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The Page Perrin Project

How does one write a memorial for a small giant who never seemed to know it and certainly never showed it?

“Richard; when I go, I don’t want to be remembered. I want to fade away. I want it to be like I was never even here.” – Page Perrin

That’s what Page told me about 5 years ago when I asked him about his reluctance to be in all the videos now being done, including Hat Creek Rim. Page Perrin was the quintessential cool guy who had time to reflect upon his life. He unwittingly became a complete presence and mainstay of Hat Creek Rim where us geeks like to fly hang gliders. I like how my dad said it, who’s known him as long as I:

“He was the most gracious man I ever met.”

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Page Perrin

The short story is that he did his time with the various phone companies—a microwave technician—who spent a lot of time on the tops of mountains. He decided to spend the rest of his life flying off them dangling from a thread, from a wing. So he bought some property—5 minutes away from the LZ, 15 from launch—and there he stayed with his pack of rescue dogs and strays that only ever experienced the wild life of the rural dog, a life that knows nothing of cages and leashes.

What he didn’t decide was to be so completely loved by so many. …The hundreds of people who will miss him. They decided that. Sorry, Page: while I can grant your wish in the large, can’t do it in the short term. Most of us are too weak; and even those who profess otherwise will be present at your memorial flyin on the 17th.

My friend and flying buddy of 15 years died last Friday evening five days prior to my annual arrival in the first week of August. He was at one of his favorite places on earth at the time… the LZ, talking to other pilots on the radio who were up in the air. Suddenly, there was no response. By the time folks landed, he was gone. First responders arrived—they, all, had known him for years—but there was no point in getting him to the hospital at Fall River Mills. He was already dead. His friends stayed around, kept guard, and waited for the coroner to come collect—at 1 am—5 hours later. That’s how things roll in remote areas.

…I arrived Wednesday evening too late to fly. Just in time for dinner. I planned on flying Thursday but ended up cooking dinner for the family instead. No problem. I usually put in 3 flights so I still had Friday, Saturday and Sunday. So Friday afternoon I decided to drop by Page’s place to let him know I’d be up at launch. Upon arrival I was happy to see all the dogs who came out to greet me. But Page didn’t. Instead, his longtime friend and neighbor—and the one seeing to his final affairs—came out, and I got the news.

There’s a bit of a woo factor to the rest of the story. The previous evening, while my dinner was cooking, I grabbed the keys to my brother’s truck and went up to the LZ to take in the scene for an hour. There was nobody there, or up at launch…just me in my solitude. Curiously, there was Page’s blue folding chair under the tree, with an empty bottle of Sierra Nevada in the cup holder. I thought it odd, moved it over into the late sunshine and sat there for about 30 minutes just recounting all the good times with Page & everyone else, the dozens of flights—a few of which I got up to over 8,500 MSL (launch is at about 4,500 and the LZ, about 3,000). I did a panorama thingy. To the left is the rim we fly from and to the right, Page’s chair.

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Click on the image to open the wide version

When I left, I went to move the chair back to under the tree. But instead, I left it where I’d placed it so that Page would know someone had been there and got use out of it, which everyone who knew him would know he’d find pleasing. He was always there to smile at you, help you in whatever way he could.

Hat Creek Rim stands on its own as all pilots who’ve flown there know. It will endure as it has for millennia. …Just with a bit less sheen for at least a while, in spite of Page’s wishes.

In the end, I finally had to get my ass up the hill and fly on the last evening, Sunday, as a sort of tribute and of knowing that Page would already be greatly displeased at my having passed up two days of beautiful flying weather in a place he never took for granted—even though he could fly any day he wanted. Here’s a 4.5-minute video mash I did of the thing, courtesy of Beatrice whose voice is there throughout (as well as the voice of my dad and a few others).

That flight and in particular, my high speed approach and landing, were for Page.

There’s a Facebook group set up for “Friends of Page and his dog Spot.” Spot was just one of Page’s several dogs, as I’ve already written, but they were ever present and Spot, a stray that showed up one day and refused to leave, has perhaps the most distinct personality as a working, herding dog. First, here’s Spot being “charmed” by my female Rat Terrier, “Nuke.” They had a good reunion over this last weekend, but the magic seems to have faded. I think they’ve both moved on with their lives.

To wrap it up, this video from 2008 features both Page (shy on video), and Spot at the end, “helping” me after landing. Incidentally, these herder dogs are amazing in the way they can run intercepts, even for landing aircraft.

What I love about this video, in particular, is that I had decided to show a bit of the perspective and process of launching, as most videos start from the point of launch. As luck would have it, there’s about a couple of minutes of the 4.5 min vid of Page & I just chatting about conditions and such. Back down in the LZ, I’m pretty sure that’s the one of my launches he ever criticized in dozens, calling it “The Funston 2-Step”—a reference to Fort Funston south of San Francisco, where we fly the very smooth onshore flow off the Pacific when it runs right into a cliff and goes straight up. In mountain flying, you should never take a smooth cycle for granted. Always launch at full power (strong run).

I’ll treasure that one forever as I’ll miss him forever.

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Which way did you go, Page? Either way, you’ll make either place a better place.

Good lift, friend.

