BIG thanks to John Velardo for "Bravery Beyond The Call of Duty"... in doing his best to keep 18 derelicts centered in the frame of his video camera. You may view John's Old Farts videos, by going to his you tube site at

Jim Wilkins would like to thank all for putting up with his black and white antics prior to the sunset flight, and for his long time pioneers of parachuting friends that he has flown for many many times but never jumped with and or skydived with in many years that were on this flight. And thanks to Bob Celaya and Linda Hardesty and Bill Montague for helping organize the challenging jump-freefall- skydive-aerial formation. And lastly a big thanks to the pilot Mike Jackson for ascending all of us to a much higher than normal altitude - up to 14,200 feet above ground level.

And not to be forgotten, a HUGE thank you to Larry Walsh, our dedicated Air Trash webmaster, for many tireless hours spent maintaining our beloved Air Trash website and ESPECIALLY.... for all the extra effort put forth in keeping the Taft bash announcements & attendees list continually updated. Fun was had by all & it was a great turnout.... What say we do it again same time next year? .....

This is John Bull reporting ..... for Air Trash News .......

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