I like the stunt--just so it's not me


Man likes to push himself. For the most part, we like to test our limits, exert ourselves to reaching new heights and attempt to get more out of ourselves than a logical mind would think possible. It’s why people climb mountains, or work long hours or practice our passions tirelessly — knowing that perfection is out of our grasp, but still certainly worth pursuing.

And, sometimes, we strap ourselves to lawn chairs and try to be one with the clouds, courtesy of some helium balloons.

While many in our area were watching fireworks last weekend or enjoying the beef-n-beer event at the Millville fire hall, Kent Couch was soaring through the air with 105 helium balloons strapped to his chair. He started his quest to dance in the sky in Oregon, with visions of landing safely in Idaho firmly in his mind.

And people say I need a hobby.

Couch flew 193 miles in his makeshift lawn chair. Think about that — he took flight, watched the sights get smaller beneath him and landed 193 miles from where he started, using an aircraft that I use as a device in helping me drink beer in my back yard more comfortably. But our hero? Oh, this has been banging around in his brain for quite some time.

“When you’re a little kid and you’re holding a helium balloon, it has to cross your mind,” Couch told the Bend (Ore.) Bulletin.

Really? When I was holding helium balloons as a kid, I was hoping my mother would be looking in a different direction so I could suck out the gas and talk like Michael Jackson.

Personal note — that’s the last time I harken back to my childhood and mention Michael Jackson’s name in the same sentence. But, you guessed it, I digress.

I can’t really get my mind wrapped around this daredevil behavior. Growing up, I had friends that always wanted to prove something to themselves or others by taking ridiculous risks. While they would debate whether or not to jump off a roof or start a fight with a big guy, I would normally be shaking my head and wondering if I wanted two sandwiches for lunch, or only one. They’d talk about skateboarding down a scary hill with traffic, and I’d be wondering if my pants were too short.

But this isn’t even an issue with age.

As I was reading about Couch’s lounge-chair aeronautics, I had two names jump to mind — Drew Lyons and Stephen Mills. Oh, they’d try this today, I was thinking. Put those two together, open a few adult beverages and they’d be trying to figure out how to navigate a lawn chair to Australia. Then they’d argue over who got to take the maiden flight.

And I’d sit down in my own flightless lawn chair and watch the whole thing unfold before me.

See, as much as I try to avoid taking any physical risks with my own life, there is admittedly a voyeuristic side to me that wants to watch it happen. As a child, I loved the antics of Evil Knievel. As the day would approach for another nationally-televised stunt by Knievel, I could feel the anticipation rise in my chest. I didn’t care about food or sports or girls or anything — I just wanted to make sure I was sitting somewhere comfortable when Knievel would put his life on the line solely for my entertainment.

And I wasn’t alone. My friends would also share that enthusiasm, and the day after a Knievel stunt, my friends would be creating their own knuckleheaded activities. See, they all wanted to be Knievel.

I was just happy being the guy who watched him from my air-conditioned home.

That’s continued into adulthood. I still enjoy watching people do stupid things, and I still make sure I’m careful when grabbing a railing for fear of a splinter. There is no interest in any segment of my brain to ride a lawn chair a couple hundred miles, and I can tell you that it does not haunt me that I never tried to jump a canyon on a motorcycle.

It just doesn’t do anything for me.

But, that being said, I do click on Internet headlines about men flying through the air with a bunch of balloons providing the lift, and I do stop whatever I’m doing to hear Drew and Stephen’s latest escapades.

Is it like the experience of not being able to turn away from a gruesome car crash? Nope. I have no interest in seeing that scene.

But I would watch Drew and Stephen try to get a riding mower to hit 200 miles per hour. Why don’t you guys get on that? And throw some helium balloons on it while you’re there