30 October 2006

In the DNA?

Thanks Sis, for the memory jog.

That cobby looking airplane is a BT-13 Vultee, a WWII trainer.
The "BT' stood for "Basic Trainer".
Pilots that flew it affectionately called it "the Vultee Vibrator".
It had a big, noisy, radial engine, and an adjustable propellor. It's the first airplane I remember my old man flying. He'd come over our house fairly low, put the propellor in the flat pitch setting, and push the throttle to the firewall.......
The resulting roar announced to everyone in three counties that my old man was "in the 'hood".
Of course I was proud...... that was my Dad flyin' that thing!

Dad had three brothers.
All learned to fly. Two survive, and still fly now and then.
An Aunt surprised me recently with an interesting story-
Dad's older brother washed out of Navy Flight School.
Caught red-handed flying beneath a bridge that spanned a river, he was reassigned to the Battleship "West Virginia", where, on December 7, 1941, he had a front row seat for the morning activities. He swam to safety as the ship sank in Pearl Harbor.

Mom and Dad were both in the Civil Air Patrol after the war.
The C.A.P. exposed them to different people and different airplanes, one of which was that Vultee Vibrator.
As a very young lad, I can remember accompanying Dad to Sky Harbor airport in Indianapolis, an airport long since covered with expensive homes.
It's fun to remember walking toward the flight line and through the gate with the sign that warned:
"Pilots and Passengers only beyond this point."
With my Dad, I was accepted in an exclusive club!

Growing up with Pilot/Father, I assumed I would eventually learn to fly. But I always had six things goin' on at once- I never had a burning desire to start. I guess I always thought I'd learn when it just became so convenient to do, I couldn't avoid it any longer. I also thought, wrongly, that Dad could teach me. Well, he could have taught me many things, but not legally..... he wasn't a Flight Instructor.

We had the typical tense relationship while I was a teenager.
Fiercely independent, but proud of one another, we were both "Macho" guys, and clashed a lot while I lived at home. It wasn't until I was drafted and away from home that I realized how in spite of the conflict he had gently guided my path.......
had always been RIGHT THERE! every time I needed him.

He showed his pride in me when I graduated from Officer's Candidate School...... Grandmother on one shoulder, Dad on the other, they pinned the "butter bars" to my uniform.
He was doubly proud of me when I added a set of wings to that uniform.
That gave us something concrete to share for the rest of our lives...... our love of flying.

We flew together some.... not nearly as much as I would have liked.
We went to OshKosh and other airshows. He knew much about airplanes and shared his knowledge with this ignorant helicopter pilot.
When he was old, he made one trip to California with me to ferry a new helicopter home. It took us 19 hours over a three day period to fly that machine home, and although I never had the time to teach him to hover, he was perfectly comfortable cruising in it within a couple hours.
I think he was on the controls more than I was during that trip.
Friends tell me it was one of the highlights of his life.
It's certainly a memory I will forever cherish.

Dad was good at many, many things, and flying was one of them.
My pride in watching him roar over our house in that BT-13 planted the seed that grew and put me where I am today.

Sis thinks flying is in our blood.
I won't argue with her.

25 October 2006


I have a terrible admission to make. It may upset some of you.
I shop at Wal-Mart.
I shop at Wal-Mart a lot!

Talking with a classmate last weekend, she let me know in no uncertain terms that she DOES NOT shop at Wal-Mart because she doesn't agree with their marketing policies.
I can understand that, and I respect her decision. Wal-Mart is such a huge organization, they can, and do throw their weight around. I've heard horror stories about how they forced suppliers to live by their rules in order to sell their merchandise at Wal-Mart.
An acquaintance didn't want to play their game and simply withdrew his offer to sell his goods at Wal-Mart. He was disappointed, but that was his choice.

There is no question you can buy stuff at Wal-Mart cheaper than you can buy it elsewhere.
A friend that owned a Gasoline Service Station said he could buy oil at Wal-Mart cheaper than his supplier could sell it to him. I buy my oil, oil filters, batteries, and tires almost exclusively at Wal-Mart. Doing so, I save a few pennies over purchasing these items somewhere else.

I tell you all this to set up the following story:
At the Wal-Mart cashier station, I noticed three pennies lying on the floor and stooped to pick them up. When I expressed my surprise that someone dropped them and wouldn't pick them up, the cashier, a young woman, said, "You wouldn't want to hear what I do with mine!"
So of course I asked- "What do you do with them?"
"I throw them away."

