Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Of Rabbit Fur Coats And Bad Choices

This happened many years ago when I was a pilot living in Tulsa. I think of it from time to time and it’s one of many things in life I wish I had done differently.
A female friend from school and I used to go once every month or two to these land developments that were popular at the time around the Tulsa area…they gave great gifts for going and looking over properties they had for sale and we posed as a couple shopping for a new home. We got a couple sets of cookware, a set of quality dishes and on separate occasions two very nice rabbit fur jackets. Margarita kept one of them; I kept the other with no real idea who I was going to give it too.
At that time I was dating two girls. Stacey was a black girl who had had a tough life growing up. She had been badly beaten by her first husband several times before she left him. She had been raped and she had had to sell herself on the streets a few times to get by but she had gone back to school, got some training and had a pretty good job by the time I met her. She had a nice apartment and was doing her best to make a good life for herself and her 11 year old son. The one thing about her I had a problem with was she did sometimes use drugs. Most of our dates were spent at various bars or clubs around Tulsa. There was a run down Country And Western Place on 11th Street called Jay’s Place that we always went to on Sunday nights for their jam session and I remember a place called Barristers in a big hotel near down town that we frequented.  One time in particular I remember going there and sitting on a love seat in an area behind the bar with Stacey. Not long after we arrived three more couples walked in and sat together at the bar near us. They kept turning around and looking at us and I finally asked Stacey if she knew them. She said she did not, and that the reason they kept staring was because I was white, she was black…some of them rednecks in Oklahoma still didn’t like that sort of thing. After I found that out, she and I got much, much “friendlier” on that love seat and the redneck couples finally left in a huff, throwing a few dirty looks our way as they stalked out.
Elaine was a white girl who I met when she started taking flying lessons and I ended up being her flight instructor. She came from a small town in South Dakota and grew up on a farm. When I met her she was a MD in her 2nd year of residency and rotated between two of the Tulsa hospitals and also moonlighted at a Minor Emergency Center in town. Always a straight A student, she was a perfect example of an over achiever. We hadn’t been dating too long at the time this event happened and most of our “dates” were either flying lessons with a quick lunch or dinner after, or I’d go up to the hospital and have dinner with her in the cafeteria when she was on call. As a 2nd year resident she didn’t have much free time, in fact most of her nights were spent at the hospital.
As time passed, I started seeing less of Stacey, mainly because of her occasional drug use and spending more time with Elaine. One night Stacy was at my apartment and for some reason she went in the closet where that rabbit fur coat was hanging. I still remember the look on her face…it was a combination of excitement, want, need and I think almost lust. She asked where I’d gotten it and I told her about the land developments, which I think she already knew I had been going to. She kind of hinted she’d like it, I think even asked if she could have it, but I lied and said Margarita had decided she wanted it and would be picking it up soon. As you might guess, I ended up giving that jacket to Elaine a few days later. She made a big fuss over it…said how much she loved it and how nice it was…but in the following two or three years we continued to date, I never saw it again. She never wore it and she probably ended up giving it to one of the thrift stores in town.
The gift of that jacket would have meant so much to Stacey, and I don’t doubt that she’d still have it today, 25 years later, but to Elaine it meant nothing at all.
Even today when I think about that I wonder how I could have been so stupid…so blind to the fact a simple gift of something that cost me nothing would have meant so much to someone.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

On Hauntings And Happiness

I’ve been interested in the paranormal most of my life, and have personally experienced things several times. The last couple years I’ve been watching the ghost shows on television, like The Dead Files, Ghost Adventures and so on and I guess I’m a bit surprised at the number of spirits who apparently have, for one reason or another, decided to stay here. Some times it seems spirits stay in places they were attached to in life, places where they were happy and content.
So I got to thinking, where would I stay after I died if in fact I decided to hang around for a while? The one place where I have always felt the most relaxed and “at home” was Mexico. When I was driving truck and would get a load that was taking me to the South Texas, New Mexico or Arizona areas I always felt like someone who had been traveling for a long time and was finally heading home. I’ve been to Mexico between 50 and 75 times near as I can guess, always the border towns, and of course always for the bars and brothels and the women that can be found in them and I’ve always felt a sense of belonging and fitting in there. One dirt floored bar in Juarez where it was very, very easy to imagine banditos with their rifles and cartridge belts over their shoulders drinking at the bar felt very much like home to me.
If time is as fluid as I suspect, perhaps one day I’ll haunt the cantinas of Mexico in the mid to late 1800’s. Or perhaps it is possible to reincarnate into what we consider the past and I’ll visit those places again in physical form. I think I had a connection to Mexico long before this lifetime and I feel it was a happy time. I just want to feel that again

Friday, July 6, 2012

Hero's In Uniform..?? Really..??

While it seems popular nowadays to call everyone in uniform a hero, especially police, firemen and the military they certainly DO NOT have the most dangerous jobs. In fact, the military didn’t even make it into the top 20 and firemen in most polls didn’t make the top 15. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' most recent figures, there were 4,547 fatal occupational injuries in 2010, or four fewer than reported in 2009. The majority of these injuries occur in a handful of sectors representing the most dangerous ways to earn a living in the country. The list might surprise some, and admittedly the rankings vary slightly according to whose statistics you want to believe. The most common and most current ranking is as follows.

#2...Logging Workers
#3…Airline Pilots
#4…Farmers or Ranchers
#7…Garbage Collectors
#8…Truck Drivers

Add the fact that the police have the 3rd highest average annual salary of the above list (behind Pilots and Stuntmen who actually need some qualifications for their jobs) and you might start wondering why anyone would call a cop a hero.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Beginning

Several people that know me best, and have known me for a long time, have asked with surprise in their voice why in the world I ever decided to look for a wife on the internet, and one 12,000 miles away on the other side of the world at that. I hope these next few paragraphs will answer that question for them and for any others who might be interested.
First though, I’m going to have to back waaaaay up and take a running start at this. Somewhere around 1995 when I was living in Fort Lauderdale I met a lady from the Philippines. I have always admired Asian women, and I always have had an interest in the Philippines, so when I first saw this girl she really caught my attention. Her clothing, make up, hair, everything was perfect. She was working in a club I frequented on occasion, and I guess that first time I saw her, I probably bought her a couple drinks, maybe had a table dance or two, learned her name was Manila, and that was about it. I think I saw her in that club one or two more times, and then she disappeared. A year, maybe two went by, and I found myself driving past a club in Pompano Beach that I had been in a few times, but never really cared much for. This time there was a bunch of new signs outside, “New Owners,” “New Attitude,” “New Girls.” Ok I thought, lets check this out. When I walked inside I spotted several girls that looked real good, so I went up to the bar and ordered a drink. When I finished paying I turned on my stool so I could see the stage, which was directly behind me. Standing between me and the stage was a girl I had not seen when I walked in. She had her back to me so I could not see her face, but I did see long black hair down to her waist, an absolutely perfect figure wearing a tight, short dress and standing on dangerously high heels. Among the other girls she stood out like a neon light in a field of candles. The very first thing I thought was “I’ll bet that’s the girl from that other club.” Sure enough it was her, but what amazed me the most, was that she remembered me to.
I ended up dating a couple of the other girls that worked there, and so I saw Manila fairly often. Over the years, I like to think we became friends. Often I would buy her a drink, and generally would end up asking a few questions about her country. I learned a little about how she grew up, how she met her husband, what life was like in a poor country. I remember many times thinking that would be a really nice thing, to meet and marry someone that had grown up like that.
During those years I got involved in a long term relationship with a lady, after a couple years we even purchased a home together. Within a few more years things were going from bad to worse, and I knew that I was going to get out. I had previously mentioned my problems at home to Manila, and then one day I was talking to her and told her I had already made plans to leave and as far as I was concerned it was as good as a done deal. I remember saying something about how lucky she and her husband were to have met each other in the short time he was in her country. I will ALWAYS remember her reply; she said “there are many ladies in my country who would love to have an American husband.” That one sentence, spoken by a lady who I had come to admire, is what brought me to do as I did.
A few weeks later there came a day when I had some extra time on the load I was pulling, and I was stopped early. I was on the internet and kind of bored. I had thought many times about what Manila had said, about there being many ladies in her country who would like to marry an American, and I did a Google search for “foreign brides.” I could not believe what I saw….literally hundreds of sites. I refined that to “Asian brides,” and the choices were thinned a bit, but there were still dozens of sites to choose from. I settled on FilipinaHeart, at the time they were the largest, having over 75,000 female members, all from the Philippines. They have a very good search engine, you can search by age, weight, height, smoker or not, drinker or not, children, almost any variable you could think of. I filled out my profile, paid my money, and started seriously looking. That first night I think I sent interest to about 4 or 5 ladies. I figured if I wrote 10 ladies, maybe one or two would respond back……WRONG. In the first week, I received over 200 unsolicited e-mails. I had also sent interest to about a dozen or so ladies I picked, and most of them wrote back as well.
I still remember the first time I saw Evelyn’s picture. It was on her FilipinaHeart profile. She was just getting on a bicycle, and was wearing a pair of baggy white shorts and a green tank top. She was sooooo beautiful. That big smile, the long black hair, she really made an impression, and I sent her a note of interest right away. Today I have a copy of that picture on the dash of my truck, where I can see it every day. Several days went by, the unsolicited responses were slowing down and my mail box was getting manageable. One day when I signed on I only had 3 or 4 e-mails saying “someone at FH is interested in you.” On opening that e-mail, it would say something like “Member # 1234567 is interested in you.” If you clicked on the member number you would go to that person’s profile. The last one I opened was Evelyn’s reply. I remember getting a big smile on my face when I saw “that girl on the bicycle” again. We began writing each other, and we both were writing to others as well.
The next time I saw Manila, I told her what I had done. She had told me before that the best girls could be found on Cebu, (I seem to remember her telling me…even wagging her finger at me, not to go to Manila because the girls were all to big city there, and with more severe finger wagging, she told me to stay out of the strip clubs)
I told her I was writing five girls, one was from Cebu. She asked the town, but all I could remember was that it was right near Cebu City, and was “Upper K…something.” I had by now told Evelyn about Manila as well, and she had wanted to know where she was from. As it turns out, Manila and Evelyn grew up only a few miles apart, both just outside Cebu City, and they are within a couple years of being the same age.
It wasn’t long before Evelyn and I became exclusive….she stopped writing her other interests and I told the other 4 ladies I was writing that Evelyn was the lady I was going to visit in January. (I still write to three of those ladies as friends) One of the things I was really looking forward to was taking Evelyn to meet Manila when she finally got to the states, because I really credit Manila for my having met Evelyn. About that time, Manila told me she and her husband were moving out of the country, but it probably would not be for a while yet, and I was still hopeful that she and Evelyn would meet.
There was some reason that two days later I went back to see Manila, I wanted to ask her something about the Philippines or whatever, and found out they had just sold their house…unbelievably fast…so would be moving in a very short time. I never did get to ask my question….I remember how sad I felt; partly because Manila and Evelyn would never meet…mostly because I knew I would never again see someone who I had become very fond of.
The last time I saw Manila was about August of 2004. I had by then purchased a new home and moved 100 miles North, to Fort Pierce, so I seldom got to my old haunts in the Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach area.
The months passed and finally January 10th, 2005 arrived. That was the day I was to catch my flight to the Philippines and meet Evelyn for the first time. We had pretty much decided we were getting married; we just had not made it official yet. I was to fly from West Palm Beach, to Atlanta, Los Angles, Hong Kong, then finally Macatan Island, Cebu. From there it was about a 30 minute cab ride to my hotel. I remember somewhere between Atlanta and Los Angles thinking of Manila. I thought, hey, it’s January, Manila and her husband take their vacation in January. Her family is from near Cebu City, wouldn’t it be something if I ran into her in the mall, or on the street somewhere. The thought made me smile, but I knew that the chances were close to zero of that happening; Cebu City is the second largest city in the Philippines, running into someone you know, 12,000 miles from home….not very likely.
Quite by chance I arrived in Cebu the week of Sinulog. That is the largest festival in the Philippines, and it might closely compare to our Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Sunday was the big parade. Evelyn, her friend Hazel and I were there about 8:00 AM when the parade was just starting. Evelyn and Hazel were standing right up by the metal barrier that kept spectators back off the street, and I, at 6’ 3” was standing behind, still with a very good view. I was busy taking photos when, about 10:00 AM, I felt a bump on my arm. I turned to find a very pretty girl, with a baseball hat and big sunglasses, standing there smiling at me. I figured she has just bumped me and we both turned at the same time to see what happened, I smiled at her and turned back to the parade. Saaaamak…..something hits my arm again….I turn to see the same pretty girl smiling at me….I give her back kind of weak smile, I’m thinking what’s with this girl….and turn to the parade again….I feel a hand on my arm, hear a familiar voice say “I know you from Floor-ee-da.” I stand there like a moron for a few seconds…then…the light bulb comes on…..MANILA…..well, she’s walking away pretty fast but I take off after her. She stops to look at something in the parade and I catch up, apologizing for not recognizing her, the hat, the glasses, etc, etc.
I finally remember I have a fiancée back in the crowd somewhere, and ask Manila to come meet her, as I say that, I turn and point in the direction where Evelyn is. There is a sea of faces, all watching the parade, and one face, watching us. I’m sure she is wondering what in the world her fiancée is doing chasing another woman through the crowd. Evelyn and Manila got to talk for a couple minutes, but she and her husband were going to meet someone and had to leave. I was very happy though, that Evelyn and Manila had finally got to meet each other.
Evelyn had a cousin who helped us cut a little of the governmental red tape involved in getting married, and the following Friday afternoon he called us at our hotel and told us our wedding would be that next Monday at 6:00 PM in the hotel we were staying at. The judge who married us actually brought our wedding license with him when he came to do the ceremony. We spent Friday and Saturday morning arranging for a wedding cake, a photographer, and all the things associated with a wedding. By about noon on Saturday we stopped at a Shakey’s Pizza for lunch. This was about a block from our hotel, right on Osemena Circle in Cebu City. Now who do you suppose walks by the window and waves at us..?? Yup…Manila and her husband Brad were walking by and saw us sitting there. I motioned them to come in and they did. We talked a couple minutes and I asked them to come to our wedding on Monday.
Monday came….I had been single for 22 years after a ten year marriage, and I admit I was more than a little nervous, as I’m sure Evelyn was.
Evelyn and I, and a couple others were in our hotel room getting ready when someone says, “Hey, we better get upstairs; it’s two minutes to six.” We were staying on the 6th floor, and our wedding ceremony was on the 8th floor. We walked to the elevator and pushed the up button. An elevator comes up, the door opens, and there stand Manila and Brad. Manila is wearing two wreaths of very colorful flowers. She immediately took one off and put around Evelyn’s neck, they gave each other a big hug, and upstairs we went.
Things had worked out better than I could have hoped for in my wildest fantasy. I married the most wonderful girl in the whole world….and at the wedding was the friend who I feel was responsible for us meeting.
Manila, I never will be able to thank you enough. What you told me over the years about your country, of how you grew up and of your culture, and what I know of the kind of person you are, is what convinced me to take a chance on meeting someone on the internet. I could not be happier that I did.
There was one problem with having Manila at our wedding though….as soon as she walked in the room, both photographers and the video photographer totally forgot about the wedding….
Here is a link to our wedding photos…..http://www.pbase.com/mongo69

