Fair Chase by Scott McDonald

Lainie Baker travels to Africa where her husband is on a hunting trip, hoping to join him for a romantic ride in a hot-air balloon - but romance is not on his mind; by Scott McDonald.

Africa felt like Atlanta, humid and balmy. Lainie walked down the airstairs to the ramp in a fog of jet lag and hunger. She had slept through the flight from Johannesburg and they had had to shake her awake for the landing. The tarmac held a half dozen one-engine airplanes. Some were being loaded or unloaded, trucks and hotel vans were driving around, and people walked about unhurriedly. It was all very informal with no sense of strict security. The terminal was open air and had a comfortable third world feel. She had two hours to wait, and she didn't want to fall asleep and miss her small plane to the camp, so she put her duffel and backpack into a storage locker and explored a little. Tiny gift shops, a snack bar, and two ticket counters. Everything looked like a movie from about 1950. Outside on the sidewalk, a woman wearing a head wrap and a flowy skirt was selling baskets and necklaces under a sign that said International Airport. Lainie thought she looked elegant.

After a soda and a muffin, she read a magazine for an hour. She was almost nodding off when she realized that her plane had arrived, a six-passenger prop job. She rode to the camp with three other passengers, a pudgy British family. It was noisy and they bumped along through afternoon thermals. They weren't very high; she could see a few animals out her window. Probably antelope, she decided. Half an hour later she was getting a bit queasy when they landed on a narrow dirt runway and parked at the end, near an extra long Land Rover with a driver and a helper. She had expected to see her husband, Jack, but she wasn't surprised that he had stayed at the camp. Probably napping. The pilot unloaded her two bags from the cargo compartment, put them near the vehicle, then got back in the plane. She realized that the British family was staying on the plane, going to a different camp.

"Hello Ms Baker." The driver picked up her bags and smiled. "I'm Peter, and this is Eric. Welcome."

The plane started rolling and they watched it lift off and head toward the low hills to the East. She was disappointed about Jack but mostly she was sleepy. A nap in a comfortable tent sounded perfect.

On the bumpy drive to the camp, Peter told her that they had gotten a call on the wireless notifying them that Jack would arrive a day late. His hunting trip in the country next door had run a couple of days longer than planned. She sat in the front seat and politely listened to Eric's description of various trees and bushes. He gestured at a termite mound. "Is this your first safari trip?"

"Yes, but my husband has been to Africa three times. Hunting trips." Eric explained the daily routine, which was a wakeup snack, a dawn game drive, then back to the camp for breakfast, followed by free time, lunch, and a siesta. Then tea and another good, long game drive.

"We usually get back after dark," he said, "and have a leisurely dinner. Then drinks by the fire and conversation."

The camp was nine guest tents, a wooden dining hall with a bar, and a shaded outdoor lounge with a patio fire pit. Beyond a clump of trees, there was a storage building and employees' cottages. Lainie got an iced drink and then she slept for an hour. She went on the evening game drive to stay awake and get her body clock reset. There were eight other guests at the camp and they went out in two vehicles. Lainie rode with two Swedish backpackers and a German couple. She sat in the third row and tried to hear Eric's descriptions of impala and birds. A slender man named Honoré rode in a crude jumpseat attached to the front bumper, where he could scout for tracks.

They stopped and had tea in the shade of a mopane tree. The Germans talked about that morning, when they got wonderful pictures of a leopard stretched out on a tree branch. They were leaving the next day for a lagoon camp where they would see crocs and hippos. They asked her story and she told them she was from Georgia, this was her first safari trip and it would only be three days. Her husband was a dentist and had been hunting for nine days, he would arrive the next day. They drove again and Honoré led them to a herd of zebra and pointed out some unusual birds. As the sun dropped to just above the horizon, they came upon a pride of lions. Five adult females, two males, and a lot of cubs, all of them ignoring the vehicle. Eric parked closer than Lainie expected and shut off the motor. They watched in silence.

Finally Honoré spoke quietly. "It's the females who hunt the most," he said. "One or two lioness usually. The method is careful stalking, very patient, very focused. Slink on belly, freeze, get close, get closer. Finally the sprint. They are very fast, much faster than the males. If she get close enough it is hopeless for the prey."

