Poetry and Music

TO RIDE THE WIND
— in memory of XC Pilot Bob Dunn —

It was never enough for him just to feel the wind.
No, he would jump the ridge and leave. I’d stay and descend.
Then hours later, I’d hear his voice on the phone,
Saying, “Hey, Rick! I’m stranded out here and I’m all alone.
And I’m miles away, where nobody’s ever flown!”

    "Hey , Rick, why didn't you do it?
    There wasn't nothin' to it!
    I know. I know you'd have got away!!"
    But what could I say?

    He was a master of the sky.
    And like the eagle, he yearned to fly,
    To ride the wind.
    To ride the wind...

He’d do it over and over and over and over again.
He’d stun us at meetings with photos of hostile terrain.
He taught me to top-land the Mesa behind the poplars,
To respect the rotor yet never give into my fears.

    He was a master of the sky.
    And like the eagle, he yearned to fly,
    To ride the wind.
    To ride the wind...

I remember one day, I launched him when nobody’d fly,
With the landing field closed, the wind blowing backside.
We stopped all the cars on the crest road in case he went in.
Then he leapt from the back of The Knob, turned and passed us downwind!

Scraping over the spine, he left us behind.
Sinking into the lee, losing his altitude quickly…
It seemed to us all that Bob had misjudged it this time.
Then his wings rocked! And he turned and turned and he started to climb!
We watched in a trance, his aerial dance,
As he rose like an angel, his wings winking in the distance,
‘Til he faded from our sight.
And later that night
He called from his home where he’d landed
And asked with delight,

    "Hey, Rick, why didn't you do it?
    There wasn't nothin' to it!
    I know. I know you'd have got away!"
    But what could I say?

    He was a master of the sky.
    And like the eagle, he yearned to fly,
    To ride the wind.
    To ride the wind...

I brought him with me to the Owens back in Eighty-One
And we found him a slot in the Classic to see how he’d run.
Like a man who found Heaven, he’d marvel and wander around
Until the morning’s first thermal hit launch – and then he’d be gone.

And the scorers would ask in frustration, “Rick, who is that clown
Who makes such good time to the goal but then doesn’t come down?”
And all I could say was, “That’s Bob. He’s come in from the coast.
I guess it’s the flying, not racing, that he loves the most….”

They’d throw up their hands and drive off for tomorrow’s race
And the sun would go down and the stars would appear out in space.
I saw a winged pattern obscuring their twinkling lights
And I grinnned ’cause I knew that ‘ol Bob had discovered the Whites!

    He was a master of the sky.
    And like the eagle, he yearned to fly,
    To ride the wind.
    To ride the wind...

I had injured my shoulder at Gunter and I was at home
When they told me that Bob had gone in and how he’d died. Alone.
He’d forgotten to hook to his Comet and launched from Plowshare
And his driver had panicked and lost him while he hung in the air,
Hanging on for his life. He’d entered a dive
And he’d smashed to the ground. But he couldn’t be found…
The day turned to night and the stars shed their light;
And they beckoned to him ’til his soul rode the wind.

He was the best of the best of our local breed.
His hours aloft filled a burning need.
There were so many times, in my learning,
That I sometimes think of
When I stood on the ground and watched, yearning,
As Bob soared above.

    "Hey , Rick, why didn't you do it?
    There wasn't nothin' to it!
    I know. I know you'd have got away!!"
    But what could I say?

    He was a master of the sky
    And like the eagle, he yearned to fly.
    To ride the wind.
    To ride the wind.
    And it was never enough 
        for him just to feel the wind...