Monday, November 30, 2009

An Update

I haven’t done much on here for a while, and just thought that in case anyone ever does read any of this stuff, I’d do an update.
Eve and I, and of course Precious and the Kitty have been out on the road since early August. That’s almost four months now and we are in a smaller truck than I ever had before when they were all along. I think in another couple months we will have enough down to buy our own truck again, but for now things are a little crowded. Work is still a bit slow, but we are saving about $1,000.00 a week on average and if the economy picks up and people start buying things again, that should increase a lot.
It feels good to have them along, not nearly so lonely…and I am enjoying the cold weather cause all four of us are packed into the one bed. The Kitty will sleep on top of us on the colder nights, precious generally gets between Eve and I, or between Eve and the wall. The Kitty has also started sleeping on my lap everyday when I’m driving. I think most days if I drive 10 hours, the Kitty is on my lap for 6 or 7 of them.
I have also joined another Forum. I was a member of a Filipino-American forum for a few years when Eve and I first met, and until shortly after she arrived in this country, and I belonged to a Corvette forum when I had my Corvette…but I’m not normally one for joining things like that. I recently joined a forum about the assassination of John Kennedy. It is something that I have always had an interest in, and through the years have read everything I came across about it, but belonging to that forum takes it to a whole different level.
Eve’s niece is now in her 3rd year of nursing school and doing well. I am very proud of her, the first in her family to even get to high school, much less college. Being poor in a poor country is something few people in this one can understand.
2012 is not far away, and I’m wondering what really will happen. My belief is the years between 2010 and 2012 will bring some dramatic changes, but what those changes will be I could not guess. All my life I have said that if I could live to see the day when first contact is made, it would be the greatest thing I could imagine…perhaps that will be it, or perhaps our government and other world governments will finally disclose what they have known for many years and have kept from the population.
One final thing. Every time I start feeling sorry for myself, I try to remember that there are millions of people in this world who would jump at the chance to change places with me. That feeling was heightened again when I started reading Roots. I had read it before, but many years ago, and if anyone thinks their life is unfair, or hard, I thoroughly recommend reading it.

Monday, March 2, 2009


This sighting happened when I was about 13 or 14 years old….in the mid-60’s. It must have been the weekend before Thanksgiving, because my recently married sister was over to our house to borrow pots, pans, cookie sheets and other things she needed to prepare Thanksgiving dinner. Her and her husband lived only about 3 or 4 miles away, and she drove over in their 55 Ford to get those items and I was going to ride back with her. Because that car was not licensed, we always took the back roads.

From my fathers house we would have gone about ¼ mile West to a T-intersection, turned right and would then have gone about a ½ mile to another T-intersection and turned left to get to her house. Directly behind that 2nd T was a farm house and buildings. What I am going to describe now I remember like looking at a picture…there was no movement. All I remember is the car was already stopped and both my sister and I were standing next to the car, with the doors open, we were kind of between the door and the car, like we were just stepping out. In front of us we could see the farm house and buildings, and the farmer out in the field behind the house on his tractor. I remember the day was bright sunshine with blue skies, and the tractor was orange. What we were looking at, and in fact I’m sure the reason we stopped, was in the sky there was a saucer shaped craft, slowly moving from left to right, and kind of wobbling. That wobble is the only movement I can remember in the whole episode. Now, what I find so strange about this was while it happened when I was maybe 13 years old, I did not remember it until in my late 20’s. One day it just all of a sudden came to me, just popped into my head. I thought many times about talking to my sister about it, to see if she remembered it, but I never did.

The second sighting came to me as a dream, but it was one of those dreams that you just know there is more to it. I would have been 17 at the time. After school I worked the 3:00 to 11:00 shift at a gas station, then drove home about 14 miles. I had a 1960 Chev Convertible, which of course had a plastic back window, which was common on convertibles at the time. I remember being only about 2 miles away from the gas station and rounding a corner from one US highway onto another when I saw flashing lights behind me. I thought it was the cops, and started pulling over to the shoulder. As I looked back over my right shoulder and through the plastic rear window I could see red, white and yellow flashing lights behind me. (At the time, all police cars had only red “gum balls”) As I stopped and looked back again, those lights came right up behind me and then over the top of the car….that is the last I remember. At this time, I can not recall exactly when I had that dream, but it seems like it was a few years later.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

