story prompt: balloon man

This one speaks for itself, and it’s a sad story:

The New York Times 3 July 1982
LONG BEACH, Calif, July 2 (AP)

A truck driver with 45 weather balloons rigged to a lawn chair took a 45-minute ride aloft to 16,000 feet today before he got cold, shot some balloons out and crashed into a power line, the police said. … Mr. Walters went to a friend’s house in San Pedro Thursday night, inflated 45 six-foot weather balloons and attached them to an aluminum lawn chair tethered to the ground. This morning, with half a dozen friends holding the tethers, he donned a parachute, strapped himself into the chair and had his friends let him up slowly. Minutes later, he was calling for help over his citizens band radio. Mr. Walters then lost his pistol overboard, and the chair drifted downward, controlled only by the gallon jugs of water attached to the sides as ballast. The ropes became entangled in a power line, briefly blacking out a small area in Long Beach. The chair dangled five feet above the ground, and Mr. Walters was able to get down safely….

The Los Angeles Times
24 November 1993 (by Myrna Oliver, Times Staff Writer).

Larry Walters, who achieved dubious fame in 1982 when he piloted a lawn chair attached to helium balloons 16,000 feet above Long Beach, has committed suicide at the age of 44. Walters died Oct. 6 after hiking to a remote spot in Angeles National Forest and shooting himself in the heart, his mother, Hazel Dunham, revealed Monday. She said relatives knew of no motive for the suicide. …Walters said he never made much money from his innovative flight and was glad to keep his simple lifestyle. An Army veteran who served in Vietnam, Walters never married and had no children.

2 Replies to “story prompt: balloon man”

  1. That is so sad. It reminds me of “Eleanor Rigby” by the Beatles – all the lonely people, and all their private torments. What secrets do they suffer from?

    That poor man.

  2. Isn’t it, though? To write about something as tragic as this man’s life, it takes a very subtle touch to do it justice.

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