Lainie was enthralled. These were not domesticated zoo dwellers but free ranging predators who killed for a living. And just as she had read, they paid no attention to the people or the truck. The cubs wrestled and explored and batted one male's tail as he blinked and yawned. She relaxed and took it all in, smells and bird noises and the wildness of everything. Long shadows in the flat light. It came to her that if for some reason she had to leave now, this alone would have been worth the trip.

"Taking large prey," Honoré said, "is different, now the male and female team up, and no sneaking. Deliberate and scary to watch. Females flank the animal, get him separated. The male, he goes straight for the animal, with a certain look on his face like hey don't even try, I got you. Sometimes kill is fast but other times the lion just clamps on the neck and waits. If the animal can breathe a little, it might take a long time. A lucky animal goes into shock and dies quickly. Unlucky animal struggles and waits."

It got full dark as they returned to camp, the temperature dropping. The dining hall and patio were lit by electric lanterns, and the outdoor fire flickered shadows all around. Lainie half expected to see Clark Gable and Ava Gardner stylishly relaxing with a cocktail.

"Do not go to or from your tent by yourself in the dark," said Eric. "Zip your tent door fully closed. If you hear something moving outside your tent, that is real. If an animal is trying to get in, there is a loud whistle next to your bed. Blow it and keep blowing it."

Dinner was impala stew and fresh bread, with a decent dessert and good wine. She sat with an American couple, Blair and Dianne, and their eleven-year-old son Danny. They were chatty and generous and made her feel welcome. Deciding to skip the fireside drinks and stories, she politely told everyone she was desperate to catch up on sleep and excused herself. Eric carried a rifle and a flashlight as he walked her to her tent.

She stayed awake for an hour, strangely exhausted but unable to fall asleep. This was not as luxurious as she had thought it would be. But still fun. Maybe it was more authentic than the more expensive camps. She wished she were staying longer. Everybody else was doing several camps, two or three days each. As she finally drifted off, she heard singing from the campfire.

She awoke at what felt like two or three in the morning, hearing guttural animal noises far away. It was cold. The next thing she knew someone was shaking her tent flap and it was just beginning to get light.

"Back in a few minutes to accompany you to dining room," said a voice she didn't recognize.

After a muffin and coffee, they headed out on the morning game drive. It was was bumpier, the road deeply rutted, and they saw a lot of animals. Giraffe, zebra, warthog. Colorful birds. Lainie got to sit next to the driver which was nice. Honoré was a skilled tracker, somehow interpreting tiny signs in the dirt and low scrub. They kept stopping for pictures, and one of the Swedes was constantly changing camera lenses. The others began to get annoyed, wanting to move on faster. The driver wanted to show them a kill but they had no luck. On the way back to camp, they saw a truck from another camp stopped at a pack of hyena feeding on the remains of a zebra. They pulled up and got a look as the drivers had a chat.

At noon Eric drove the Germans out to the airstrip. Lainie went along because Jack was supposedly going to arrive on the plane the Germans would be taking out. When the plane stopped, the pilot got out, followed by a couple of thirty-something men but no Jack. Lainie was disappointed but only a little surprised. Then her husband slowly stepped out, looking seasick. He had two big duffel bags and two hard sided gun cases.

"You don't like little planes, do you," she said.

"I just hate bad pilots, that's all," he snapped.

"How was your hunt?"

"Got a kudu with great horns, really great. A warthog, and that was fun. No leopard."

At lunch, Jack was friendly, and he talked about his two kills and his leopard near miss.

They went on the afternoon drive with the American family, Jack insisting on sitting next to the driver. Whenever Eric sighted and pointed out an animal, Jack announced that he had already seen it but had been waiting to see how long it took someone else to notice. They stopped for a sundowner, and the guides set up a card table with champagne and biscuits, and sodas for the non-drinkers.

Blair was curious about Jack's hunting trip. "What guns did you carry?"

"Do you hunt?"

"Deer and elk, in the upper peninsula. Michigan."

"I only took two guns this trip. Bolt-action singles."

Blair still seemed curious so Jack went on.

"Three seventy-five and an oh six."

"Is that enough bullet for a leopard?"

"Sure. It's not the cartridge as much as the shot placement."

Blair was skeptical. "I'd hate to be tracking a wounded cat at night."

"I don't want to have a torn up skin. I practiced last year with these deer bullets on cancer-eye cows."