On The Road II...With Eve, Precious The Pekingese And The Kitty

Our second trip together on the road covered 60 days and 21,690 miles. Work has been slow because of the economy or we would have covered a lot more miles, but this way, at least we were able to stop and be tourists once in a while.
Last time Eve, Precious and The Kitty went with me we had problems finding an empty trailer. This time it started the same way…on Friday November 7th the first two trailers they sent me for were not available, one was still loaded, the other had been picked up the night before. While we were waiting for a third try, I discovered a problem with the truck. Because parts had to be ordered, that put our departure off until Tuesday the 11th, there were no loads available then, so it was Wednesday before we got a load and got going.
Been running pretty good, except Thursday the 20th of November, we spent in a LaQuinta Motel in Kansas City, Mo. because there was no freight. That worked out Ok, Precious got a bath, and her and The Kitty had some room to run and play. Eve and I got some shopping and laundry done, and rested up a bit.
Just starting week three now. We delivered a load the Wal-Mart Distribution Center in Bentonville, Arkansas and are waiting our next dispatch. Eve spotted a Krispy Kreme Donut Shop on the way in, so after dropping our load, and picking up another empty trailer, we parked for the night near by and Eve got a dozen Jelly Donuts. Earlier we had stopped at a Wal-Mart and among other things bought two small (about 8 inches high) Christmas Trees with battery operated lights and put them on the truck’s dash, so now we are more in a Christmas mood.
It’s now the 6th day of the 4th week. We have been sitting 2 days waiting for a load. We delivered to a Wal-Mart Distribution Center in Palestine, Texas, but have since moved about 50 miles Northwest to Corsicana. We spent last night in a large, but somewhat worn hotel room, and Precious and The Kitty had some room to run and play again.
Last time he was along, The Kitty spent a little time up on the top bunk, but this time out it seems to have become his favorite haunt. In the morning when we first start driving, Eve stays in bed until the truck warms up a bit, and The Kitty sits in her seat because he knows that there will be warm air blowing on him soon. After it gets light, he jumps up on the top bunk where we store his pet carrier and Eve’s travel bag, and where we put Precious’s bed for the day, and that is where he usually sleeps for most of the day. He has also discovered that he can get on top of his Pet Carrier (which is strapped to the top bunk) and then can see out the top window, so he spends some time up there watching the scenery pass by. At night he sleeps in the bottom bunk with us, sometimes down by our feet, but if it’s chilly out, he’ll lay on my back or chest, or between Eve and I, where he can get a little of our body heat. Precious has her bed on the floor, right below us.
It’s the 3rd day of week 5 now. We are in New Mexico and hoping to continue heading west because I’m still hoping to do some Christmas shopping in Tijuana. The Kitty has made another discovery. When I have the computer on, it is plugged into the cigarette lighter socket on the dash, and the transformer and power cord lay on the driver’s seat. The Kitty has found that laying on that hot transformer makes for a good sleep. I’d think it would make for a lumpy mattress, but he doesn’t seem to mind.
Eve has had a bad cold for a few days. She either got it from me or from running around in shorts when it was 30 some degrees out. Yesterday she missed some nice scenery coming down from Colorado and into New Mexico. Last night we were parked near A Wal-Greens and I talked to the pharmacist and got some different meds for her….my Sudafed PE wasn’t helping her much. After taking some Mucinex that the pharmacist recommended she now feels a lot better, and I guess we’ll be celebrating with a dinner at the Asian Buffet tonight.
The freight situation is getting very bad. We are still in Grants, NM in a motel. This morning when I got up there was heavy snow just starting to fall. I took Precious out for Poo, and then got Eve up and we walked over to a Denny’s for pancake breakfast. The walk over was nice, light wind and fairly heavy snow coming down, but walking the 3 blocks or so back to the hotel was a different story. It was still snowing very heavy, but the wind had picked up a lot and we were walking right into it. Eve got very nervous and started crying because she said she could not breathe. Luckily I had made her wear a leather jacket over a hooded sweatshirt, and with the hood tied very little of her face was exposed. I held my hand over the front of her face most of the way back to the hotel. We must have made a funny sight to those that saw us.
I guess Eve wasn’t too affected by it…within 30 minutes she had changed into shorts, a sexy top and her boots, and wanted to go out in the snow and have me take her picture. She didn’t waste any time out there though..!! When it finally came time to check out of the hotel we had a good laugh at the Kitty. He seems to prefer the truck to a hotel room anyway, and when we picked up his pet carrier from where it was sitting in the closet, and carried it over to the bed, he ran along with us, jumped up on the bed and got right inside the carrier. That is where he stayed until we were ready to carry him out to the truck.
December 17th, the first day of the sixth week out we got to Tijuana. I delivered in the Los Angles area, and when I asked for a location to drop my empty trailer, I lucked out and we were sent all the way to Otay Mesa, just 12 miles from the border crossing to Tijuana. The day was cold and raining. We parked in a lot a couple blocks from Mexico, bought an umbrella and walked over in moderate rain. I have never seen Tijuana so deserted. We went thru several shops on Revolucion and Eve got a couple T-shirts and a pair of designer sun glasses. We stopped for lunch at Domino’s, then walked one block over to Constitction and went to one of the more famous Strip Clubs/Brothels, The Chicago Club. We had a drink there and since not much was going on, we walked across the street to another Strip Club/Brothel, The Adelita. They had about 50 top of the line girls there in mid-afternoon. We spent a little time there, then took our treasures back to the truck and took care of The Kitty and Precious. Since it was only 6 PM local time, I ask Eve if she’d like to go back over to Tijuana and she said yes. By then, the rain had stopped, and we spent a couple hours walking around and checking out a few more clubs, including going back to The Chicago Club and The Adileta. Eve also got a sexy little outfit like a dancer might wear on stage ($6.00) and some finger nail polish; I got T-shirts from both the Chicago Club and The Adelita.
We spent another night in a hotel in Urbana, Illinois on Sunday the 28th because somebody screwed up on making the delivery appointment. I was told it was for the 28th at 7 AM, but in fact the consignee was not receiving at all that day, so it was Monday before we got the 10,000 pounds of potato chips I was hauling unloaded. The Kitty didn’t mind the hotel so much this time, but as soon as his pet carrier came out he was in it and ready to go.
The first day of week nine now. Last night something very funny happened, although at the time I did not appreciate it. Every night when we go to bed, Eve has been putting down a dog training pad for Precious, just in case. It is about a 2 foot square piece of material with plastic backing, and absorbent material on top. A dog can pee in it, without it soaking through. Precious has used it a few times, although usually she wakes me up to take her outside if she has to go at night. Last night at about 2:30 AM I feel Precious on my chest, and open my eyes and see her face inches from mine, she’s whining and I know she wants to go out. It was raining and cold and windy out, and she pee’d in just a minute or two and I took her back inside. After I got back in bed she was jumping up on me, and scratching at me but I thought she was just playing. After about 2 minutes both Eve and I smell something REALLY NASTY…we turn on the light to see The Kitty down by the pad I previously mentioned trying in vain to cover a pile of Precious’s poo….I’m not sure if he was trying to cover it up so Precious would not get in trouble for having Poo in the truck, or because it smelled so bad. Eve rolled up the training pad and Poo, and I put my shoes on and walked it over to a dumpster just across the parking lot. When I got back to the truck, the Kitty had jumped up on the top bunk, gotten on his pet carrier, and had his nose right by the window which we always leave cracked open a bit like he was trying to breathe fresh air. It did take several minutes to get the smell out. The canned food Eve feeds Precious smells bad enough right out of the can, but after working it’s way thru Precious, it smells unbelievably BAD.
January 10th, the 4th day of the 9th week out. We are sitting at a dock in Orlando; after we are unloaded here we are heading home. Last night the Kitty was kind of unsettled. I think he knows something is going on and I kind of wonder if he knows we are near home. He seems to enjoy the truck a lot, and I think he prefers it to the house…I know he prefers it to a hotel!!
Made it home finally on Saturday the 10th of January. The photos that go with this story are on our photosharing site at…

