parachutes, each of a different bright color so tthat the crowd on the ground could allow his dramatic return
In Photo #4, Bonnette has landed in a nearby field. One time he was not so lucky and landed in Southport Harbor. The balloon usually traveled one or two miles, and there was always a following of horses and wagons, bicycles, men, women and children, to be on hand to greet him when he landed.
Photo #5 shows Bonnette after the safe landing being given a ride home in a 1903 Locomobile called the "Green Pea." The driver is none other than Arhtur L. K. Watson himself
By ALTON H. BLACKINGTON
When I saw him last, in the summer of 1943, Bonnette was nearing his seventy-second birthday and hoping that he could make his five thousandth jump from a parachute. Tied to the branch of a tall tree in his backyard was a trapeze, and on it this agile old performer practiced every day. Scattered around his lawn were sections of the parachutes he had made, and his big barn was filled with unbleached muslin balloons.
For added exerecise, Bonnette had chopped and split a huge pile of wood, which he had stacked up, balloon-shaped, against his house. While we smoked our pipes, in the shade of a tall elm, little "Nero," his cocker spaniel companion, chewed on a bone.
"I know you are the oldest parachute jumper in the world," I began, "and have had some exciting experiences."
"Well," he said, "I have had a lot of fun --and some rough landings. Balloons well,
my first opportunity to go up in a balloon, came over in Plymouth, New Hampshire in 1893. The
aerialist was taken sick, so he didn't dare go up, and he asked for a volunteer. I said I'd like to try it,
and before I could change my mind, those chaps had me strapped in a harness--and off I breezed, 1,000 feet in
the air. I didn't dare look down, but the sky was beautiful.
It was very quiet and peaceful. I
liked it. Suddenly, I heard a pistol shot and remembered what the man who was running the show had told me;
I'll keep an eye on you, young feller, and when you're high enough, I'll fire this pistol. When you hear
the report, don't waste an instant--just cut loose!"
"That was when I did look down--to see the Pemigewasset River right under me. I didn't want to land in that, so I held on and kept drifting higher and higher. Pretty soon I ran into some damp clouds that cooled off my enthusiasm, and I cut loose. Golly! I must have dropped 500 feet before that parachute opened with a yank that almost took my head off.
"Then I glided down safely, and just to give the folks a thrill, I slid out onto the trapeze bar and gave a few tricks for good measure."
"How many times have you jumped since then?" I asked.
Bonnette reached for his well-worn diary and thumbed the dog-eared pages, "Let's see--my last jump was over at Lancaster, New Hampshire. That was my 4,785 trip to the clouds and, Blackie, before I quit I hope to make it my 5,000."
Mr. Bonnette unfolded a parachute (he made all his own equipment--including balloons), and examined it carefully. "First time I used this 'chute I struck a slate roof--in Bangor, it was--and I crashed right through the shingles. Those sharp slates skinned the red tights I was wearing clean off and I landed in the top-floor ballroo, naked as the day I was born.
"Next time I went up from the Bangor Fair Grounds, the wind blew me out over