• 72°

‘His hair was blowing everywhere …’

As the gubernatorial race heats up, I thought you might enjoy reading about something funny that happened during one of our past governors’ terms. It’s a story that comes first-hand from a most reliable source — my husband.

He’s been a state trooper for a quarter of a century, and a dozen of those years were spent in executive protection. That’s means he was one of some 15 troopers who spent all their shifts guarding the governor or members of the governor’s family. As part of his job, my husband went to the office with the governor, to school with the governor’s children, to the hairdresser with the first lady and to Washington, D.C. — a lot. Once, they were at the White House for a function, and he decided to give me a call.

“Guess what?” he whispered. “I’m standing behind the podium in the press room that you see on TV.”  He stopped, waiting for some kind of reaction. It wasn’t the one he was expecting.

“Well, that’s just super,” I finally managed, adjusting the phone squeezed between my shoulder and my jaw. “Guess where I am?”

He didn’t try. Maybe it was something in the sound of my voice.

I plowed ahead: “Well, I’m here at home in the bathroom with one of your children.”

(Pause for effect.)

“He’s throwing up.”

(Pause for even more effect.)

“Six times so far.”     

Ah, the memories. But back to the story I promised.

Late one afternoon, my husband was scheduled to accompany the governor to a political fundraiser in Tunica. They rode out to Jackson International and climbed into a small private prop plane. Now, when I say small, I mean small. Only the governor and his aid could fit into the cabin.  My husband was in the cockpit in a tight seat next to the pilot.

“Our elbows were touching,” he remembers.

So the pilot leaned over my husband and shut the door to the cockpit, then took off. Minutes later my husband was admiring the aerial view of the Pearl River when suddenly the cockpit door beside him popped open. Thankfully there was a safety feature that kept it from opening all the way, but even just a few inches were enough to generate hurricane force winds inside the plane. (That could be an exaggeration, but I’m not going to argue with my source.)

While the pilot was on his headset requesting an emergency landing, my husband looked back to check on the governor.  “His hair was blowing everywhere,” he remembers. “It was the only time I ever saw his hair messed up his whole term in office.”

When he asked him if he was OK, the governor gave him a thumb’s up. Then my husband says he remembered what he was holding in this lap — the governor’s suit coat: “I was afraid it was going to be sucked out the window and land in the reservoir.”

But without further incident, the plane circled back and landed. When the pilot reached over to close the cockpit door for Round 2, he commented, “We’ve been having some trouble with this latch.”

My husband says he thought to himself, “Well, I sure hope you got it this time.”

They took off again, but at some point in the flight my husband began noticing a buzzing noise. He couldn’t figure it out until they landed in Tunica: “That’s when I saw my own coat was caught under the cockpit door. A corner was hanging outside, frayed to smithereens.”

The fundraising commenced at a private property in the Delta, complete with a swimming pool on top of an ancient Indian mound. Standing on the mound, a local told my husband that some believe that spot is where DeSoto first saw the Mississippi River.

“That was interesting,” my husband acknowledges. “But the view there was no comparison to my earlier one of the reservoir — a thousand feet up through an open cockpit door.”   

Kim Henderson is a freelance writer. Contact her at kimhenderson319@gmail.com. Follow her on twitter at @kimhenderson319.