FLYIN' HIGH

Chris Cagle gets hitched, has another hit and soars with the Angels

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Story by David Scarlett

Elizabeth flew in to town to see me last May during the ACMs," recalls Chris Cagle of the Texas beauty who became his bride in September. "And when she walked in the room at this ACM event, Cyndi Thomson was next to me and said, 'You're lucky.'

"I asked, 'What do you mean?' Cyndi said, 'I know what that look means. That's your woman. I know how much you love her just by watching you watch her walk into the room. You're lucky.'"

Indeed he is. And Chris knows it.

"That's exactly how I always hoped it would be," he says quietly. "People who see that look between us know, 'Boy, they're in love.' And it's a cool, cool thing."

But Chris' good fortune isn't limited to his romantic life.

In the past few months he not only married the woman he thought he'd lost after 12 years apart, he also had his third straight hit with the Top 5 "I Breathe In, I Breathe Out." And he bought a beautiful house in his native Houston, spent a week in Cozumel, Mexico (earning his SCUBA diving certification), and even lived out a childhood fantasy of flying with the Navy's elite Blue Angels squadron.

And, as if all that weren't enough, he's got his next single, "Country By The Grace Of God," ready to go, and he's booked on the Brooks & Dunn Neon Circus And Wild West Show tour 2002.

Yep, Chris has been a busy guy all right -- and he can hardly wipe the grin off his face.

"Oh, man, I've never been more happy in my life," he declares with a big smile.

But there was a time Chris thought he'd blown his shot at happiness. He and Elizabeth had been romantically involved more than a decade earlier, but his desire to leave Texas and follow his musical dreams rather than settle down ended their relationship -- or so he thought.

"For that 12-year span that we were apart," he confides, "I had some girlfriends. Not a feeling, not an emotional bone in my body ever got close to feeling the way I felt for her and the way she made me feel as a man."

Chris promised himself he wouldn't blow it if he ever got another chance with Elizabeth, who had gone on to marry someone else.

Fast forward to early 2001.

"It was really accidental," explains Chris. "We bumped into each other and got to talkin'. She had filed for divorce a couple months before we met." But Chris decided he didn't want to see Elizabeth until she resolved her marital situation.

"Then she showed up at my show in San Antonio in March," he says with a grin. "There were about 6,000 people in the crowd, and from the stage I saw her!"

"After the show, she came up and hugged me -- and said, 'I'm never letting you go!'"

Making good on his earlier promise to himself, Chris eventually popped the question. They planned a simple ceremony in San Antonio -- on Sept. 11. But the day before the wedding, Chris couldn't wait. So they drove to San Antonio from Houston and married on Sept. 10, with only Chris' dad and little sister, Elizabeth's mom and sister and Elizabeth's kids from her first marriage -- son Cagan, 3, and daughter Fahlan, 11 -- in attendance.

The next morning, Chris and his new family awoke to the same terror that gripped the rest of America following the Sept. 11 attacks.

"That was the day I got my own version of the red, white and blue," declares Chris solemnly. "For the longest time as a child, I'd had my dad's interpretation of what he saw as America. The things that he had experienced. And now, seeing the way we've pulled together as a united country, I've got my version that I can share with my kids."

That sense of patriotism helped make it even more special when Chris roared through the clear California sky in early February with the world-renowned Blue Angels.

"This is something I always wanted to do," exclaims Chris. "I seriously considered going to the Air Force Academy, but I never really pursued the commission. But I wanted to fly. I remember getting pilots' magazines in high school and reading things like that. But it was just too expensive."

"Before we took off, the F-18 pilot said, 'It's your ride, what do you want to do?'" recalls Chris. "I said, 'I want to do every maneuver you do in your shows and every move you do in combat. I want it all.'

"They said, 'Are you sure?'"

Chris was sure all right -- and he got the full treatment.

"It was absolutely unbelievable!" he roars. "We took off and went up to 12,000 feet in four seconds. Then he rolled over and pulled out of it, and that's where I felt nauseous."

But unlike comedian Drew Carey -- who, rumor has it, was a "seven bagger" -- Chris never needed to use even one of the air sickness bags provided for just such an occasion, in spite of experiencing about seven Gs (that's seven times the normal body weight) during the flight.

At one point, the pilot asked Chris if he wanted to get an idea of how close the Angels normally flew to each other in tight formation.

"I said, 'Sure,'" recalls Chris. "Then we dropped down into a long straight canyon and he said, 'Look to your left.' The end of the wing was about 36 inches from the canyon wall at about 300 knots. I said, 'Uh, do you think we can pull up out of this?'"

Safely back on the ground, Chris was proud to add his Blue Angels flight to the list of very special firsts and goals achieved in the past year. But he's far from finished.

"My immediate goal is for each single to surpass the previous one," he declares simply. "And long-term," he continues, "I want to be the best. When I put a song out to radio, I want them to say, 'God, it's Cagle. We've gotta play it.' Like George Strait is and like Tim McGraw is and Kenny Chesney's become over the last couple of years."

But, ultimately, his biggest goal doesn't concern music. It concerns Elizabeth.

"I want to grow really, really old with this woman," he says softly. "I want to get to be a great-grandfather.

"You know, when my parents would say, 'There's somebody made just for you,' I'd go, 'What does that mean?'

"Suddenly, I know what Mama meant."

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