As an afterthought, it seems to fall to me to memorialize in a small measure and from my own perspective, the lives of very unusual, cool people who have influenced me. Here’s my other two, in the same vein.

Update: The Page Perrin Project Part 2: The Memorial

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

16 Comments

  1. Steve W on August 6, 2013 at 14:01

    Just read your Gaëlle Beyou post. Moved profoundly. The candid of her driving, smiling is so beautiful.

    Mr. Perrin sounded like one of a kind. Cheers Richard. Thanks for your blog.

  2. Richard Nikoley on August 6, 2013 at 16:59

    Steve W

    Toss the vast majority of pics you take. If you don’t know the keepers when you see them, God help you.

  3. marie on August 6, 2013 at 19:51

    Richard, a sentence in your post about Gaëlle Beyou in particular, but also in general all three of your remembrance posts, reminded me of a feeling which a person is lucky to ever feel about another, the feeling of “I am glad they exist somewhere in the world”.
    I am pretty sure that was sensed by Mr.Perrin from you and it pleased him, he sounds like a wonderful man.
    Un cœur vraiment expansive, mon cher.
    Thank you.

  4. Richard Nikoley on August 6, 2013 at 23:24

    Marie:

    I know for a fact that there are people who hated and loathed those three people I loved, and one, Gaelle, I hated at various times myself (“dynamics”). But as I say, love & hate and indifference sucks.

    If I could message one thing in my whole life it would be to love the most and hate the most, but emphasize the love.

  5. Jack on August 7, 2013 at 11:52

    What a beautiful post….

  6. Dr. Curmudgeon Gee on August 7, 2013 at 21:46

    didn’t want to be remember? pretty cool guy.
    so why a memorial? but i guess i know…

  7. Orinn on August 8, 2013 at 10:11

    Hi Richard, just read your post on Page. Obviously I didn’t know him but could see how much he meant to you and seems a great guy that at least you spent many years and experiences hanging out together. Treasure that. PS, even though I live in London I now have a massive urge to give hang gliding a go.

  8. Richard Nikoley on August 8, 2013 at 11:48

    Orinn:

    Do me one tiny favor and at least contact these folks, find where you can go watch some of your countrymen fly and talk to them. They will guide you every tiny step of the way if you really, really want to do it.

    http://www.bhpa.co.uk/

    Then you decide. Take it slow and deliberate and make sure you have mentors who will tell you the straight dope on whether you should do this. Trust me: they will know by watching you.

    Please report back.

  9. Chet on August 10, 2013 at 06:29

    Well done, this is a very nice tribute to your friend.

  10. […] to Hat Creek Rim to spend a couple of days flying hang gliders, dry camping roughing it in the LZ, and sharing remembrances of my longtime friend Page Perrin with a couple hundred other of his […]

  11. Pat Laher Seminatore on August 17, 2013 at 14:59

    Although I didn’t stay in contact with Page, he was always in my heart and soul. He was my blue eye tom cat. He lived life ! I loved this man so many, many years ago. Thank you, for giving this word of him, I knew of Hat Creek and his strong tie to the area. Blessed are those who fly with eagles.

  12. Sandy on August 19, 2013 at 03:54

    This is the saddest news every.

    I lived with Page for four years after first arriving in the SF Bay Area in 1975. His encouragement was the reason I went into the computer field. He taught my older two daughters and I to play chess. He taught me to ride a motorcycle and helped me choose my own.

    I came to San Francisco for a girl friends wedding. Her fiance was Page’s best friend at the time. They worked at the microwave station on Bernal Hill. It was love at first sight and truth be told I have never stopped loving him though far and distant our lives became. My girls thought of him as their father. Every year I would Google Page just to read about what he was up to and always glad to see how happy and involved he was with his chosen community.

    I will always love him and yes he said that to me too, many times, that he wanted to fade away, like he was never even here, when he died. How can he ever fade away when the old love is still as strong and the children he helped raise for four years and visited for their birthdays every year till he moved to Hatcreek. How can this man every fade away. He wasn’t a small giant, he was a huge giant of a man… a scholar, a teacher, a friend and once a lover.

    Love you Page till Forever Ends.

  13. […] I loved even more was the drive back up to Hat Creek to meet with others, to commemorate Page Perrin's full life. If you're 'yawn,' then here, a comment from Sandy, a former lover from the 70's. Came in just this […]

  14. Sonya on August 19, 2013 at 18:30

    Page was a big part of life.I am the younger of Sandy’s Daughter.Page ..I will miss you computer generated from the heart birthday cards..I miss you..(me)

  15. Chris Garner on September 20, 2013 at 20:48

    Page was a big part of my life growing up. My Grandparents own the restraunt fireside village I remember him coming in for breakfast an always explaining to me how things work didn’t matter what it was from magnets to computers I was always learning from him. I haven’t seen Page since I joined the military an I just found out about his passing. He was a good friend an amazing flyer and great man. I’m gonna miss him.

  16. Richard Nikoley on September 20, 2013 at 20:54

    Chris

    I’ve delighted in your grandparents’ hospitality at both the restaurant and the store for 15 years. It’s the first thing I see when I get there every year and the last thing I see when I leave. I know nothing lasts forever… Damn, that.

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