Falling from the sky
As I woke to the sound of sleet pinging off the deck, I wished it were May flowers instead of April snow showers falling from the sky in northern Minnesota, but I guess we will have to be patient. The thoughts of things falling from the sky reminded me of my Army drill sergeant from basic training who made very clear his dislike for paratroopers.
"Only two things fall from the sky," he said. "Bird (droppings) and idiots."
I joined the second category and loved every minute of it, airborne training included. I first fell from the sky on August 12, 1968. A man calling himself D.B. Cooper followed in my footsteps on November 24, 1971. He jumped out the rear exit of a Boeing 727 exactly 1,300 days after I fell from the sky. My reward for falling out of the sky was a set of airborne wings I could proudly wear on my chest. D.B. Cooper's remarkable jump netted him $200,000.
The only thing remarkable about my jump was that a scared soldier vomited on the packed parachute in front of him. The odor soon penetrated the huge cavity where we had lined up in the C-130 and squelched any doubts anyone had about falling from the sky. We couldn't exit that plane fast enough.
Frogs and fish have been documented as some of the stranger things to have fallen from the heavens. Two centuries before the birth of Christ, Heraclides wrote in his account titled "Histories" that it rained so many frogs they filled the houses and streets of the ancient city called Dardania.
Easter Sunday in 1866 a huge thunderstorm brought enough fish from the sky to Kent, England, to cover a two-acre field.
In 1859, John Lewis documented a rain shower that covered an area the size of a football field with thousands of tiny little fish.
All of these past events were unexplained mysteries of nature. Today, we realized there is a scientific explanation for the phenomenon. A waterspout or whirlwind simply picks up the contents from a body of water, including frogs and fish, and drops it elsewhere.
Everyone at one time or another has heard the phrase, "It's raining cats and dogs." Unfortunately, that is one weather phenomena that remains undocumented. Can you picture Fido and Fluffy floating through the air, landing softly in a meadow? Although the phrase has an unknown origin, it has been found in poetry as early as the 17th century.
The "hydrogen hell" that blew the airship Hindenburg to smithereens is one of the more famous disasters to fall from the sky. The Hindenburg was the size of an ocean liner and like sea-going vessels, the unwritten rule demanded the captain go down with the ship. Unlike two recent incidents where the commander of an Italian cruise ship and a South Korean ferry captain abandoned their ships and stranded their passengers, Captain Max Pruss was the last man to leave the zeppelin Hindenburg.
Right in front of Captain Pruss was the airship's manufacturer, Ernst Lehman, who muttered his infamous last words, "I don't understand it." In a mere 32 seconds, Lehman, who became a human torch, saw his company go up in smoke. He died the next morning.
More recent disasters have rained upon us and make this late April sleet storm less daunting, including the missing Malaysian airliner and the World Trade Towers. As Chicken Little feared, "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!"