The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Best of Branson

July 4, 2012

Dave Woods: High times with Mama

Globe columnist shares grandson/grandmother excursion to Branson

BRANSON Mo. — When my friends and coworkers learned that I was taking my 87-year-old grand mother parasailing on Table Rock Lake, they thought we were a little crazy.

No argument there. We’re a lot alike.

We love to be on the go, to travel and seldom do we pass up a new adventure.

It’s in our genes.

On one of our recent Branson trips, Mama — as she is known to her grandsons and folks around the neighborhood — strapped herself into the Vigilante Ziprider and flew from the top of the Shepherd of the Hills Tower. That half mile, 30 second trip at 55-mile per hour was a great experience. She played it off as if it were her daily trip to the mailbox. For me it was a white-knuckled ride.

Last week I got a call from a friend in Branson. She knew I was in town working for the weekend and she had a couple of open spots for a parasailing trip with the cast of “The Finalists Live,” at Andy Williams Moon River Theatre. That got my attention.

I parasailed a couple of weeks ago at Lake Tahoe and knew my Mama would get a kick out of it. I also wanted to meet the new Idols from the  “The Finalists Live” cast. I was watching American Idol the night Ace Young proposed to Diana DeGarmo live on the Idol stage. They seemed like great folks and I wanted to meet them. Alexis Grace, another one of my Idol favorites, was going along, too. Bonus.

The heat on the lake was a killer last Friday, but that didn’t deter Mama and me. We sprayed on some sunscreen, grabbed a couple of cold beers and off we went.

The Idols embraced my Mama. In fact, they dug deep into my Facebook to check out the daredevil octogenarian with whom they would soar above the lake.  

We trekked with the Idols down to State Park Marina where Captain Sam and his trusty deck hand were ready for us. Ace, Diana and Alexis made Mama feel like one of the Idol kids.

Mama took a shine to Ace right away. At one point she looked him square in the eyes, smiled wide, poked his chin and said “Dimple.” He busted out laughing and, after that, Ace was a Mama fan.  

After a quick safety lesson from Captain we hit the lake. Ace and Diana were the first to fly. The deck hand strapped the young lovers into their life vests, attached their harnesses and helped them to the back of the boat. Soon the pair of talented performers were air born. Mama looked up and them and then back at me. I’d call her look mildly concerned.  

“Is that what we are doing?” she whispered. She shook her head and took another swig of her beer. I’m not sure she really grasped what parasailing was until Ace and Diana were high over head. I could tell Mama was a little hesitant. But, in typical Mama style, she wasn’t going to miss out on anything she could brag to her canasta club about.

Ace and Diana made it back on board the boat safely; Mama was on her feet and ready to go. We harnessed up, moved to the launch platform at the boats stern and before we knew it, Captain Sam hit the throttle and we were up. The parasail took us to around 400 feet above Table Rock Lake. Mama didn’t take too long to get comfortable and go hands free, waving to the boaters and idols below. I however, was a little less enthusiastic about letting go of the harness.

We spent about 20 minutes sailing with the gulls over the lake.  During the flight mama leaned in and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek. Talk about choked up at 400 feet.

“I’ll bet this is what your Papa felt like when he jumped into the (Battle of the) Bulge,” she said. I had to laugh. When my Pop — her husband of 65 years who passed last year — parachuted into Belgium during the Ardennes offensive, he faced hostile fire, lost seven panels of his chute, made a rough landing and took shrapnel in his leg. All we had to suffer was 20 minutes without our beers and a mild sunburn.

The summer heat and an hour on the lake took its toll. We headed back to the marina, said goodbye to the Idols and set off for our hotel.  At the end of the day Ace, Diana and Alexis had a new fan and I had a once in a lifetime experience with Mama, my personal Idol.

Dave Woods is digital market development manager for The Joplin Globe.

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