Banks County Opinions...

OCTOBER 1, 2003


By: Kerri Graffius
The Banks County News
October 1, 2003

Taking the plunge — literally
As I watched the sky one Saturday afternoon, I couldn’t help but think what my mother had said just the week prior: Only two things fall from the sky — bird poop and fools. Too bad my fiancé was the latter.
With the wedding countdown having officially started, James and his brother (who is also his best man) decided to take the ultimate plunge before holy matrimony. And to do that, they got in a plane with some other crazy fools and decided to fall 13,000 feet to the Earth.
Needless to say, for the worried bride and her future in-laws waiting on the ground nothing can be more scary.
Statistically, you’re more likely to die in a car accident than jumping from a plane (go figure). Last year, 33 people died in skydiving accidents, according to the United States Parachute Association.
And, unfortunately, James nearly became one of those statistics recently.
Just weeks before the jump, James didn’t know what to think about the idea of falling 120 miles an hour above the cloud-line. His brother, Spencer, pressured him with a reasoning like, “Ah, come on, man. It’ll be awesome.” I could tell James wanted something adventurous, but logically, he knew it was nuts.
James’ parents also knew it was crazy to jump from a plane — and the thought of possibly watching one (or both) of their sons experience an accident initially kept them away from the airport. But, at the last minute, they followed us to the skydiving site.
I would be fooling myself to say I wasn’t worried about the jump. It was certainly on my mind, but then I usually reasoned it was a “safe sport” and related deaths are only hyped by media attention.
On the way to the airport, however, those thoughts really didn’t scare me until we took a wrong turn and drove to the dead end of a cemetery (I said a quick little prayer and hoped the irony was just a coincidence).
Less than an hour after completing a video-instructed class, James and Spencer were loading their parachutes on their backs and walking to the plane. Spencer, who was hyped about the jump, appeared calm yet excited while boarding the plane; James, however, seemed like he would jump out of his own skin before jumping out of that plane.
First-time skydivers usually don’t jump alone for their maiden jump — they’re typically attached to a more experienced jumper for a “tandem” jump. James and Spencer both had a tandem.
Once at 13,000 feet, the plane’s door opened and jumpers quickly began falling out of the sky. On the ground, we couldn’t even see them until their parachutes opened — or in James’ case, didn’t open.
Well, actually, after the minute-long free-fall from the plane, the first parachute did open, but only briefly. The parachute’s cords quickly became tangled and James’ experienced jumper ejected the faulty life-saving device.
But on the ground, everybody, including James’ and Spencer’s parents, knew one of the jumpers was in trouble. And for some reason, even though I saw that parachute just falling into a wooded area, it didn’t register in my mind that something was wrong.
Back in the air, and in a second (unplanned) free-fall, James’ experienced jumper opened the emergency parachute — the only line for the two of them between life and death. Luckily, it opened and the cords were working fine.
A few minutes later, Spencer safely landed on the ground. James, harshly bruised from the two parachute openings, just wanted his feet on the ground. As he approached the landing site, every limb was stiff and his wide eyes could be seen from 100 feet above the ground.
And once on the ground, his mishap caused the other veteran jumpers to envy his experience. They’ve always wanted a near-death experience like that, they told him. He got a “two for one sale,” some of them joked. His tandem jumper said that was the third time among more than 1,500 jumps that his first parachute didn’t open.
James joined them with some of the jokes, but he still appeared terrified.
Since the jump, James has made several comments that nothing could be more scary than that experience. Maybe now he’s ready to take the “other plunge” on our wedding day.
Kerri Graffius is a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers. Her e-mail address is

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By: Angela Gary
The Banks County News
October 1, 2003

Afternoon of fashion and tea; night at the theater
If you’ve read my column before, you know I love to travel. I enjoy the culture I find in big cities and small towns across the country. Fashion, tea and theater are among those things I enjoy experiencing during my travels.
I recently enjoyed three of my favorite things right here in north Georgia. A fashion show and tea sponsored by the Crawford W. Long Museum and held at the Carriage House in Jefferson could rival those fashion shows you see splashed across the pages of magazines.
Fashion Week was celebrated across the country earlier this month and photos of stars watching the models strut their stuff on the catwalk filled magazines. Well, Jackson County was treated to a little of the big city fashion world Sunday afternoon.
Chairs lined the historic house as models walked through four rooms showing off fashions, ranging from casual and dressy clothes from Mary’s Fashion Corner in Commerce and vintage clothes from The Dress Box in Bogart. It was a treat to see the latest fashions, along with those that were popular from days gone by.
Students in an advanced history class at Jackson County Comprehensive High School modeled the vintage fashions, while ladies from across the county modeled the modern clothes. CWL Museum director Donna Butler and Jean Bauerband provided the entertaining commentary about the fashions.
Following the fashion show, the more than 100 people attending the event went outside to the large porch to enjoy typical tea treats, such as scones, finger sandwiches and desserts. A variety of hot tea was also offered.
It was a wonderful afternoon and I look forward to the spring tea museum leaders are already planning.
My night of theater was in August in Commerce when I enjoyed a wonderful production of John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” by The Renegade Players. The actors were simply wonderful. I was drawn into this look at attitudes about disabilities and racial relations. It is as moving today as it was 60 years ago when Steinbeck wrote it.
Everything from the wonderful cast, to the costumes, to the set to the direction was first-class. It would be hard to single out anyone in the talented cast, but Seth Hendricks as Lennie and Jerry Bryson as George were great. They brought emotion and depth to the characters. It was also a treat to see Carmen Adams, with whom I have worked for years, and my dentist, Joseph Clark, on the stage.
The next production for The Renegade Players will be “The Trial of Jack B. Nimble” on Nov. 1 at the Athens Little Playhouse.
North Georgia offers plenty of cultural events. Be sure and check out our social section each week to find out about upcoming events.
Angela Gary is editor of The Banks County News and associate editor of The Jackson Herald. She can be reached at
The Banks County News
Homer, Georgia
Telephone: (706) 367-5233 Fax: (706) 367-8056

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