Monday, November 24, 2008

Short Story: A Place Out Of Time

I have a story I need to tell, you may find it hard to believe but I can assure you it’s the truth. Before I begin though, I should say a little about my life up to this point, so you may better understand my circumstances.
I’ve lived now over half a century, been married once, and have had a couple other serious relationships, but none that amounted to anything. It’s not that the women I’ve been involved with had anything wrong with them, quite the contrary, they were all fine ladies, it’s just that I was never all that passionate about them.
Only weeks before this story begins I found myself again going through the process of packing and moving. I had bought a great building in a very old section of town, the minute I laid eyes on it I knew I was going to buy it. It had actually been a general store at one time. At the turn of the century, there were several small towns in this area, and as the population grew, the towns grew together and are now part of a very large urban area. The section where I am now was the main street of one of those towns. The area had fallen into disrepair over time with many of the stores and shops abandoned or closed when, about five years ago, there was a move to restore and revitalize the area. The old bank building is now an art gallery, the former jail is an upscale and trendy bar, and many of the old shops are now restaurants and side-walk cafes. My place, the old general store, contains my Photographic Studio below, with living quarters above. The upstairs had once held two apartments, but has now been enlarged into one. The walls are the same red brick from when it was built, and much of the wood trim is still original as well, and now that several layers of old paint have been removed and the wood refinished I would imagine that it looks quite like it did when first built. The only all new part of the whole building are the wood floors, which have been redone to look like the originals. It is in this building where my story takes place.
I’ll start when I began the move into my living quarters. I had pretty well set up the studio a week or so previous, but the upstairs was still undergoing work and I had been staying in a motel. One morning I walked upstairs with an arm load of possessions and there she was, an attractive, but somewhat oddly dressed woman was standing in my kitchen. When my eyes first met hers I had the distinct feeling I knew her, but couldn’t remember from where. I decided she must have modeled for me sometime in the past. How she got upstairs without my seeing her I can’t imagine, but there she was. “Hi,” I said, “I don’t know how you got up here, but this is my living quarters, the studio is below.” She just smiled and continued to watch me. “I’m really not open yet, still moving in as you can see.” Would you like to leave a way for me to contact you when I’m ready to start shooting?” Still no response from her, just the hint of a smile on her lips. I walked over to her and reached out to take her hand, as a hint it was time to leave. When I touched her, I felt a slight chill but no substance. She got a surprised look on her face and disappeared. I mean she really disappeared. I wish I had the words to describe how I felt, and what went on in my mind when this happened, but it defies description. How long I stood there looking around and second guessing my self I can’t say. I was sure what I had seen was real, but that simply was not possible. The next couple days passed quickly and somewhat uneasily but I was finally settled into my living quarters. I had been thinking of the lady I saw continuously, still far from sure that things had really happened as I thought. Then on the third day I walked upstairs and there she was again. She was standing in the same place as before, dressed as she had been before, and smiling at me. “Your back,” I said. She shook her head, “I’ve been here the while,” she replied. After a bit of uneasy silence on both our parts we finally began talking. I asked her about the other day when I had first seen her, and how she had vanished. A surprised look came over her and she replied, “When you touched my hand your hand was like nothing, it passed right through mine and felt cold. Then you disappeared.”
That conversation took place over twelve months ago. Since that time she has been my constant companion. We have tried, several times, to touch hands but always the same thing happens. Each of us sees the other disappear, and then it can be anywhere from several hours to a day or more before we’re back together.
She has told me a little of her life. Her name is Kate and she was born about 1850, she doesn’t know for sure when. She grew up in an isolated area with no other families within miles of hers, and she was not well treated. When she was about 17 years old the abuse and neglect got to be too much and she left. She had walked for days, barefoot and hungry, when she came to this town. When she tells of coming into town that first day you should see the look on her face. The first person to see her came to help, spoke kindly to her, actually picked her up and carried her to the doctor’s office a couple hundred yards down the street. All along the way as she was being carried, people came to look and offer help. She was carried past the general store, where the commotion of her passing caught the attention of the proprietor, who later was to offer one of his upstairs apartments for her to recover in. She smiles when she thinks of him. He gave, from his store, clothing and other necessities that she had no money to pay for. He gave the room she recovered in, and later gave her employment in his store so she could repay him. This building means a great deal to her. It’s the only place in which she ever felt happy and contented, and she says she will never leave.
I have been doing very well in my business. I have made further investments in equipment, gained new clients, and, best of all, the quality of my work has improved. I to am beginning to feel happy and contented for the first time in my life. Leaving this place, and her, are the furthest things from my mind.
She knows nothing of my world, but believes what I tell her. When we stand side by side and look out our upstairs window I see automobiles, people sitting in the side walk cafes and a UPS driver making a delivery. She, right next to me, sees a street muddy from a recent rain and a horse drawn wagon passing by. When either of us leaves our home we are in our own worlds, we never meet anywhere but up stairs where we live. To her down stairs is still the general store where she works. To me it’s a photographic studio. I feel her presence, know she’s near, right there next to me when I’m working, I just can’t see her.
It’s kind of funny that to me there is one apartment upstairs and to her there are two. She sees me walk through a wall and disappear when I go into either my office or the back bedroom, and she can only get into what is now our living room from the hall, which to me does not exist.
However there are some things we both can see and use. For instance, when she builds a fire in the fireplace we both see it and feel its warmth. Most things however, are not seen by us both. The kitchen, for example, is in approximately the same place to both, but where I just had some new cabinets and a counter top built is where her wood burning stove sits. One night I was working in the kitchen and she was seated in the living room and we were talking of the days events, when I seated myself on the counter top. The look on her face! What she saw was me seated on the top of a very hot stove. That has now become our own little joke. If ever I want to make her laugh, all I need do is hop on my counter/her stove, or even just look at it, and she can’t help but smile.
The weeks and months passed, and our feelings for each other continued to grow. We were both happy in each others company despite the obvious draw back of not being able to touch. We learned almost everything there was to know about the other and in fact became almost as one. Then one day I was in my studio and was having some problems with a balky light. As I walked from the camera across the floor to the light I passed her. We passed as we would in a narrow isle, she walking with a piece of merchandise in her hand, and looking up into my eyes as we passed. I saw the surprised look on her face and knew she had seen me also. The excitement I felt was unbelievable. I made excuses to my model and headed upstairs as fast as I could. Within minutes she was there also. We stood and looked at each other a long time without speaking, and in fact she was the first to regain her voice. “ What can this mean,” she asked. I could give no answer. I reached out my hand to her, something we hadn’t tried in several weeks. She took it in hers. I felt the substance, the warmth of her flesh, and she did not disappear. We stepped together, embraced, held each other tightly. I bent down to her, raised her chin gently with my hand, and kissed her a soft lingering kiss, our lips barely touching, then again, this time firmer and with passion. We held each other a long time, our tears mixing together and leaving damp spots on our clothing.
We both had to get back to our work and parted reluctantly. When I got down stairs I found my model amusing herself with a magazine and a Diet Coke. Luckily I had worked with her in the past and she was forgiving of my rather abrupt departure, and total inability to accomplish anything of value in the rest of the shoot. I could think of nothing but seeing Kate that night. I got upstairs early, the minutes, even the seconds, dragged by. Five O’clock came, two more minutes and she’d be here. She always walked in at exactly two minutes after five. She never came. She didn’t appear the next day or night either. I was disappointed but not yet worried, we had gone through this before when we used to touch hands and she always would reappear after a few hours, a day at most. When a week had past I could no longer just sit and wait. I was worried that something bad might have happened to her, shot in a robbery or who knows what. I remembered there was a Historical Society down the street that had a lot of old photos and news papers, and I had the idea of looking back in the old papers for news of her. I knew that in her time it was about a week past the 4th of July, 1881 when I had seen her last, so I began with the paper published on July 6th and went forward. At that time the local paper was only published once a week and was one folded page, by 1890 it had gone to a bi-weekly and each edition had tripled in size. I was amazed that all copies were available on micro film, with no missing issues. I started first with the obituaries, and to my great relief hadn’t found her name even after going through every paper for the next ten years. Later that evening as I was sitting at home on an old couch that we had both been able to share, and hoping she might yet reappear, I had the idea of reading every paper in its entirety looking for news of her. When the proprietor had died, his family no longer had interest in the store and left Kate to manage it, I knew she had hopes of purchasing it one day, and at any rate I knew her determination never to leave, certainly there would be some mention of her.
The next day found me back in the Historical Society Building, looking through each paper in turn, this time reading every printed word, every ad in its entirety. In the third paper I found an item of great interest. It read, “Today, Kate Sellers, manager of O’Brien’s Mercantile on Main Street reported the loss of a valued piece of jewelry. A ring that Miss Sellers was in the habit of keeping in a secret place was discovered to be missing this morning when she went to retrieve it. She is giving her account here rather than to the Constable because she says there was only one other person who knew of her hiding place. That person does not reside in town at this time, but she is sure they will read this paper and she wants them to know that if the ring will be valued as much by them as it is by her, she wants them to keep it.”
I must have reread that item half a dozen times. Kate had made a point of showing me her secret hiding place, between the cushions on “our” sofa, down in the crack where crumbs and sometimes change collects. She had also told me I was the only other person who knew that she used it as a hiding place. That ring was very special to her, she did not wear it when cleaning or when doing anything that might damage or dirty it. It was all she had taken with her when she left home, and I believe it had belonged to a grandmother.
Minutes later I was home, with my hand feeling about between the cushions of our sofa. There were a few crumbs and one quarter, but no ring. In the next three weeks I read and reread every word in every paper from July 6th 1881 to July 1921. There was an article about Kate when a wind storm had done some damage to the store, and mention of her in the ads a few times. Then in May of 1882 began a series of articles about her disappearance. According to the newspaper articles she had closed the store one Wednesday night, was seen by several people locking up, then going through the door leading to her upstairs apartment. Lights were seen in her windows later and she was in fact seen through the window by at least one credible witness. When the store didn’t open the next morning at the usual time, and knocks on her door went unanswered, the Constable broke through the lock and went up stairs. Every thing was in order. There were no signs of a struggle or foul play. Yet she never returned. There were three more articles over the next six months about her disappearance, but no facts ever came to light, nor was she ever heard from again.
I had of course been checking in the sofa every day, sometimes five or ten times, and had not found the ring. Yet I never gave up, and every time I came in the door one of the first things I did was check the sofa. I had faith that it would be there sooner or later, that article that Kate put in the paper had to be intended for me, there could be no other explanation, and if she put the ring there for me, and it disappeared, then sooner or later I must have it. That is just what happened. I came home one day, tired and a bit discouraged from work, perhaps feeling a little sorry for myself but most of all missing her. I slumped down on our sofa and automatically began feeling down between the cushions. The first thing I felt was the ring. Suddenly a dreary, lackluster day became the best day of my life. It was her ring, no doubt about it and it hadn’t been there before. She knew we both had the “use” of that couch, and I remembered that she had always said if you wanted things bad enough, eventually you would get them. She had just proven that loud and clear.
Over the next few days I gave myself countless headaches trying to figure out a time line between her and myself. It was about three weeks in her time between us seeing each other for the last time and when she put the ad in the paper about her missing ring. However for me it was almost two months before I found the ring, that’s counting the week between her disappearance from me and my finding the article in the paper. I wondered if her disappearance in May of 1882 might not mean she came back to me, and her never returning meant she was able to stay. That’s why I was so interested in a time line between us, although it seemed that three weeks to her was closer to six or seven to me.
The days passed into weeks, then months. I still missed her as much as ever but I was determined to think positively that she would return. I tried buying an antique locket and chain that was in a similar style to her ring and that had been made about 1840, I put that in our sofa hoping it would be found by her, but it never was. I also found an old, original copy of the local paper and put that between the cushions of our sofa. It was never found either.
Then one day I had been working in the studio on the computer and decided to go upstairs for lunch, something I was not in the habit of doing. On the way up the stairs I smelled her perfume. It stopped me dead in my tracks. I stood there for a moment and said a silent prayer, then continued slowly up the remaining few steps. She was standing in the living room; the uneasy expression on her face soon replaced by a smile. “Your back,” I was barley able to get out. She shook her head, “I’ve been here the while,” she said through tears. “It’s a Thursday morning in May isn’t it,” I asked. She looked at me with a puzzled expression and nodded, then slowly, smiling, said “you read the papers?”
“Forty years and a few days worth, every word of them,” I replied. To her questioning glance I said, “You never returned.” “I read the accounts of your disappearance in the papers, what else can you tell me?” She replied, “I had closed up the store last night and came up stairs. I was feeling bad, wondering if I’d ever see you again. I sat down on the couch and I guess I cried myself to sleep; this is what I woke up to. I must say I was glad when you came up. I’ve looked out the window once, but have been afraid to again.”
Another year has passed and we’re still together. She has adapted quite well. It took a couple days to work up the courage to walk outside, but it seems she is here for good.
So ends this story to you, my reader, but Kate’s and mine I hope will continue on for years to come.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