How much money does this young woman make, working as a cashier at the world's largest retailer, that she is financially well off enough to throw pennies in the trash?
How do I get a job like that?

Admittedly, I pick pennies up partly to reinforce the fact that I am one of the cheapest people on the face of the earth...... it's expected of me.
But I was tempted to ask her, "If I bring a jar to your house, rather than throw them away, will you throw your pennies into it?"


24 October 2006


We went home last weekend.
Central Indiana is home. I've grown to hate cold winters, so returning there full time is out of the question. But a big part of me was carved out of the soil and the people of that area. Ours was a relatively small, mostly farm community.

One of the things that I loved about home was the sunsets. Returning from fetching something from the car, I snapped this photo and smiled. Rolling hills, green, green grass, and enough clouds to make the sky interesting..... sunsets are frequently gorgeous at "home". And although you can't see it in this photo, the trees really show off this time of year!

You may remember that I was plucked from home in 1966. "The Draft" seems foreign now, doesn't it? But it was a way of life for me and my peers. Graduating from High School, those of us that didn't get married and didn't go to college knew that our Uncle Sam would come calling soon. My Draft notice came exactly one year after I graduated High School.

I had spent all the life I could remember in the same bedroom in the same house. Mom and Dad stayed together, so my family life was also stable, if not solid as a rock. Being drafted, therefore, was a pretty big shock to this 19 year old that had known very little of what went on outside my sheltered community.

I don't know how to put into words how homesick I was. My heart ached. I don't mind telling you that during the first weeks of basic training at Ft. Knox, Ky., the only thing that kept me from crying myself to sleep was the friendship and support of a High School classmate in the bunk above me.
Thank you Dave H!

The first few ARMY years, I would drive home every chance I got, then run around the old stomping grounds trying to reconnect with friends. It was difficult. They had moved on to the next level in their lives, and I was trying to turn back the clock. It was unsatisfying for me, and probably puzzling for them.

It took a few years, but I realized the most satisfying way to come home was to announce the dates I would be there, so those that really wanted to see me could seek me out. That way, I wasn't interjecting myself where I wasn't wanted. I realized pretty quickly who my true friends were.

High School reunions have been somewhat like that. I went to several of them, and like my first attempts to reunite with old friends after being drafted, they left me feeling empty. The reunions would attract lots of classmates, but we seemed to talk AT one another, rather than TO one another.

The last few have been wonderful. I think now that we are more mature, maybe more secure, we are genuinely interested in what has brought all of us to this point in our lives.
But we've also arrived at a formula for our reunions that contributes to a more comfortable atmosphere: the "Mini" reunion.

We had the first of them more than two years ago, and only 7 people attended. Several of us that hadn't seen one another in years had gotten in touch via email, and we decided to meet at one of our classmates home, centrally located for all. As we left in the evening, our faces hurt from laughing.

If you have one reunion every 5 or 10 years, a large number of folks aren't gonna be able to attend, for one reason or another. Life is like that these days....... our calendars fill up all too quickly.
But if you have several "Mini" reunions in a year, more dates are opened up for people to attend. Those that cannot attend on date "A", may be able to attend on date "B". Over the year, if you attend two or three of these minis, you may see several people you haven't seen in years.

And that is what happened last weekend. Three people attended that I had not seen since May of 1965. Once again, it's hard to describe the feelings........ seeing these people after all these years.

My heart no longer aches. Can a heart smile? I think mine is grinning from ear to ear!
We have several minis planned for the future. I may not be able to attend all of them, but I'm sure as heck gonna try.

20 October 2006

Desi and Lucy

(Click the pic for a better look.)

Destin the miniature Doxie on the left, and Lucy the who-knows-whatsit on the right, on Sara Jean's lap. Poor Lucy is finally getting a chance to settle down, and we are gonna uproot her again. She found us on a Saturday. The following Thursday, she slept 95% of the trip to Destin, Florida... a GREAT traveler!

She quickly learned her way around the condo in Destin, but never got accustomed to walking along with us on our "walkees", so we sometimes left her in her pet taxi as we walked off the calories.

Ten days later, she was back in the car headed Northbound, once again sleeping like the Princess she is. We were interested to see how Desi would react to her return. The concern was wasted... they took up right where they left off. Desi loves Lucy, but they tussle continuously!

He tips the scales at twice her weight, and his lower center of gravity gives him a definite advantage, but her energy makes up for any deficit. She won't leave him alone. When her attention is distracted elsewhere, he turns the tables on her to bring her focus back to him.
It's almost exactly like watching a couple of kids!

She's probably half again as big and heavy as she was when she found us. Her coat is shinier, fuller, and blacker, almost certainly because she's no longer eating scraps off the street. The two of them are jealous of one another at the doggy dish... both try to empty it to keep the other from getting the larger portion. Desi has certainly gained weight. We'll have to begin to watch their weight and limit the amount of food we put down at some point in the future.

Today, (Friday), Sara Jean and I depart for Indiana to attend another mini-class reunion. We got the okay from our hosts to bring Lucy with us to visit Elle, the long-haired Chihuahua in residence there. I'm excited to see the two little dogs get to know one another.

Desi will stay home to keep Big Bubba company and protect the house in our absence. Sunday night Desi and Lucy will once again be reunited, with no more separations on the horizon.

Housebreaking and other adjustments are going well. We all have adjusted to her... she's made all our lives brighter. She's quickly become an integral part of our family.

So now you can put a face with the name...
Thanks to all of you that showed an interest in her via comments and email!

16 October 2006

Getting Fat in Paradise

Remember, we just returned from 10 days in what we consider to be one of the most beautiful places on earth: Destin Florida.
The beaches there are literally white as snow. At night, sitting in a beachfront restaurant with a window seat, a Northerner can easily be lulled into thinking she is looking at snow- they use snow fences to control the drift of sand the same way Northern fences keep snow off highways where it snows and blows.

We love the beaches, and we love the restaurants on the beaches.
We try to visit at least one place where we've never eaten each time we go to Destin. That's easy...... there are LOTS of good places to eat! And there are a few that fall into a "must return" category.

Some of those are ratty looking. Some are definitely upscale.
What will cause you to return to a restaurant?
For me, the food is the focus, but while we're in Destin, other factors also come to mind.

First, make sure to bring your checkbook or credit card.
I try to take a quick look at a menu before we are seated to eat, so I know whether we need to discretely duck out the door before embarrassing ourselves. Sometimes that's not really the best technique...... let me tell you why-
One restaurant we enjoy would scare you off if you looked only at the bottom line. But the food is very good, and when you've eaten enough of your entree that you are turning green, there is enough food left on your plate to comfortably feed two more people. A "doggy bag" is procured, and for lunch the next day I will frequently eat the rest of what Sara Jean ordered while she checks to see if my order, a day old, is as tasty as hers was the night before.
Dividing the overall cost by making two or three meals out of one, makes the tab seem much more reasonable.

This time down we met old friends at a place called "Baytowne Wharf".
It's a beautiful area with lots of shops and restaurants, located in Sandestin, Florida. When you arrive, you know your meal is gonna be dear.......

someone has to pay for the wonderful atmosphere.
We allowed our friends to choose the restaurant. They picked a place, a chain, that serves good Bar-B-Que. Sara Jean and I had eaten in another of their locations in another town and enjoyed the food there. While I'm near the ocean I try to eat seafood, because it is fresh and we cannot get great seafood at home. This restaurant specialized in cooking beef, so I was not surprised that my fried fish dinner was less than spectacular. The food was good, not great, and when the check came we could tell who was paying for the ambiance.....

we were!
We'll surely go back to Baytowne Wharf, but we won't be returning to this restaurant.

Polo shirt, shorts, and sandals will suffice in 95% of the restaurants here.
I've eaten in a dockside diner where Mallards literally patrolled beneath the tables for the errant scrap dropped by the careless (sometimes intentionally) diner.

I loved the food, (breakfast in this case), and the price was really right.

It all really does boil down to a formula that probably works for most people:
Seat me fairly quickly.
Take my order shortly thereafter.
Serve good food and serve a portion large enough for me to take some home in a plastic container.
If you meet those requirements you'll quickly have trouble with the first two requirements, because customers will beat a path to your door.

It's okay to charge a fairly high price for good food, providing I'm surprised by the quantity served.

We eat well and often while in Destin.
You can also see why we walk 2 miles, twice daily while we're in town!

Road Observations

The better part of 12 hours-
that's what it takes us to drive home from Destin.
I average 60 miles per hour, including stops for gas, grub, and "rest".