Dianne and Lainie changed the subject. On the rest of the drive, Jack was still competitive, insisting that he had seen every animal first. Honoré was magnanimous and gave Jack all the credit. Danny and Dianne thought it was pretty funny.

Back at camp Jack was distracted, even aloof. Lainie could tell that he was disappointed to have missed his leopard.

Dinner was better than the previous night, chicken and three kinds of vegetables, all nicely prepared. Lainie tried talking about the next morning's hot air balloon ride, but somehow the conversation returned to hunting. Danny asked if Jack's lion hunt the year before had been in a pen.

"No." Jack was clearly annoyed. "Enclosed area, sure. Big enclosed area." He didn't mention that it had been a bad kill and that Jack's guide had to finish the lion off.

Blair's question reminded Lainie of the day Jack left for his trip. She'd found some DVDs he'd brought home from various hunting lodges. She watched one from his most recent trip in Texas. It showed a completely tame black panther that had clearly spent its life in a cheap traveling zoo. Then, aging and arthritic, it had been sold for slaughter. Like a terrified, submissive house pet, the confused animal was pushed into position with brooms. As it cringed, desperate to be comforted, Jack shot it from four feet away.

In their tent, Jack got grouchy. It was clear that he was frustrated about cutting the leopard hunt short. After two stiff drinks, he was less circumspect.

"One more day woulda had it but shit no, I had to come here. You never would have let me live it down if I'd missed this."

"Sorry to inconvenience you."

"Two days sitting in that blind with the PH. Not moving, hardly talking."

"I thought you wanted to do this." She had imagined the balloon ride, beautiful and serene. In her mind, they floated over Kilimanjaro and herds of elephants and wildebeest while holding hands and feeling close.

"Yeah, well, we both know this is your little guilt trip extortion. Payback."

Lainie turned and went outside, eyes stinging. It had only been that one time, and the trashiness of it bothered her more than the black eye and split lip. They were not those kind of people. She hadn't called the police.

She waited for him to come out, apologize. Eventually she grew chilled, and when she went into the tent he was asleep. Or pretending to be.

She stayed awake a long time, hearing strange distant noises.

In the morning they were cool to one another and it was awkward at coffee and muffins. The other guests, sensing the body language, were polite but made no effort to conceal their eagerness to be on their way. As the Land Rovers rolled out with all the others for the morning game drives, the balloon company arrived in a rough four-wheel drive truck with a crew cab and extended bed. There were only three people. The boss, who was the pilot, was an Aussie named Michael. A tall South African named Jan seemed to be knowledgeable and confident, and there was a young local kid who looked barely twenty years old who was clearly there to do the grunt work. They never introduced him and he rarely spoke.

They unloaded on the road and began setting up. First they laid the basket over on its side, then they pulled the mouth of the balloon out of the canvas carrying bag and hooked it up to the basket. Next they dragged the rest of the balloon out of the bag and stretched it out full length. As they attached a burner onto the top of the basket, Lainie took a look and was surprised at how crude it looked. She had seen videos of roomy wicker and leather baskets. This one was small; five people would have been very crowded, and it was an industrial-looking slab-sided aluminum thing. Jack held back and didn't engage with them.

Michael tried to seem pleasant and welcoming. "So, is this your first balloon ride?"

"Yes," she said. "What a thing, ballooning over the African plains."

"It's very special." He smiled. "Here's what's going to happen." He seemed to want Jack to listen, but that wasn't happening. "It's a bit windy above a thousand feet up, so we'll stay kind of low today. Jan will follow us in the chase truck, we'll be traveling that direction so there are no roads, but the woods thin out and he'll have no trouble staying with us. We might end up in what we call savanna, easy to find a landing spot."

Jan pulled the truck into position and hooked a strap from the bumper to the basket, then he and the kid rolled up the canvas bag that had held the balloon and crammed it into the back seat of the truck.

Michael motioned for Jack to come over.

"Ready for adventure, mate?"


"Let me show you both something." He hooked a pair of ropes onto the basket. "This line, the white one, opens a slit on the side of the envelope." He pointed at the colorful nylon lying on the ground. "That, the bag that we fill with hot air, that is the envelope. We use the white line to release hot air gradually, to make us descend. Now this one, the red one, is never pulled until we are on the ground. Never. Very important. It opens the top of the envelope wide open and it collapses. Hot air all gone, just like that, and we're down for good. If we land in a good breeze, bend over and be ready. We'll tip over and drag a few seconds because the envelope will act like a sail. That red line lets us empty the envelope so we stop dragging." He grinned and scowled at the same time. "First big rule is... never touch that red line."

