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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Helping, With Flying Colors

Steve Soper hasn’t flown in years, and he’s starting to miss it.

His useless legs don’t keep him grounded. He tore his spinal cord in a flying accident nine years ago and lives in a wheelchair now.

But he still can flip a plane on its back or spin it toward the ground in a plume of colored smoke.

He’s just been busy with other things lately.

“I’ve never been a person who worries about things you can’t change,” he says, patting the thin legs that once furiously worked his stunt plane’s pedals. “I just go on.”

Steve, who’s 41, was a hot streak in the sky during the early 1980s. The Rathdrum man flew stunts over most of the United States and Canada.

Then, in 1986, he took off with an empty fuel tank. He got down the runway and just over the power lines at 80 miles per hour. But he didn’t miss the trees.

“It’s the simple things that get you,” he says with a shrug.

Steve slipped out of his wheelchair and back into a stunt plane three months after the accident. A friend worked the pedals for him, but Steve, a master mechanic, soon fitted a twin-engine Skymaster with hand controls and took off on his own.

Maintaining his plane from a wheelchair wasn’t a problem for long. Steve built a rolling staircase with extra-wide steps so he could reach all parts of his plane. He padded a table top and attached adjustable legs so he could reach the top of his plane.

The air show market sagged a few years ago, but Steve was ready with a new vocation. He began outfitting vehicles to serve the disabled.

Now, he installs hand controls in cars so people in wheelchairs can drive. He fits car roofs with space-age carriers that hold electric arms. With the push of a button on the dash, the arms reach to the ground, fold a wheelchair and lift it into the carrier.

The work satisfies him because he knows the need firsthand. But the sky still calls him.

“I’m getting the itch,” he says, moving his eyes to the biplane in his father’s hangar. “I’m thinking of getting a sail plane …”

Post Falls pageantry

What better place to watch a magical story unfold than next to a waterfall. That’s why Post Falls is staging “The Stories of Q’Emiln” (remember: Ka-mee-lin) on a newly designed outdoor theater in Falls Park.

The play weaves Indian lore with recorded history to tell the tale of Post Falls from prehistoric times to 1902. Coeur d’Alene playwright Tim Rarick and composer Tom Cooper use puppets, masks and a top-notch cast to tell the play’s 12 stories.

Even former state legislator Jeanne Givens wrangled a part. She was so determined to be in the play that she took singing and dancing lessons.

Tickets are going fast for the two 7 p.m. performances on Aug. 18 and 19. They’re $10 for adults and $8 for seniors and kids. Call 773-4080.

‘Tri’ a little harder

‘Tis the season for sweaty shoes, sagging shorts and bike grease on the calves. Normally sane people are out before sunrise pedaling toward Fernan Saddle and tripping over the rocks on Tubbs Hill - all to train for Sunday’s Coeur d’Alene Triathlon.

Keep some Gatorade cold by your door for physical therapist Gary Bartoo, radiology technician Teri Porcarelli, Coeur d’Alene city cop Don Ashenbrenner and Lake City High assistant principal Buck Fitzpatrick. You might even see a judge jog by.

Send your correspondence to Cynthia Taggart, “Close to Home,” 608 Northwest Blvd., Suite 200, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814; FAX to 765-7149; or call 765-7128.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo