Nature photography, political rants, and Martyman laughs from the ten-time award-winning author Marty Essen

My forgotten first major adventure

Marty’s photo of the day #4075: I write both fiction and nonfiction. If you’ve read any of my nonfiction books, you know I’ve experienced some great adventures, from searching for venomous snakes in the Amazon Rainforest to hiking on all seven continents to surviving a hippo attack with my wife, Deb, in Zimbabwe to overcoming my fear of public speaking to speak at hundreds of colleges in 45 states. As I was going through my photos this morning, I came across this one taken by Deb.

I had forgotten about this adventure—my first major adventure—and I really should have included it in my most recent nonfiction book: Hits, Heathens, and Hippos: Stories from an Agent, Activist, and Adventurer. My neighbor friend and I had been talking about skydiving for several years, and when Deb and I decided to move from Minneapolis to the Bitterroot Valley of Montana, it was now or never time.

So we arranged for a skydiving lesson and went for it. And we weren’t going to do a wimpy tandem dive. We were going solo!

Long story short, we showed up at the tiny airfield just over the Wisconsin border early in the morning for our lesson and jump—and no one was there. Twenty minutes later, our instructor shuffled out of the hanger and said, “Sorry, we’re getting started late today. Everyone here really tied one on last night, and we aren’t moving too well yet.”

Our morning lesson was a nightmare, and by the time of our afternoon jump I was so upset with the instructor I was seething.

When Deb shot this photo, I had just taken my seat in the rickety little airplane and was furious and terrified at the same time. But once I jumped out of the airplane, everything was cool. One memory that sticks with me is how lonely it felt—high above the earth, with just the sound of creaking ropes between me and my parachute!

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