Stacey Makes Her First Jump

By Jon McConal

Stacey Conner has made her first parachute jump. With the assistance of sky diving instructor Steve Van Buren, Stacey, 22, who was born without arms, stepped out of a perfectly functional DC-3 airplane at 13,000 feet over San Marcos, Texas.

Van Buren, 36, an owner of Sky Dives of San Marcos has been sky diving for nine years and has made 2900 jumps. On 975 of those, he has made tandem jumps such as the one he made with Stacey. He has a special harness that attaches him to the person in front of him, and they dive together.

“She was unbelievable. A delight to jump with,” Van Buren said moments after they had landed in a field. Stacey flashed a broad smile. She breathed deeply from the excitement.

“It was absolutely fantastic,” she said.” Nothing compares to this. Nothing. There’s not a drug in the world that will get you that high and that quickly.”

She arrived about 11 a.m. to get ready for the jump. She was in a contingent from Dublin led by Darrell Allison, 50, of Fort Worth. He has known Stacey for years and gave her a horse and buggy when she was 10.

“I read about her in the newspaper and thought `Here is a girl that I admire and would like to help,'” said Allison. “So when I read about her wanting to jump, I said, `I can help with this.'”

Stacey put on her jump suit and then waited for the plane to take off. She’s slender and stands five feet 1, with long curly brown hair. She talked about her life.

She is an accounting major at Tarleton State University. She takes notes by writing with her feet.

She dresses herself. She cleans house and cooks. She drives a ’70 Chevrolet pickup and rides her 3-year old horse, Sun Dance, with the reins in her teeth. She has tried twice, with no success to use artificial limbs, but she tired of that.

“I got sick and tired of people trying to make me look normal. I think they should teach a kid to use what he or she has, instead of trying to make them look normal,” she said. “The last set of limbs they tried on me weighed over thirty pounds. And they never worked at all. They only made me look normal.”

She talked about learning to swim when she was 3; of learning how to ride a horse when she was 10. Then came the idea of jumping out of an airplane.

“I have never done any dare devilish things,” she said. “This is one of those. I’m doing it so someday when my grandchildren ask me, `Hey, Grandma, what did you do?’ I can say, `Well, I went sky diving once.'”

Then she laughed and looked at her boyfriend, Russell Scarborough, 20, also a student at Tarleton.

Then it was time to climb into the DC-3 airplane with 29 other people who were going to jump. The plane took off and soon was but a tiny speck in the blue sky filled with splotches of cotton-puff clouds.

Her friends watched. The first group bailed out. Their chutes looked like brightly colored ribbons.

“There’s Steve and Stacey!” someone shouted.

The crowd watched as they came slowly to the ground. They landed and Allison and Scarborough rushed to them. They both grabbed Stacey and hugged her.

“Girl, you were simply terrific,” said Allison.

Excerpted from an article by Jon McConal which appeared in the Fort Worth Star Telegram.