Now let me tell you about Larry Walters, my hero. Walters is a truck driver, thirty-three years old. He is sitting in his lawn chair in his backyard, wishing he could fly. For as long as he could remember, he wanted to go up. To be able to just rise right up in the air and see for a long way. The time, money, education, and opportunity to be a pilot were not his. Hang gliding was too dangerous, and any good place for gliding was too far away. So he spent a lot of summer afternoons sitting in his backyard in his ordinary old aluminum lawn chair–the kind with the webbing and rivets. Just like the one you’ve got in your backyard.
The next chapter in this story is carried by the newspapers and television. There’s old Larry Walters up in the air over Los Angeles. Flying at last. Really getting UP there. Still sitting in his aluminum lawn chair, but it’s hooked on to forty-five helium-filled surplus weather balloons. Larry has a parachute on, a CB radio, a six-pack of beer, some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and a BB gun to pop some of the balloons to come down. And instead of being just a couple of hundred feet over his neighborhood, he shot up eleven thousand feet, right through the approach corridor to the Los Angeles International Airport.
Walters is a taciturn man. When asked by the press why he did it, he said: “You can’t just sit there.” When asked if he was scared, he answered: “Wonderfully so.” When asked if he would do it again, he said: “Nope.” And asked if he was glad that he did it, he grinned from ear to ear and said: “Oh, yes.”
The human race sits in its chair. On the one hand is the message that says there’s nothing left to do. And the Larry Walterses of the earth are busy tying balloons to their chairs, directed by dreams and imagination to do their thing.
The human race sits in its chair. On the one hand is the message that the human situation is hopeless. And the Larry Walterses of the earth soar upward knowing anything is possible, sending back the message from eleven thousand feet: “I did it, I really did it. I’m FLYING!”
It’s the spirit here that counts. The time may be long, the vehicle may be strange or unexpected. But if the dream is held close to the heart, and imagination is applied to what there is close at hand, everything is still possible.
But wait! Some cynic from the edge of the crowd insists that human beings still can’t really fly. Not like birds anyway. True. But somewhere in some little garage, some maniac with a gleam in his eye is scarfing vitamins and mineral supplements, and practicing flapping his arms faster and faster.
Taken from the book, All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum
Dr. Moffat’s Note:
One reason why I love this story is because it is true. My brother, Don, was in the navy at the time and he tells us there was much ado about this man in his lawn chair. He was wearing a down-filled parka because he thought he might get cold up there and he had a small oxygen tank with him so he could breathe if he got too high up. He went high enough to reach the jet stream and then the balloons got too cold and stabilized him at the height that showed up on the radar screens. He was headed out to the ocean. Don tells me the navy was contemplating shooting a couple of the balloons so that he would go down slowly. Amazing story.
I also like it because it reminds me of my Near Death Experience going up, up, up and seeing the whole area get very tiny, kind of like the Peter Pan ride in Disneyland. It was the most awesome feeling. This story just takes me back there. And the fact that no matter what, if you put your heart and head to something, you REALLY CAN accomplish what you set out to do. Larry Walters did!
Helpful Links and References:
Books in which Follow Your Dreams has been printed in:
- All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum © 2004
- Prose: Short Forms by Kellow Krisak and John © 2990
- Viewpoints: Nonfiction Selections: Volume 1 by Karen Fox © 1991