I remember when I was very young, maybe 4 or 5 years old, thinking that I was here for a reason. I was playing in the yard, down by a large pine tree, and I ended up sitting under that tree and thinking about things. At that time, I knew that I was on this Earth for a reason. I felt there was something important I would do some day, and I felt that strongly. As the years passed by, I thought that often.
I suppose by the time I was in my 40’s I started doubting that would ever happen, and the more time went by, the less chance I could see of ever making a difference to anyone.
About 3 ½ years ago, I married Evelyn. She is from the Philippines, a very poor country, and she grew up in a poor family. I wanted to find someone like her, someone I could give a better life to, someone who would love me and be my partner for the rest of my life.
A year ago, her oldest Niece was old enough to start college, which I am paying for. A while back I started thinking about making a difference to someone again. Maybe I can? As I was driving down the road one day, with little to do other than think, I started wondering if this might be what I was supposed to accomplish.
Let’s jump ahead 100 years now. In the Philippines, not far from Cebu City, there is a family reunion going on. This family has a reunion every year, but every 10 years they really go all out, and this is one of those 10 year reunions. There are family members here not only from the Philippines, but the USA as well. In the afternoon of the second day (this is a 3 day weekend event) when everyone is present, one of the older ladies brings out a few old photo albums, dog eared and well worn. She opens the oldest to the very first page, and there is a photo of her Great-Great-Great-Great Grandmother Welanie. She was the very first in her family to go to college. There are a few photos of her, then some pictures of her Aunt Evelyn and Uncle Gary, who made this all possible. They paid for the first couple Nieces education, and after that, those Nieces helped the rest of their brothers and sisters along, and a whole family was soon shed of a life of poverty.
That would be a huge accomplishment, and with it would come immortality. I feel that as long as someone is remembered, then they are not really dead. I would be thrilled if I could look down…or more likely up…at that reunion and see Evelyn and I remembered in such a way. See our photographs being looked at by family a hundred years from now, and our names remembered.
So little Welanie’s education is costing me, and so much good it can do. In the little time I have spent in the Philippines, I see how hopeless life there is for many. There are so many good people that will never be able to break free of a life of poverty.
So maybe I’ve found my reason for being here. I can think of none more rewarding or worth while.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Recently, I got into a flying discussion with a current airline Captain, and it got me thinking about my old flying days. I thought it might be interesting for some if I were to tell about my experiences, so here goes.
I don’t really know when I decided to learn to fly, but I remember being at an air show in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and seeing a little red 2-seat plane (probably a homebuilt) for sale. I remember thinking that it would be neat to own one like that. Not long after, I got a divorce, sold off my Auto Repair business and moved to Eau Claire. Like many recently divorced people, I decided to have a go at some of the things on my “to do” list, and I guess that is how and when the decision was made.
I took my very first flight lesson on October 2nd, 1983, when I was 31 years old. It was relatively late in life to end one career and start another, but then I never have been one to conform.
I almost completed my private pilot training at Gibson Aviation in Eau Claire, but bad weather held me up the last couple weeks I was in Wisconsin, and I finished that training at Riverside Aero in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Within a couple weeks, I entered the Commercial/Instrument training course at Spartan School of Aeronautics on Riverside Airport in Tulsa. At the time, Spartan was one of the two most respected pilot training facilities in the country, and the oldest.
I was very fortunate at Spartan. The first instructor I had I did not like, and requested another after the first two lessons. I was then assigned to a new instructor on staff. He had flown Mig 17’s and Mig 21’s in the Polish Air Force and, with his helicopter pilot brother had defected to this country. I remember on about our 2nd or 3rd lesson asking him to show me spins. I explained that while training in Eau Claire, the 2 instructors there were not permitted to do them, and the FAA Designated Examiner would only show me one, not let me do it. Well, John got this BIG smile on his face and said he would be happy to. That day, and every day there after when our flight lesson was complete and we were returning to the airport, John would say….OK…lets head back and climb to 4000 feet, and he’d get this big grin on his face.. Every day, we would climb to 4000 feet, spin down, climb back up, spin down. After I got used to doing the one turn spins, we went to 2 and 3 turns, with recovery on a specified heading. We did spin recoveries under the hood, and later, a few times, we spun down through overcast and made the recoveries in actual IMC.
After my Commercial and Instrument check rides, I immediately took my Flight Instructors training and check ride. My CFI ride was in the morning, and I had my first student that afternoon. I started instructing at the Haskell Airport, about 25 miles from Tulsa. They had a C-152 Aerobat to train in, and a couple students waiting. I remember one time myself and a friend from Spartan, Margarita, took the Aerobat up and were seeing how high we could get the G-meter to go. (For you non-pilots, that’s G force….or one gravity force) Margarita was a very pretty Mexican girl of about 100 pounds, with a very impressive chest. It was really a hoot to watch her when we would pull the higher G’s, both negative and positive. I don’t think she ever did figure out why I was so amused.
I stayed at Haskell only a few months, and then began freelancing out of Riverside. There were 3 FBO’s there that I used. (An FBO is aviations version of a gas station) I got my students by making up flyers and going around at night putting them under the windshield wipers of cars. The funny thing is, I was far busier than any of the Instructors that actually worked at those FBO’s. I also got a pager and took to just hanging out at the airport. Many times I got biennial’s or check outs, even new students, just because I was right there and ready to go.
I took my private pilot, commercial pilot and instrument check rides with an old P-51 Fighter pilot from WWII, and my CFI ride with another examiner, also a WWII Fighter Pilot who had flown P-51’s and P-47’s. I want to tell you one of the stories he was fond of telling.
It seems he was returning to base on England one day, and was indulging in a little low flying. He was following a dirt road that he knew would take him to the base. As he crested a small hill; he met a single GI in a jeep. Things were happening pretty fast, I suppose Jimmy was moving at least 250 MPH, and must have been VERY low. He said he thought for sure he was going to hit the jeep, he yanked back on the stick and rolled as soon as he could…..he looked down and back to see the driver of the jeep had bailed out, the jeep was still moving down the road all by itself. He thought there would be hell to pay when he got to base, but nothing was ever said to him about it.
I guess I instructed for about 6 months or so before I had my first instrument student. I started him in training and began my CFII (Certified Flight Instructor Instrument) training and took the check ride.
It was about another 6 months before I returned to Spartan for my Multi-Engine rating in their Beachcraft Duchess. The examiner I had for that check ride was a former military pilot and certified jerk. Everyone (myself included) was scared to death of having him for a check ride because his fail rate was very high. I remember thinking the ride was going fairly well until he cut an engine on me during an ILS approach at Okmulgee. We were in VMC and I was under the hood, simulating instrument conditions. At DH he had not removed the hood, so I executed a missed approach, cleaned the airplane up and contacted approach on the miss. They assigned me a left turn, which was into the dead engine. I complied, and the examiner jumped all over me….HEY, YOUR TURNING INTO THE DEAD ENGINE….WHAT WERE YOU TOUGHT BY YOUR INSTRUCTOR? I told him that since I was using less than a standard rate turn, (very shallow bank) and indicated airspeed was well above VMC, (Velocity Minimum Controllable) there was no danger turning into the dead engine, and besides, a left turn was out over farm area, where a right turn would take me over the city, which I did not want to be over if the other engine quit.
He never said a word; we finished the ride, including another single engine VOR approach back into Riverside. I did not know what to expect, I knew he was a real stickler for the rules, and I kind of expected to bust the ride. Once we were parked and the engines shut down, he made some notes, then asked me to explain about my reasons for turning into a dead engine. When I finished, he nodded his head and said “very good ride, let’s go write up your new rating.”
That was the only ride I ever had to take with him, much to my relief. He was the only Examiner in the area that could give ATP rides, so he was at Riverside a lot. He also flew a corporate King Air for some company in Tulsa. As I said before, he really made a name for himself as a hard ass, and of being totally unforgiving of ANY mistakes. Then, one day he was flying the King Air. For some reason he had popped the circuit breaker for the gear warning. When the time came to land, the circuit breaker was forgotten, and so was putting the gear down. That shiny corporate King Air bellied into the Bartlesville, Oklahoma airport. After that incident, he never returned to Riverside to give a single check ride. That incident proved a couple things to me that have served me well to know. Number One, never, ever say “Let me show you how to do that” and Number Two, there are those that have, and those that will.
I started my Multi-engine instructor training in a Seneca I at Tulsa International, and finished in the Duchess at Spartan. When I took and passed that ride, I could instruct in both aircraft. A month or so went by, and I wasn’t getting much Multi time, so following a lead, I found a guy who owned 3 Twin Comanche’s, and I talked him into putting one of them on line at Riverside Aero, where I was doing most of my freelancing out of. I flew that Twin Comanche a lot. I gave about 100 hours of instruction in it…including giving my then Ob/Gyn Doctor girlfriend her multi-engine rating. I also did a lot of Pilot services with it. I loved that airplane. The Twin Comanche is the plane that made the FAA come up with VMC ratings…it is a very fast and unforgiving aircraft, but a supreme pleasure to fly.
After 1500 hours of logged flight time, I went to Olathe, Kansas and did my ATP (Airline Transport Pilot) rating in a Grumman Cougar.
During that time, I also started doing ferry work for the largest aircraft dealer in the world.
Red S Aircraft (Red Stevens) was based at Tulsa Riverside, and I had wandered over there a few times. That is where I found the Grumman Tiger that my girlfriend purchased and finished her private training in, and did her instrument rating in. John Denver and Roy Clark had both purchased airplanes from Red, and were on occasion found hanging out there, as were several former Pro-football players and Pro-wrestlers, WaHoo McDaniels is one name that comes to mind, and Cowboy Bill Watts was running one of the FBO’s not far from Red’s place, so there was always something interesting going on.
