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Page 71
AUSTIN EXECUTIVE AIRPORT
A History of Austin's Newest General Aviation Airport
R
on
W. H
enRiksen
Chapter 3
Clark watched Mike, unable to see through
the dark lenses of his glasses, waiting for the
right moment to say what he had to say. A
breeze flapped Mike's hair across his fore-
head and he glanced down at his shoes and
the black clay dust in his shoelaces. He stared
up at the dome-like canopy with the curios-
ity of a man who hadn't seen a thousand, ten
thousand, canopies just like it. "If he lands in
the Zschiesche's cornfield, they aren't going
to be happy about it."
"He's all right."
"So you keep saying."
"Okay," Clark said.
"Okay what?"
"I'm in."
"I wouldn't have asked if you weren't
in." Up in the air, the kid made a sweep-
ing turn and pointed his chute at the jump
center. A breeze whipped around the side
of the building and lifted a puff of dust. In the
sky the kid pulled on a toggle line and rotated
the canopy, and for several seconds he moved
quickly across the sky and then slowed again.
They watched the jumper with the dark
blue canopy, still a thousand feet off the
ground, inch his way closer to the pea gravel
pit north of the Center, the bulls-eye. "I'll be,"
Mike said, seeing that the kid might make it.
"There's something else."
"I didn't figure we came out here to watch
this kid's technique."
"I want to come out here anytime I feel like
it," Mike said. "I want to boss people as if I
own the place, if I'm in the mood."
"Why don't we just leave well enough
alone? Let's get back to work and you can go
on bossing anyone you please."
"And I want to come out here and jump any-
time I want." And before Clark could answer,
he added, "For free."
"How about we say a hundred jumps?"
Clark said. "On me."
"A thousand."
"Just a thousand?"
The jumper with the blue canopy hit the
ground in good form, not within the circle of
pea gravel but not too far away, his legs bent
to one side. He rolled, jumped to his feet, and
gathered the parachute before the wind picked
up and dragged him across the field.
Mike took a step forward and hollered at the
kid out in the field, "You did real good." There
was a hitch in his voice, a softening that be-
trayed the gruffness of his tone, the way an old
man might holler at a grandson, though Mike
wasn't old, but the kid didn't hear him. By now
he had the lines tangled, wrapped around both
legs, and a gust pressed the blue fabric in the
kid's face, and if Mike were in the mood he
would have grinned--not laughed, because he
didn't laugh at people, students especially--
but today he didn't even grin. "Geez, I'm go-
ing to miss this place," Mike said.
1954 Beechcraft
Clark moved from Waco to Austin, worked
for the health department during the week
and the Austin Parachute Center on the
weekends. By 1975, he had saved up enough
to buy the Cessna 182 for $7,500 and once the
paperwork was completed, he quit his week-
day job and put all of himself into the Austin
Parachute Center. Jump centers make mon-