The ‘Chutist

“Forty-eight years ago, before a large crowd of awed Coleridge townspeople and the curious from all over the county, William E. Winterringer, then a lad of 20, dropped from the clouds after an ascension in a balloon which he purchased several weeks before. In accomplishing this feat with no physical injuries, this daring young man was duplicating a hazardous stunt which he had witnessed only twice before in his young life, and for which he had received absolutely no training.”

So began an account of the daredevil career of Hartington native William Winterringer, published in his hometown paper in 1936. The report continued:

“Since that never to be forgotten day in 1888, this same man has floated up into the clouds and then dropped gently to earth in a parachute before carnival crowds in all sections of the United States on no less than 2,915 occasions. Add to this, 65 to 75 jumps from the cabins of airplanes and you have a general idea of the thrilling career that has been the life story of the former Hartington man.

“Here Tuesday for a visit with his brother, the famous ‘chute jumper minimized the perils of his numerous crowd pleasing stunts. Despite the fact that he has wrestled with the elements and challenged Fate on all his hair raising jumps, only twice does Mr. Winterringer recall being injured. The first occasion he escaped with nothing more serious than bad bruises.

“That second occasion might very nearly have been disastrous, however. It occurred in 1903, comparatively early in his career. A change in wind direction after Mr. Winterringer had made his ascension upset his calculations and he found himself being dragged after the fast moving balloon toward an immovable wood building. Bracing himself for the expected jolt by extending his foot, Mr. Winterringer remembered no more after that action. Seven hours later he awoke in a hospital cot and was told that the damage had been a broken ankle and other injuries over his entire body. To test his nerve, three months later he went through his act at the same town but with entirely satisfactory results.

The average height of Winterringer’s drops have been about 3,000 feet, most of them ranging from 1,500 to 6,000. Already the oldest parachute jumper in the world, he vows that nothing but physical injuries will keep him from fulfilling the desire to continue his jumps until he is 90! He is now arranging dates for the season, his price of $75 for a jump on any type of occasion still standing.”


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