My first flight for Red was picking up an old Civil Air Patrol C-150. It took a couple 5 gallon cans of fuel, jumper cables, and wasp killer to get it ready to fly, and nothing worked on it, and I do mean nothing, not even the airspeed indicator. Both I and the Cessna made it back to Red’s place on time, and none the worse for wear, after that I did occasional flights for him and another dealer on the field. Once, Red filled about a third of a South West Airlines 737 with pilots, and we all flew out to Los Angles to pick up a group of aircraft he had purchased sight unseen. I flew back a stiff leg C-182, and there were a couple Lears, and I don’t remember what else.
Red was quite a guy, and I liked him, despite the fact that Oliver North was one of his heroes. He held altitude records for hot air balloon, had flown hundreds of different aircraft, and even wrote a book about his adventures which was published, “My Life and How I Flew It.”
I had been sending out, on average, about 50 resumes a week, and early one morning, when it was still dark out and pouring rain, my phone rings. It is the Chief pilot from TCNA. (Turks and Caicos National Airlines) He wants me to fly down for an interview, and a few days later I arrive on Grand Turk in the British West Indies. The job was flying BN-2’s inter-island, and also to Haiti and the Dominican Republic, with occasional flights to South Florida and the Bahamas. The BN-2’s or Islanders are British built, and ugly. They are very heavy on the controls, extremely slow and most pilots do not want to be seen getting in or out of one, but they are great island airplanes. I have heard many times of Pilots landing them backwards. If I remember right, VSO is 39 knots, and VMC is 38, so in ground effect, with a good stiff headwind, it is very possible many did it. My personal best was crossing a 3 foot high fence on Salt Key, fully loaded, touching down and turning into the parking area without using a bit of brakes, total distance, about 2 airplane lengths.
After I passed 500 hours of multi-engine time, I quit from TCNA and returned to the US. My Girlfriend had finished her residency and was starting private practice in Pensacola, Florida. We bought a home on a private airpark near Jay, and I started looking for flying jobs. It did not take long to discover that there were no jobs in the area, and no prospects. I was in Pensacola for about two months, then took a flying job with a commuter based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. They flew C-402 C models to the Bahamas and I was with them a little over a year. One night I returned from my flights, went up to op’s and checked my line for the next day, and went home. The next morning when I came to work, the place was locked up tight.
There was one funny event that happened I want to tell about. One night I was ready to depart Freeport, on Grand Bahama Island for Fort Lauderdale. I had a full load which included 2 white Americans and 7 black Bahamians. There were some small thunderstorms in the area, and gusty winds, but nothing to worry about. I had already started the engines and received taxi clearance when all the lights on the field went out. Ground advised I return to the ramp area and wait until they could get the lights back on, which I did. On parking on the ramp, I shut down the engines to wait. Once the engines were off, it was dead quite and completely dark in the plane, and you could hear the wind gusts, and feel the plane rocking from them. A few minutes pass, and one passenger turns on an overhead light. I see all the Bahamians are frightened. Finally, a girl of about 20 says “God turned off the lights because he does not want us to leave.” She was ready to get out right there, but I convinced her to wait until I could get someone outside to help her...It seems she had a baby or small child with her. By the time some one came, and that girl was getting off, the Bahamians were all getting quite nervous. As that one girl steps off the plane, a big, strapping guy of about 30 says, “well, if God don’t want us to go, I guess I’ll get off too.” Once he was up and heading for the door, every Bahamian on that plane got off. Within 5 minutes, the lights were back on, and I departed for Fort Lauderdale with the two white Americans. We all had a good laugh about that on the way back.
It only took a couple weeks to find a job flying another BN-2 The lady who owned the operation flew divers into the Bahamas for diving excursions, and also flew provisions to some of the more remote islands. Her X-husband held several diving records, and owned some dive shops in the islands. They had started the 135 business together when they were first married. I enjoyed working there, it was a more relaxed atmosphere, the Feds were not around as much, and Vicki was one very serious Babe. Even though we both knew better, we ended up dating a few times. All went well until she lost her Bahamas route certification because she would not pay some required “fees,” or, more accurately, bribes, and I once again found myself looking for work.
I had talked with the Chief Pilot of another C-402 carrier, he had even offered me a job, but I had declined it when Vicki’s operation was still up and running. Now, I looked him up, and soon had an interview and flight test with that company. I began flying for Airways International shortly after. They were based in Miami, and flew about 40 C-402’s, a Lear 25 and 3 Shorts SD-30’s. With them, I overnighted in the Bahamas 5 or 6 nights a week. They also flew into Key West, and they had a condo and car there for the pilots, so I got to know Duvall Street quite well on the over nights there.
During my time in South Florida, I started to meet the first really interesting women I had ever known. Many are still friends today, and in some ways, I think back on those days with fond memories.
I was with Airways International for about two years flying the 402’s. (Bear in mind that a C-402 is a 10 seat, or 9 passenger airplane. I could put a passenger in the co-pilots seat)
When I first started with them, the Director of Operations did not like me to well, our paths had crossed in the Bahamas a time or two…enough said. As time passed though, that changed, and the owner also liked me because I did not care about crossing all the T’s and dotting all the I’s. I was willing to take the extra passenger, or the extra bag, even if I was a little over weight, and that willingness on my part got me on some of the more choice flights. Several times a year, we would have a charter to different Islands for magazine and fashion photo shoots. One of the SD-30’s would go out first with the photographers and equipment, and the next day, the models would arrive. I often got to haul the models….a real tough job, but someone had to do it.
During that time I also carried the band “The Culture Club” and members of “Oingo Boingo.” Barbra Mandrel and her sisters went twice a year to their place on Treasure Key in the Abaco’s, and I had them on my flights a couple times. Louise, the cute one with black hair, I had in the co-pilot seat once, and got to spend some time talking with her.
Once, on a 30 minute flight from Fort Lauderdale to Freeport, Grand Bahamas, I had quite a scare. I had a full load that day, and had put a small but quite fat girl in the seat directly behind me. I guess she was worried about getting hungry on that half hour flight, and had put a bag of emergency potato chips in her purse, which she held on her lap. The purse would have been inches behind my head, and bear in mind, a C-402 is an unpressurized airplane. As I climbed through about 3000 feet I heard what sounded for all the world like a gun shot. I jumped and turned to see smoke rising out of the purse previously mentioned. The bag of chips, bought at a sea level store, had blown up as we climbed and outside air pressure decreased. A very red faced girl ate them before we arrived in Freeport.
One thing I always liked to do, especially if I had passengers that seemed excited about going on their trip, was to ask if they would prefer to go up high, where it was cool, or stay low and sight see. The islands and waters of the Bahamas are beautiful, especially around the Eleuthra and Exuma chains. Many of the James Bond, 007 movies were in part shot there, and there are many wrecked airplanes, sunken ships, and all manor of curiosity’s to see.
One day I had 4 mid-30ish couples from Iowa on my flight. It was obvious they were all traveling together, and were very excited about their vacation to the Bahamas. They were heading for Georgetown, on the Southern end of the Exuma chain. My normal procedure was to climb off Miami or Fort Lauderdale, and as soon as I was about 10 miles out cancel flight following and get the headsets off. I would over fly Bimini, cross Andros Island, pass just south of Nassau and join the Exuma chain near the northern end and follow it south to Georgetown. That made for a slight dog leg in the route and maybe add 10 minutes to the flight but gave the opportunity to show my passengers several of the more famous sites, including the Bimini road, Alice Town on Bimini where Hemmingway spent a lot of time, several of the 007 movie locations and so on.
I had the cutest girl in the co-pilot seat, her husband was behind her, and the other couples were side by side behind him. I remember one girl had a video cam she was using a lot. As we neared the Exumas I saw a sail boat anchored in a bay, by a remote beach. We were at about 100 feet above the surface, and I decided to make my right turn to head south around that sail boat. About the time we were almost directly over the sail boat, one of the girls yells something, and everybody else joins in, they are laughing and the girl with the video camera is really trying hard to get video of something. I made the turn and began following the islands south, the passengers are settling down, and the girl in the co-pilots seat looks at me and is a little red faced, but laughing. I ask her what was going on down there. She says “there was a man and woman on the boat.” Her husband behind her, holds up his hand, makes a circle with his thumb and 1st finger, then, puts the 1st finger of the other hand into that circle and moves it back and forth. Seems the Captain had his First Mate bent over the railing and was giving it to her doggy style. I’ll bet they are a very popular couple in Iowa even today.
Near the end of my airline career, I was sitting in Key West and was assigned a charter to Nassau. The charter was for a single lady, in her late 20’s I’d guess, and fairly attractive. I filed my flight plan; got the plane ready, and soon my passenger arrived. As we walked to the aircraft, I told her she could sit anywhere she liked, and she asks for the co-pilots seat. She placed her only bag in the rear of the passenger compartment, and we departed Key West. As soon as I was clear of the Airport traffic area, I called Miami Flight Service to open my flight plan. They had lost the flight plan, (not uncommon) and as we climbed to altitude I ask to air file. The girl at Miami Flight Service was a real Bitch. At first she refused…which technically she could not do. She finally took the air file, but the delay was to be costly for me down the line.
My passenger was asking questions about the resorts in the Bahamas. She had a meeting in Nassau with the Minister of Tourism, and wanted some input from me since I had by then spent a lot of time in the islands. We talked for a while, and she asked how much longer to Nassau, because her appointment time was not far away. I think we were about 30 minutes out; I showed her the DME with distance and time to station readouts. She says “hey, I better change; I can’t go like this….do you mind if I change in the plane??” I of course did not, and she walked back to get her bag, then came back up front. At this time, the auto pilot was doing the flying, and I was turned, sitting sideways, facing the isle. When she got back up front, and was standing just behind the co-pilots seat, she just lifted her sun dress up and over her head, kicked off her sandals, and was totally nude. She then proceeded to fix her hair, do a quick touch up on her make up, put on some stockings, fairly high heels, panties, and finally her dress. By then, it was time to call Nassau Approach and get ready to land. It was a couple hours later before it dawned on me that I should have ask her for a phone number.