Jack was looking less than enthusiastic. "Sure you've done this before?"

"Not supposed to be windy at ground level today though," Michael said reassuringly. "Second and final big rule. Do not, I repeat do not get out of the basket until I say. If we lose a hundred or so pounds of weight all of a sudden we'll shoot up into the air again."

They rolled a big fan near the mouth of the envelope and Michael started a noisy gas engine to power the four-foot propeller. The kid went up to the crown of the envelope and stood, holding a guide rope, while Jan lifted part of the mouth open and Michael positioned the fan to blow air in. Slowly, the envelope billowed and inflated. Jan struggled to control the mouth as the balloon grew, finally looking like a half balloon that was lying on its side.

"Gonna get noisy," yelled Michael, as he lit the burner. With a roar, a blue and orange flame spouted out and the fan blew the flame sideways into the mouth as Jan wrestled the nylon to keep it up and away from the narrow six feet of horizontal fire. It was obvious that having one or two more helpers would have been better. Michael and Jan were stressed and looked almost overwhelmed.

Jack was looking even less thrilled.

As Jan wrestled the springy mouth of the envelope with a frustrated expression, Lainie wished Jack would step up and help. Finally Michael shut off the burner and Jan shut down the fan and the silence was a relief. Now, like a sluggish giant, the balloon decided to slowly stand up. As it reached vertical, it tilted the basket upright but didn't lift it off the ground. Michael climbed into the basket and hit the burner for a short burst as Jan rolled the fan away. As Jan loaded the fan onto the truck, Michael motioned for Lainie and Jack to awkwardly climb into the basket. Michael hit the burner and Jack flinched, then tried to force a grin but it was more of a grimace. Lainie hadn't expected the heat. Even though the burner was over their heads, it threw down a fierce wave of energy. Jan released the tether strap and the kid held the basket as Michael heated the air in the envelope with a blip of the burner every ten seconds. He was watching a small instrument panel with three little gauges, his gloved hand on the burner handle. The basket rocked, then it suddenly scooted a little, scraping across the dirt, and then they were a foot off the ground and they drifted horizontally as Jan walked with them. It was gentle, when they floated up to head level Jan stopped walking and he grinned and waved.

"Have fun, see you in a while."

Another burst of noise and heat. There was no reaction, they didn't climb. Jan and the kid got into the truck and Lainie looked at Jack and smiled.

"Here we go," she said. He nodded stiffly, like someone trying to look relaxed. Then it was as if they were fixed in space but the ground dropped away and it was like looking down from the eighth floor of a building. Michael yelled down to Jan, something about how to follow them. She relaxed and looked around; there was the camp slowly receding, the truck peeling off to go around a stand of trees, and off to the west a few low hills. Michael hit the burner and said, "Strong winds at upper altitude all day, so we're not going to fly too high." He was burning for a couple seconds every thirty seconds or so and they stayed pretty level. He noticed that she was paying attention to what he was doing.

"There's a rhythm to it," he said, trying to talk to Jack also. "Newbies always overburn and shoot up, then they have to pull this line to go back down. Wastes gas. Hey, it's nice up here isn't it?"

"Noisier than I expected," said Jack quietly.

"Yeah, but nice and quiet between burns."

"Where's that truck? Can they keep up?"

"They know the area, they're going to use a road up that way, head toward another camp for a couple miles, and then they have good open flat country, they'll go off-road to where we're headed. They might beat us there I think."

The burner was annoying but Lainie figured out that the best thing was to enjoy the silence between burns, and take in the view.

"Hey," she said to Jack, "we're flying over Africa in a balloon. Is this crazy or what?"

He was gripping the basket tightly. But he nodded and grunted.

Michael burned a longer burst, at least ten seconds. "We'll go up to eight hundred or so, get a real nice view. And a little less work for me."

They rose higher and Jack dipped a little, bending his knees. He was standing in a corner of the basket with a death grip on two sides. Lainie excitedly pointed out a small herd of elephants standing in a clearing. This was a low-rent operation, she thought, but definitely fun.

