The Well

Arian Knops

The Well

3 mins
October 12, 2021

Before I was old and not the brightest person on Earth, I was young and not the brightest person on Earth. Back in my Navy days, the mid-60’s I decided to prove that by taking up skydiving. I did this for several reasons; it was cheap to do since the Navy provided the plane and the pilot, falling out of the sky is an easy skill to learn, girls thought it was groovy and finally it was something to do on weekends.

My boss, a Marine Corps Major told me that the only three things that fell out of the sky were precipitation, bird poop, and fools. I believe he meant for me to be in the third category. I didn’t want to mention to the Major that meteors and sometimes airplanes did the same thing, but he had the college education, and I didn’t. So, I just shut up. 

After some training on how to fall and land properly I was deemed fit to jump out of a perfectly good airplane and supposedly have fun. Fun and terror share no letters, nor should they. The first five jumps are called ‘static-line’ jumps. There is a sturdy nylon line attached to your parachute and the other end to the plane that automatically opens your parachute. Easy-peasy. I’m sure most of you have seen old movies of Nazi storm-troopers go out of airplanes this way.

Once you progress beyond the static-line phase you are required to pull a ripcord and you are now officially a skydiver. Most skydivers go on delayed jumps to get the thrill of falling through the air in the same way as the middle stuff in the good Major’s list. It was fun, but I always pulled the ripcord early because I liked to ride under the open canopy of the parachute. I found it therapeutic. 

The longer a person is under an open parachute the further he can travel across the countryside since sport parachutes had panels removed so a person could steer the canopy, move earthward and forward all at the same time. Having those panels missing gave the jumper a better chance to get near the planned landing area. It also gave idiots like me who liked the idea of being under the open canopy a chance to get further away from the landing site.

One glorious weekend several of we Navy jumpers were invited to tag along with the civilian jumpers over near Jackson, Mississippi for a Sunday afternoon of jumping and beer drinking, and the cost would be ten bucks each, so we went.

On my first jump, from five-thousand feet everything went smooth, and I landed within about fifty feet of the target. The next jump was from eight-thousand feet and some things changed. Number one was that the breeze had picked up a bit and that was just the start of my problem. The freshened breeze made it nearly impossible to come near the target, so I headed toward a nearby field of some sort of grass rather than land in a patch of pucker brush that was scooting along below me.

The spot I picked was lush green and upon touchdown I found out why. Just after my feet touched down, I was surrounded by darkness and heard the sound of wood splintering. Adding to this was the smell of something close to a calf pen on a hot August afternoon mixed with the stench of the rotting muck at the bottom of a swamp and I was wet up to my waist.  I had found an abandoned well.

I also had no practical way to get out since the well was no wider than two or three feet in each direction.  Fortunately, the civilians had a pickup truck handy that they used to retrieve wayward jumpers.

In a couple of minutes, I heard the arrival of the truck, and someone say, “Hey A.J. where the hell are you?” 

I think I’m in a well!”, I shouted back.

 The two fellas who showed up started to pull on the parachute shroud-lines and on getting me out promptly told me I smelled like a dung heap. I knew that. The two threw me and my chute in the back of the pickup and took me to the hanger area to hose me off with the coldest water on earth. As they did so one of them said, “We knew there was a well out there somewhere and now thanks to you, we know where it is.”

This article was orginally reported by
Arian Knops

Arian is a short story contributor to the Sentinel & Rural News. Arian has written two full-length thrillers which have received critical and popular acclaim. Arian lives in Bruce, WI, with his charming wife, Arlene.