In a matter of days I heard from the FAA. They said I had crossed the ADIZ (Air Defense Intercept Zone) without a flight plan. Explaining that I had in fact filed, but Miami had lost it, and explaining about the delay with the airfile did no good. Our POI (Principle Operations Inspector) had a real hatred for the owner of Airways International, who happened to be Arab. He had walked into the ready room one day when about 15 of us pilots were there, and made the statement that he did not like Johan (the owner), did not like the way he run his airline, and was going to shut him down, even if he had to violate every pilot that flew for him. To a few of us older guys, that was just an idle threat and made no impression, but many of the Captains there were early to mid-20’s, and had visions of the Majors dancing in their heads. They could not afford a single violation, and they, and our POI knew it. I and a couple of the older Captains just basically ignored his threats. He would come in and ask who was flying a certain airplane, then proceed to list a couple things he found wrong with it, like an oil leak or low tire. He did that to me a couple times, but I would just go out and look at the plane, seem real concerned, then come back in and say I saw nothing wrong, and refuse to write it up. The younger guys though, when put on the spot, would write up the alleged problem. The aircraft would then have to be removed from service, a qualified mechanic would have to inspect it and sign it off as airworthy. Doing that was just a nuisance, but it delayed flights and annoyed passengers.
The FAA was pressuring Johan to fire me, but he refused. He did tell me all he could do was hold them off for a while; he was going to have to fire me unless I admitted to the violation and took a 30 day suspension of my ATP privileges. I decided to fight the FAA and hired an Aviation attorney. Within about 2 or 3 weeks, Johan called me at home, and said he had to terminate me because of pressure from the FAA. I ended up winning the case and was cleared of any wrong doing, the FAA even admitted they knew there was a problem with the Miami FSS losing flight plans, but the FAA really got more than they ask for. I lost my job; spent money on legal fee’s and tied up a year’s time when no other airline would even talk to me because of the on going case. I did that all to try and keep my record clean.
During that time, and also between jobs, I had continued to do an occasional ferry flight, a little flight instructing and so on. I was starting to fly aerobatics, first a Citrabia, then Super Decathlon and finally a Pitts S2. When I started the advanced aerobatics, my instructor had me start some of his students in the tail-wheel transition and basic aerobatics courses. I would fly the first few lessons with them, do the tail-wheel sign off in a Maule. Then in the Citabria and/or Super Decathlon basic maneuvers and spins, loops and rolls. Flying was starting to be fun again. I was thinking about air shows, about competing in them, thought about buying a Pitts or Christian Eagle, but financially I could not swing it.
The airlines, even the not quite top of the line commuters I had flown for, were far to structured for my taste. I hated wearing the shirt/tie/jacket/eppulates/and gold wings. I called it my “space suit.”
The pilots I had always admired were the old mail pilots of the 20’s 30’s and 40’s. Many of them were WWI fighter pilots, and in fact, many of the early mail planes were surplus Jenny’s. I remember a story told of a certain airport in the mountains that was almost always covered in a low overcast early in the morning. There were no instrument approaches in them days, and the mountains made it impossible to get in under the clouds. There was a NDB (non-directional beacon) right at the field though, and the mail pilots would approach the NDB from altitude, then when directly overhead, stall and spin down through the overcast which often was only a few hundred feet AGL. (Above ground level) Perhaps I was born 50 years too late.
In South Florida, many of the Airports are former WWII training bases. Fort Lauderdale International is where Former president George Bush did some training in an Avenger. Hollywood North Perry, about 10 miles away is another. Opa Locka, a little farther south and West was also a WWII training field, and is where Amelia Earheart touched the soil of the USA for the last time.
My last flying job was off Opa Locka flying air ambulance. That company had a Seneca II, a couple King-Airs and a Citation. I was hired to fly the Seneca, and often times I would just go hang out at the airport like I did in my old Flight Instructor days. That company also flew Part 135 charters, so it paid me to be there and available at short notice. I had flown a couple “Life Flight” flights. They were non-critical flights, mostly older people going from a hospital up to Orlando or Tampa, or coming back to the Miami area.
One night I was watching TV in the operations building when the dispatcher hollered out he had a “Life Guard” flight if I wanted it. Life Guard is a critical flight, a life or lives are at stake, unlike a “Life Flight” flight. Asking if I wanted it was strange, but I soon found out why. This was summer in South Florida, home to numerous level 4 and 5 thunder storms almost every night. There had been a stabbing out in a small town in the Everglades. The Air Rescue helicopters could not even get off the ground in Naples or Fort Meyers because there were some very serious storms all up and down the west coast. On the East coast the weather was much better, and for most of the flight over the conditions would also be pretty good.
I was ready to go in a few minutes, and as the Med Tech approached the plane, I was starting the engines. There was an uncontrolled, unlit airport near where the stabbing had occurred, and the local police or sheriff was going to be there to meet us. The police also had a radio that could communicate on the multi-com frequency (122.9 ) that some uncontrolled airports, and crop dusters use, so I could be in contact with them enroute.
I was talking to Miami approach, and receiving vectors to a small town near the airport. They advised heavy weather to the South West moving North East quite rapidly, with imbedded level 4 and 5 thunderstorms. Without actually saying it, they were telling me if I was going to get in and out of there, I had better be quick about it. About 20 miles out I started to hit heavy rain, although conditions were still marginal VFR. By that time I could also talk to the police who were waiting for us, and I was advised to fly to the town, turn due south and follow a road about 3 miles to the airport. I remember the officer saying that just before the airport, the road jogged left, and the runway would look like the road running straight….I guess he thought I could see a lot better than was possible under the conditions at the time. I was down to the minimum safe altitude for that area, and maybe even a little less, 1500 AGL. The police advised heavy rain and strong, gusty winds at the field. He said his police car would be at the near end of the runway with headlights pointing down the runway and flashers going, another truck would be at the far end of the runway, with the headlights pointing towards me. By the time I reached the town, I was at about 900 feet and in heavy rain, I was still well below any clouds, but visibility was very poor. I found the road I was to follow with no problem and dropped a little lower. The rain was still heavy, and turbulence was getting quite bad. A long time seemed to pass, but I finally saw the flashing lights of the police car only about a quarter mile in front. I already had the gear down and 20 degrees of flaps out, all I dared use, so all I had to do was land in what seemed a bottomless pit, I never did really see the runway, just a glimpse or two of the white centerline markings.
Our patient was in the truck at the far end of the runway, and there were three people there I think that helped load him. In only a couple minutes we were ready to go, but by now, the wind was coming from all directions, the rain was heavy and the lightning and thunder almost constant. The Med Tech was strapping our patient down for departure and I asked him if he (the patient) had time to let the storm pass, he shook his head no. Words like wind shear and hydroplaning kept running through my head but I knew I was going to go. We took a pretty good beating, especially the Med Tech who did not get fully strapped in before takeoff, but we got out of there and I picked up a heading for Opa Locka. Within 30 or 40 miles, I was in smooth air and good VFR. At Opa Locka, our patient was transferred to an ambulance and transported to the hospital. He arrived there alive, with one serious stab wound in his chest, and several others to his face and arms.
That was my last flight with that company. Not long after, there was a problem with the Seneca and it was sold. I was offered right seat in either of the King-Airs or the Citation, but I declined.
My last logged flight was a few weeks later in a PA-23-150. An already multi-engine rated pilot had purchased an old Apache Twin and for insurance purposes I was giving him a check out. That flight was 1.2 hours on January 23, 1996, exactly 11 years ago today.
Twelve years three months and twenty-one days passed between that first flight as a student pilot and my last flight (Last flight to date anyway) as an ATP with CFII and MEI ratings. In that time I logged a total of approximately 6,500 hours total time, about 4,500 of those hours in multi-engine aircraft and about 1,600 hours as Instructor. I flew over 50 different makes and models of single engine, and over 20 different makes and models of multi-engine aircraft. The least time in a make and model was 4/10’s of an hour on a ferry flight in a Twin Bonanza, or T-Bone, and the most would be close to 2000 hours in C-402 C-models. As I write this, I do not have my log books available but I know those numbers are very close.
What do I wish would have happened, what do I wish I could have done? The answer might surprise some, but here goes. Given a choice of any aircraft that was ever made to fly a few hours in, my first choice, without the slightest hesitation, would be one of the later versions of the A6M, or, as it is better known, the Japanese Zero of WWII fame. Following in second place would be the German fighters of the same time, the American P-38 and then any other of the WWII fighters. Realistically though, chances of flying aircraft like that are almost non-existent.
The DC-3 and Beech 18 were two older aircraft I would have jumped at the chance to fly, along with the more modern Lear 24 or 25 and the MU-2.
I had lusted after a job with one of the 707/DC-8 freight carriers, even had a friend and former student who got on with one because his father was a senior pilot there. The father tried to get me an interview, but my uncorrected eye sight was so bad the company would not consider me. That would have been a great job for a few years, even if I would have had to wear a space suit again.
In the last 11 years I have thought many times of what might have been, but I have no regrets. I know I would not have been happy for long flying crew airplanes, even the single pilot flying I was doing for the airlines was starting to irritate me. The space suits and GQ, clean cut looks are not for me on an everyday basis.