Michael seemed to be amused by Jack's discomfort. "Come on, mate. Give us a smile."

Now Jack was angry. "Just drive the damn thing. You're getting paid." He turned away and looked behind them. "Where's the truck, anyway? We lost?"

Lainie tried to lighten the mood for a minute, then gave up. She had hoped for a beautiful, romantic adventure or at least a feeling of closeness. Now she decided to just enjoy herself and stop worrying about Jack. There was more silence between burns now, and she figured out that it was because Michael was keeping them between eight hundred and a thousand feet instead of constantly making small adjustments to stay dead level at eighty.

Michael spoke into a handheld radio. "Hey Jan."

"Yes boss. We're here." A little blast of static after every transmission.

"I think we'll be at that clearing pretty quick. About ten knots already."

"Hey, It's still dead calm on the ground."

"That's good 'cause we'll be landing before you get there. Can't fly too high in this wind, but that's okay. We got a fearful flyer on board." Michael smirked and avoided eye contact with Jack.

For a few minutes Michael was showing off, demonstrating how relaxed he was. Jack pretended not to notice, and Michael suddenly hopped up to sit casually on the edge of the basket, making them rock a little, like a ferris wheel gondola. He caught Lainie's eye as Jack froze and stopped breathing. Lainie was disgusted at both of them and pretended not to notice the competition. Michael burned for a long time and a moment later they started climbing rapidly.

It happened very quickly, in complete silence. Michael leaned backward, pretending that he needed to look up at the outside of the envelope. As he did, he bobbled the handheld radio. He jerked a little when he tried to catch it, and his butt dropped off to the outside. He had time to make one paddle with his right hand, reaching but grabbing nothing but air. Lainie saw a look of surprise, almost bemusement, on his face and then she realized his feet were over the edge and he was gone.

It didn't seem real. She moved carefully to the edge and looked over. Maybe he would be there, grinning and hanging onto the basket like a macho idiot. No, he was gone, in fact she looked down and there he was, straight down, a tiny doll kicking and jackknifing until he disappeared. Now she felt shock. "Jack! He's gone!"

Jack was on his knees with his hands clenched and his mouth open. He was trying to stare through the floor.

"I think we're going up," she said frantically. It was true, she could see the ground falling away. "Jack, what do we... OH GOD!" A flush of panic hit and she put her fists on her forehead. Then she noticed that Jack was crying. His breath was jerky, puffing his cheeks, and he wasn't listening to her. He began to rock back and forth, sobbing. She stared at him for a minute as he began moaning, then suddenly she felt anger pushing away her fear.

"Screw this," she yelled. She put her hand on the gas lever, then jerked it away. "No! That's how you go up, not down." She looked at Jack. "Hey! We have to stop going up. Jack!" She bent over and shook him. "Get up!" He looked at her pitifully, like a toddler, and she gave up on him.

She looked out, and down at the ground. They were much higher, and it looked like they were traveling horizontally. She tried to find the camp or the truck but all she could see was that below them the woodland was gradually turning to open savanna. She tried to interpret the instrument panel. One gauge said they were at five something. Five hundred? Five thousand? Another one had a needle that was pointing at zero, no it was more like plus two. She decided to do something to make that one say minus something. It had gotten colder, was that because they were so high? Would they run out of oxygen?

She looked around and saw the two ropes. Not the red one! She pulled the slack out of the white one until she felt a springy resistance, then she pulled some more. She looked up and slowly pulled, trying to see what the rope was attached to. Now she saw blue sky through a narrow slit on the side of the envelope about halfway up. There was no obvious change, they kept floating. She let go and the rope pulled itself back up. She waited, one minute. Two. Now she looked at the instruments and tried to memorize them. Still five on the first one, and now zero on the other one. She decided to get serious and she really pulled the rope down, hand over hand, and kept it pulled for a long time. They were now moving from five toward four, and the other needle had moved from zero to the minus side.

Jack was looking at her, his mouth wet with tears and snot. After what seemed like a long time, she saw that they were just over three. It was working. She forced herself to look down over the edge of the basket, and they still seemed to be way up. How long should she hold the rope down? She started to worry that she had pulled it too much or held it too long. A minute later they were passing three and the other needle had moved to minus ten. She looked out again. The ground was rushing up toward her and she suddenly felt dizzy.

