Todd ‘Redneck’ Schweer
To some people, the term redneck is derogatory. Not to Todd Schweer. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who actually knows his real name – everyone just calls him Redneck. And he’ll tell you straight out that’s because he’s just that – a Bud-drinking, four-wheel-drive loving, horseshoe-throwing redneck. As crew chief for Camelot Balloons, most mornings you’ll find Redneck working south of the airport, chasing down 83-foot tall hot-air balloons.
CS: How long have you been here, Redneck?
TS: I’ve been here 20 years, from Fairplay originally. My mom and dad divorced and we took off when I was 14. Hit Mississippi when I was just turning 15.
CS: What’d you do down there?
TS: After finishing out school, learned construction, and farming. Learned a lot about farming cotton, soybeans, stuff like that.
CS: Got educated?
TS: Pretty much got edumucated. But I got edumucated southern style. Treatin’ the womens all southernly, you know.
CS: So you said when you got back to town people didn’t like your Southern education?
TS: Nope. Too friendly, too loud. Too much drinkin’. When I got divorced there was too much fightin’. Then a cop started dating my ex-wife. Then he broke my collarbone and I got him fired.
CS: That’s quite the story. How long ago was that?
TS: Eleven years, 12 years ago since my first wife and I divorced.
CS: But you’re married again?
TS: I never thought I would.
CS: You swore them off?
TS: To hell with ’em. But I did.
CS: What’s your wife’s name?
TS: Barbara. She’s the florist at City Market in Avon. We just got our first home in Avon, we bought a trailer.
CS: Do you have kids?
TS: I have two of them. They live in Rifle. And my wife has three. So I have five total. And three grandkids. I’m 42 and I have three grandkids.
CS: You’re a young grandpa.
TS: Yes I am. My kids are busy. Don’t print that (laughing). You know, I need my gun and my black powder bag for these pictures.
CS: Tell me about your first flight in a balloon.
TS: They wouldn’t get me off the ground, God dang it. I don’t fly.
I swore to God I wouldn’t fly after I saw an airplane wing fall off an airplane in Denver. They had bad factory bolts made that year, in the ’80s we were flying from California. They had a bunch of bad bolts built for the airplanes. They were under-specked and shit was falling off everywhere – motors falling off into my uncle’s cornfield in California. Yeah, I’m not flying. This is my fourth year. I never flew a balloon ’til three years after I worked for Merlin. I never even got in a balloon. I wouldn’t do it. No way. I’m a great ground guy, I’m a bull on a rope, but I ain’t going to fly – you’re damn nuts.
CS: So how did you end up in one?
TS: Well, we’re up in the mountains one day because we parked a balloon on the backside of that mountain in a nook we could not get it out of. I took my four-wheel-drive club, Western Slope Outlaws, up there to get it out.
CS: That’s a club?
TS: Yeah, that’s our jeep club. I’m the mechanic.
So I call them up and say we got a balloon we got to go rescue. Yeah, we’re going to fly it out in the morning. We’re going to walk in and inflate it right where it’s at. Lo and behold, we did.
CS: How did you do it?
TS: We needed the right winds to fly it out. He lost his wind and he got caught up there, parked it in the woods. We go in the next morning, we walk up there and inflate this thing. All the equipment is in one compartment, my crew and the pilot are in the other three. I’m on the ground; it’s perfect. I tell them, ‘I’ll be the ground guy – you need one.’ They say ‘no, you chicken shit.’ I ain’t a damn chicken. So I met the pilot about halfway. I was climbing on and the pilot leans over and says, I ain’t got time for chicken shits. You’re either going to get on this balloon, or you’re going to stay off. I said, I’m here now. Where am I putting my feet, I ask. I’m sitting on the edge of this balloon dangling my feet off holding on to that upright. We’re flying up this valley. This is a true story, we get from here to that shitter over there, and the wind quit. It started blowing us backwards. It almost dropped us. So we’re going up this valley and I’m thinking this is not good. So he says, ‘Hang on Redneck, we’re going up, we’re going way up.’ 3,200 feet off the deck, we found a wind that we could get in, and I’m talkin’ about when you’re 3,200 feet off the deck in a hot air balloon sittin’ on the edge of it going, uh oh. The truck looked this big. But it’s so cool, so peaceful, so calm and serene up there. We got that little bit of wind he found up there, just to move us over the edge of the mountain, drop us on the road. We drove up, got the balloon and hauled ass home. That was my first one ever. Second one was here at the airport with Merlin on a tether. He let me go up and get on the burners. I was hooked.
TS: Yep. He can’t keep me out now, if he needs weight I’m in there. He’s let me attempt to fly them. I’ve attempted 11 balloons. My ninth was awesome, my 10th sucked, my 11th was terrible, according to them, but I loved it. They called me a pogo stick through the air.
CS: What else do I need to know about you?
TS: I’m a helluva nice guy. I’m the nicest Redneck you’ll ever meet.
CS: Fair enough.
Caramie Schnell can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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