Flying II…The Emergency’s

There is a saying I have heard many times about flying. It says “flying can best be defined as hours and hours of boredom, punctuated by a few seconds of stark terror.” It took several years of flying professionally to fully appreciate the truth of that quote.
When I was instructing, I required my students to read in the NTSB Reporter and Aviation Safety News. (Those papers deal with aviation accidents.) I also was very strict on emergency procedures and safety. So many times I saw students or licensed pilots go through a routine during a simulated emergency without really thinking about what they were doing, and I knew in a real emergency they would likely end up in one of those papers as a statistic if they were not shown a better way. The other serious flaw I saw in the training of most pilots is that almost none of them were ready to accept any damage to the aircraft. So many times, a bent prop or damaged wing tip could have been the extent of the damage, but because the pilot in command was not ready to accept that, people died and aircraft were totaled.
Now, I think it is time to relate a few of my own real life emergencies, minor as they were, and tell about a few simulated ones in training, and how some pilots reacted to them.
Sherman’s Check out.
I think the best story to illustrate what I mean about pilots going through simulated emergency procedures without really thinking what they are doing is a check out I did for the A&P mechanic at one of the FBO’s where I instructed.
Sherman was in his mid-20’s, and had a couple hundred hours on a private ticket. He already had a complex and hi-performance sign off; I was just checking him out in the FBO’s C-182 RG. Make no mistake, Sherman was a good pilot, and being an A&P, he understood aircraft systems, although as you will see, in times of stress, we can forget even the things we know best.
We had gone through all the maneuvers, stalls, slow flight, etc, and I had simulated engine failure a couple times by pulling the throttle back. (Which is how it is usually done.) Sherman handled everything very well. He had his sign off in the bag, but I knew he was reacting to the emergencies by rote. I decided to throw him a bit of a curve. I ask him to do some maneuver or other, and when he was doing a clearing turn and looking over his left shoulder, I reached down on the floor between our seats and turned the fuel selector to off. This actually cuts off the fuel supply to the engine, but there is about 30 to 45 second lag before the engine dies. By the time the engine quit, I was very innocently sitting looking at my map; my hand was no where near the throttle or the fuel selector. Sherman’s reaction was one of total disbelief….he said “Shit…F—k…Damn…in quick succession a few times…touched the throttle, and that was about all. I suggested he go through the emergency procedure he had demonstrated so well earlier. He followed that suggestion, INCLUDING ACTUALLY TOUCHING the fuel selector and saying “fuel selector on both.” He also began pointing out a small airport and some large open fields where he thought we might make an emergency landing. I waited a few seconds and ask him to go through the emergency procedures again….SLOWER….and to think about what he was doing. He went through it again and STILL MISSED that the fuel selector was in the off position. He was still repeating the “Shit…F—k…Damn” every now and then, but I got him to go through the procedure a third time…he finally caught the fuel selector had been turned off, switched it to the both position, and in a couple seconds, the engine started again.
He told that story all over the airport, and I think had several good laughs at himself.
The Simulated Emergency That Almost Was.
Once when I was doing some instructing at North Perry Airport, an instructor that was freelancing at another FBO came over for a check out. She was early 20’s I’d guess, and cute as anything. I guess she was unhappy instructing where she was, and wanted to start flying out of this FBO. Insurance requires a check out and sign off by an instructor already at that location, which fell to me. Now, I didn’t want to waste this girls money on a full blown check out, and I planned a “quickie” that I used for many experienced pilots just needing to satisfy the insurance requirements.
I would tell them to do a short field take off, but rather than recovering at 50 feet AGL to keep the short field procedure going to 100 feet AGL.
On the check out, upon reaching 100 feet AGL, I would chop the throttle to simulate an engine failure, and if they did everything real good, we could land on the remaining runway. They of course did not know what I had planned, and if they reacted wrong, or to slowly, we would just add power and go around.
In a C-152 a short field take off is done at 54 knots indicated, with 10 degrees of flaps. When I cut the engine, the correct response would be to immediately drop the nose to maintain airspeed, dump full flaps, and even do a slip to increase descent rate further.
On this occasion, at 100 feet, I chopped the throttle and….OhhhhhShiiiiiitt…..the throttle knob and about 6 inches of cable came right out of the instrument panel….the cable was broken, we now only had idle power available on the engine. I think we both simultaneously pushed that little Cessna’s nose towards the ground and her left hand and my right were slapping the flap handle full down, after a couple seconds I remembered to kick full rudder one way, full aileron the other to do a slip. I had requested “the option” from the tower, which meant we could do a take off, abort, or what ever, and I doubt they suspected anything was wrong. We made a somewhat firm landing, with plenty of runway in front of us, and were taxing at idle power to clear the runway. The tower ask us to expedite off the runway…I would love to have seen the looks on their faces when I replied “unable to expedite, we only have idle power.”
We walked in the FBO together after parking the plane, and I handed the owner the throttle knob….he took it in his hand…looked at it a second, and asked, “What’s this?” I think he almost fell over when I told him what happened.
I Think I’ll Just Sit Here For A Bit Longer.
Pilots are not the only ones in aviation that make mistakes. The following happened to me one day as I was ready to depart West Palm Beach International for the Bahamas on a scheduled flight. As I neared the departure end of the runway, ground handed me off to the tower, and I checked in with them by saying “Airways 123 is with you, ready to go on the right.” As I said that, I was looking at a small general aviation twin on short final to my runway, and expected the controller to tell me to hold short. Instead, the controller clears me for take off. The controller was obviously unaware of the aircraft on short final. I replied, “Ahh, tower, I think I’ll hold short for a little bit.” There was silence, when I’m sure the controller was using his binoculars to see why I wanted to just sit there. Within 15 or 20 seconds, the aircraft, an Aerostar, was over the numbers and the controller asks if I can taxi into position and hold, and I replied I could. Once the Aerostar cleared the runway, I was given take off clearance, and on climb out, the controller actually apologized to me. He said the Aerostar was cleared for the left runway, not the right. (At West Palm Beach, 27L is a very small general aviation runway, and hard to see if unfamiliar with the airport.) He asked if I would like to make a report, which I declined to do. I would guess all that came of that incident was the pilot of the Aerostar would have been asked to call the tower, and tower personnel would have told him he landed on the wrong runway. Unless the FAA turds were monitoring the frequency, then, both the Aerostar pilot and the controller who missed him being on the wrong runway would have probably gotten violated. That is why I declined to file a report. Everybody drops the ball sometimes, as long as one of us caught the mistake, there was no danger at all, even if I had accepted the first take off clearance, the Aerostar would have just made a go around.
Bird Strike.
One day I left Fort Lauderdale Airport with 4 or 5 passengers and headed for Miami, where I was to pick up a few more, then head to the Bahamas. It is about 25 miles between the two airports, and a very scenic flight. One lady out of Fort Lauderdale was very frightened, not only of flying, but especially of being in a small commuter aircraft. I put her in the co-pilots seat, and told her I would show her a little about the plane and the area, and that I bet she would not be so scared of flying if she understood a little more about it. After departing Fort Lauderdale, I was showing the passengers the Football Stadium where the Miami team plays it’s games, Opa Locka Airport where Amelia Earheart last sat foot in the USA, and a few other sights. The lady up front seemed relaxed and actually enjoying the flight, at least after the first few minutes.
We were almost to Miami and making a shallow right turn when I caught a quick glimpse of something out of my left eye and BANG…something, either a buzzard or a brown pelican, hit the leading edge of the left wing between the fuselage and the left engine. The prop was not damaged, in fact it did not look like it even had been hit, but the wing’s leading edge was pushed back in a lot. I reduced power on the left engine, just in case the prop had been hit, the last thing I wanted was a prop blade flying loose, and we made a normal landing at Miami. Unfortunately, that was it for that particular aircraft for a few days, and my passengers went on to the Bahamas with another flight.
The Bermuda Triangle.
Well over 4000 of my flight hours were spent in the Bermuda Triangle and I must admit I am a little disappointed I didn’t see something exciting and unusual. Something that might be expected in an area with the reputation that the Bermuda triangle has. In fact, I saw more weird things inside the plane, from my passengers, than outside. However, there was one night I got a taste of how easy it could be for a plane to just mysteriously vanish in that area, as many have.
I had a flight from Miami to George Town, near the bottom of the Exuma chain. Normally in a C-402, that is just under a two hour flight. I had flown that route many times, always VFR if possible and I could do it without any navigation aids at all if needed. On this night it was just getting near sunset as I left Miami. The Bimini VOR must have been down, because I was using the NDB there for reference. I crossed south of Bimini right on course, and I remember thinking about the NDB signals “bending” at a shore line at sunset. I had never experienced that before, only read about it, and was curious how much the signal would be affected. By the time I crossed the western shore of Andros Island I was still on course and on the proper bearing off Bimini. I could still see ground reference as I crossed Andros, and was exactly on course as I crossed the Eastern shore. I could see the lights at Nassau to my North East, and I still was showing the proper bearing off Bimini. Everything was perfect. Now, I had about 30 minutes of Open Ocean to cross before I would see the Exuma chain, or at least some lights in the towns there. I think the moon must have been up, because I was looking for the scrub cays, I remember thinking the water looked very dark…something did not seem right. I tried the localizer frequency for George Town, but it was not operating, as usual. I remember looking at the ocean and thinking, this is deep water, I’m not over the Bahama banks anymore, this isn’t right. My 30 minutes and more had passed, no lights could be seen in front of me, but far off my left wing tip was a bright light I had just noticed. I checked every frequency there was in the area for navigation aids, but could get nothing. I looked at that black ocean again, and turned towards the bright light on my wing tip. 20 minutes later, I could see the airport beacon and the lights of George Town. Had I kept going the direction I was headed when I first saw that light, I would have had several hundred miles of Atlantic Ocean in front of me. I am still amazed that in 30 minutes time things could go so wrong, and I was still on my same heading and the same bearing off the Bimini NDB.
To this day I can not explain why what happened, happened. I was on the proper bearing, still flying the same heading that I had been flying to maintain that bearing when I knew I was tracking right on course. I should have joined the Exuma chain about 20 miles North of George Town, not passed 40 or 50 miles South. Nothing was wrong, there were no mistakes…yet…..??
One Night, One Aircraft, Two Engine Failures.
I had flown a Pilot Services flight in the Twin Comanche from Tulsa to somewhere in Kentucky, dropped off my two passengers, and was returning to Tulsa. I had about an hour fuel reserve for the trip and the night was good VFR so I intended to make the flight non-stop. Somewhere near the Springdale/Rogers Arkansas area the right engine just up and quit. There were a couple airports very close, so I just shut the engine down, feathered the prop and went into one of them. I could not believe I was out of fuel, but after putting fuel in both tanks, both engines started and ran normally. I did a long run up before departure, and finally satisfied that for some reason I had ran out of fuel in the right tank, I departed. I planned to climb to 4,500 feet, and I canceled flight following as soon as I was clear of the Airport Traffic Area. I no more than leveled out, set the airplane up for cruise and settled back to enjoy the view when the right engine quit again. It seems like I was only about 100 miles from Riverside Airport, and now I knew I had plenty of fuel, so I had no intention of landing anywhere but Riverside. I did decide to pick up flight following again though, and when close enough contacted Tulsa approach and told them my location, and that I was VFR single engine for Riverside. They ask if I wanted the trucks out, but I said no need. The night was beautiful VMC with unlimited visibility, and as I got closer to Riverside and was trying to spot the airport beacon, I saw a mass of flashing red lights that seemed to be coming from right near where the airport should be. Sure enough, another few minutes I picked out the beacon, still a good 50 miles away, and those red lights were right by it. Turns out someone decided that the EMT and Fire Fighters did not get much excitement, so all the fire trucks and ambulances responded. Spartan was having a Multi-Engine ground school that night, and the class even turned out to watch me land. For those non-pilots reading this, a single engine approach in a twin engine airplane is a simple and straight forward thing, no big deal if you know what to do.
The biggest challenge was taxing to parking. The owner of the FBO where I flew out of was still on the field, and had been notified I was coming in on one engine. He and the fuel truck driver met me on the taxi way, and when I was making a left turn, one held back on the left wing tip, while the other walked the right wing tip around. That was about the only way I could make a left turn with the right engine not running.
As it turned out, the problem was a loose piece of gasket material in the right fuel pump that occasionally blocked the fuel flow.
Holding With Margarita.
I have mentioned Margarita before. She was a gorgeous little Mexican girl, who I had been friends with since she came to Spartan to start her Private training. She was 18 or 19 at that time, and I was about half way through my Commercial/Instrument training, and I guess about 33 or so. At Spartan we both had the same instructor, the former Mig pilot.
Lets jump ahead a bit now. I had done some of Margarita’s Multi-Engine training in the Twin Comanche, and was working with her on her Instrument Instructor rating. She had been having some troubles with intersection holds, and John (her Spartan instructor,) suggested I help her a little. One night found us holding at the Kevil and Sappa Intersections south west of Tulsa. We were filed IFR and were in IMC. I would have her enter a hold at one of those intersections, get established, then move to the next. I always changed things enough so that she would have a different type of entry each time. At one of the intersections, we were almost VMC, so I requested higher from Tulsa approach, and it was granted. We climbed to the new altitude, which kept us IMC 100% of the time. I was left seat because she was working on the Instrument Instructor rating, and I think at that time I was doing the flying and making every mistake I could think of to keep her busy. All at once she points to the airspeed indicator, which was reading zero…..One of us grabbed a flashlight and shone it out along the wing where the Pitot tube was. It was encased in white rime ice. A look on the wing showed a couple inches on the leading edge. We were in a C-152, which I really did not think would fly with a ice build up like that. We started down and notified Tulsa what we were doing and why, and lower was immediately approved. The scariest part was hearing the chunks of ice come off the wings and blow back and hit the tail. 500 feet made all the difference between icing and not, and the build up was very fast, only a very few minutes.
There Are Those That Have, And Those That Will.
The only plane I ever damaged was an EAA Bi-Plane that I was ferrying from Mountain Home, Arkansas to Hollywood, Florida. The previous owner had lost his medical, and the plane sat for a couple years before it was purchased by the man who hired me to ferry it to Florida.
I had never flown an open cockpit aircraft before, nor had I ever flown anything quite like this particular aircraft. The day I picked it up was forecast to be very windy, so I was at the airport at sunrise to get an early start. The take off and climb out was uneventful. Reading a map in an open cockpit aircraft proved to be impossible, and I was happy for the hand held GPS I had along.
The first indication of trouble came on my first fuel stop. I tried 2 times to land the way the previous owner had told me, without success, and on the 3rd try I did it my way with good results. I topped off the fuel tanks, which by then were about half full and added almost 4 quarts of oil. The engine was blowing oil out the crank case vent at a pretty good rate. After discussing this on the phone with the new owner, I departed on my next leg of the flight. My next fuel stop was to be Greenville, Alabama. I had shortened my planned legs because of the oil loss problem, and Greenville was less than 2 hours away. I remember seeing the Selma, Alabama airport as I passed by about 15 miles south, and debated if I should land there; I was seeing some fluctuation in the oil pressure and was getting a little nervous. I decided against it because I did not have a radio, and was trying to stay away from anywhere that might have jet or turbo-prop traffic.
By the time I entered the pattern at Greenville, oil pressure was fluctuating a lot. The down wind leg was over town and the area all around the airport was populated or otherwise unsuitable for landing. The EAA Bi-Planes are similar to a Pitts, and landing one often includes doing a “bunny hop” down the runway, but my first contact with the runway resulted in a sizeable bounce. I added power, leveled off, cut power again and tried to land. The result was another big bounce. The end of the runway was fast approaching, and I had no oil pressure at all. Doing a go around was out of the question, so I forced the plane onto the runway. A couple good bounces and the left landing gear collapsed. The plane veered off the runway, dragging the left wingtip on the ground. According to the A&P mechanic/new owner, damage was not serious, but I still did not feel very good about it. The plane rode the rest of the way home in the back of a 24 foot rental truck.