"Shit! We're crashing! We're dropping!" She let go of the rope and it lazily retracted.

They were low enough to see the ground clearly, and dropping fast. She pulled the gas handle down and cringed as she felt the heat as the flame roared. She looked over the edge and held the burner on steady. For what felt like an agonizingly long time, nothing changed. Then she felt deceleration. It was like an express elevator slowing as it neared the ground floor. She released the gas and watched. Still dropping. She hit the gas for a few seconds and suddenly she was jolted by the fear of shooting back up again. Better to hit the ground, even hard, and get the hell out of the balloon.

Jack had stood up and he was hunched over and looking down at the ground, frowning and shaking.

"Jack, get ready," she said. "We're okay, we're okay, we're going down now. Be ready to jump out. Both of us at the same time."

He couldn't talk. Cringing, breathing in staccato gasps, he looked at her and nodded pitifully.

"Do you understand? It's important we leave at the same time."

She looked down and felt relief. They were descending steadily but no longer plunging. She realized that her shoulders were tense and that she was short of breath, and she forced herself to calm down as she looked around. They were over rolling grassland, with widely scattered trees and no roads in sight. Maybe they were a few hundred feet up. How long till they find us, she wondered. They should have had a backup radio fastened into the basket. Maybe Jan had seen Michael fall and maybe he had called someone, maybe one of those little planes will show up and pick us up or at least help Jan find us.

She wanted to hug Jack but he was still so intense, she didn't want to set him off.

"Look, we're coming down nice and slow." It was true. She guessed that they were about three hundred feet up, and coming down at what seemed to be just the right speed. It looked perfect.

"I have a new plan. When we touch down, just stay in. I'll pull the red line and that will collapse the balloon and we'll stay down."

Jack didn't answer. They were low now, low enough to yell down if anyone had been waiting for them on the ground. There was just the tiniest breeze, they were drifting sideways at the speed of a slow walk. She looked down and saw their descent slowing, it was going to be a very gentle landing.

Then they just stopped. They were at the height of a second story and they were almost at a dead stop, drifting toward a couple of umbrella shaped acacia trees. Lainie started pulling the white rope but she felt them rocking and she turned around to see that Jack had climbed out. He was hanging onto the edge of the basket, dangling.

"Don't drop!" She screamed at him.

As if on command, he let go. She felt the balloon starting to climb rapidly. Angry now, she pulled hard on the white rope, pulling it a long way down and noticing that her fingers were scraped. The balloon climbed about a hundred feet and she pulled the rope down more and more, wishing she had gloves. She held the rope and looked over the side as the balloon floated. Jack was lying in a fetal position, then he pushed himself up on all fours like an animal.

She felt nothing but rage. "You chickenshit! You asshole!"

He didn't look up, but slowly got onto his feet and limped a couple of steps, ignoring her.

The balloon had stopped rising and she let the rope go. Hovering motionless now, she scanned all directions for any sign of rescue.

There was movement beneath the trees. She looked closer and saw that it was a pride of lions. Most were stretched out but not sleeping, and all of them were looking toward Jack. Some yawning. Then two of them got up and walked leisurely toward him.

A male and a female, and the male had that look on his face.


  1. Scott, this is one of the most exciting short fictions I’ve even had the privilege of reading. The fall of the man from the balloon was so unexpected. As a feminist I was glad the way Lainie conducted herself and rose to the occasion. I disliked Jack even before he was introduced, just on the basis of his being a big game hunter. Excellent character development and good pace to an exciting story. Well done!

    1. Well, I appreciate that and I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  2. I think there are ethical hunters, this is where the term Fair Chase comes from. I am not a trophy hunter but I know people who are, and most of them would not like this guy.

  3. Scott, this is a compelling story. You had me on the seat of my chair the whole time. It transported me to a place that I am not familiar with, and the characters are interesting. Very well done!

    1. Thank you for your kind comments. I'd like to be able to say that I was inspired to write this while relaxing in a Botswana safari camp, but in truth it came to me while shooting sporting clays in the Arizona desert.

  4. Lots of unexpected turns. A good read. Thanks.

  5. I wonder how Laine ever had Jack as a husband. He seems to have no redeeming features. I feel sorry about Michael. I liked the scenes of Africa, and that was a suspenseful ride on the balloon.