We see a big change in weather coming North this time of year.
We also get a chance to see lots of different driving styles..... good, bad, and ugly.
Allow me to vent for a second:

My dear Ms. HUGE SUV-
There is a reason they call it the "acceleration lane".
It was NOT built so you could drive down really close to the traffic going 70 miles per hour, come to a complete stop, and look over your left shoulder waiting for an opening in that lane nearest you!

And Mr. and Ms. Rubbernecker-
I realize it is the law in many states-
when you approach the flashing lights of a Police Car stopped alongside the road, you should pull over to the left lane, as far from the patrol car as possible.
I'm pretty sure that law does not say you need to slow to 40 miles per hour to gawk at the Policeman and the poor law breaker to whom he's issuing a citation.
By slowing to half the speed limit in the fast lane, you create a hazard yourself because the attention of other drivers is also divided.

And I don't want to forget Mr. Rabbit-
I normally drive 5 miles an hour above the speed limit, but that's not nearly fast enough for you, is it?
You blow by me fast enough to cause a vacuum that sways my car.
Then, when we come to the inevitable 10 mile stretch of barrels in the construction zone, reducing traffic to one lane, I see you five cars ahead of me in the line. You risk being one of those stopped by Mr. Policeman, and use a ton of fuel in the process, just to end up 100 or so feet ahead of me in the queue?
Is it worth the stress and the extra money for gas?
Slow down a little, Mr. Rabbit, and watch for Ms. Suv, and Mr. Rubbernecker!

You'll experience much less stress on your journey, and so will I!

11 October 2006

Bo Dietl, Ignoramus

Just in case I forgot to tell you, I'm on vacation in Destin, Florida.
Weather has been nearly perfect the week we have been here, thank you very much.

Fox News on the TV here too.
This afternoon the big news is the "aircraft" that collided with a building in New York. They're now saying it was a small airplane. Earlier the word was it was a small helicopter. It's a minor tragedy no matter what.

If you ever watch "Imus in the Morning" on MSNBC, you're probably familiar with Bo Dietl. He's a retired New York City Cop, and has appeared on Imus' show multiple times. He's now a Private Investigator and entrepreneur, and several of the Cable News outlets use him as a go-to guy when they want to talk about terrorism, particularly in New York.
Mr. Dietl also will forevermore carry the title "Ignoramus" when I speak his name.

He's presently on Fox News airing his opinion that "small aircraft" have to be restricted over New York airspace. They need to be banned, or at least kept on a flight plan so they are on a short leash. I can understand how a non-pilot would react that way...... having something come crashing through your office or apartment window, setting the face of your building on fire would be a real attention getter..... (understatement of the day, right?)

But it's an overreaction. Let me tell you why:
You, me, or Timothy McVeigh can take our driver's license and run down to our local Hertz, Penske, or Ryder truck rental and rent a 27 foot moving van, and after meeting cursory requirements....... mostly related to our ability to pay for the truck, drive away with it for a day, a week, or a month. We can then take the truck, fill it with a mixture of fertilizer and kerosene, and destroy the lives of 268 men, women, and children, and cause enough damage to a VERY large building that it must be torn down.

We don't yet know what size aircraft was involved in this latest incident. But I can guarantee you this: you couldn't put enough explosives in it to do that kind of damage unless you had access to one of those Suitcase nuclear devices the Soviet Union supposedly lost.

Just now they are saying the airplane was registered to a New York Yankees pitcher.
How sad.

But please explain to me and Bo Dietl how, short of encapsulating New York and all other major cities in some sort of huge net, or grounding all aircraft, you could possibly keep someone from intentionally crashing into a building?
I can't think of a feasible solution.

09 October 2006

Wonderful news today, via Drudgereport:
Senator John F. Kerry will almost certainly throw his hat in the ring for nomination as the Democrat candidate for President in '08!

Since Hillary Clinton has failed us by being such a pro-Iraq war Bush puppet, we registered Democrats (and I am one.... honest!), certainly need a sensible, honest, stalwart candidate to throw our support behind. I'm with you, Senator Kerry! (He's also a Viet Nam veteran.... did you know that?)
You are the only Senator that has the sense to nuance things and vote for them before you vote against them!
You at least have the integrity to admit you were an absolute fool and made the totally wrong decision by voting for the war using the available intelligence information!
You're my man! You have my vote in the Democrat Primary!

Now let's brush up on a little history......
Repeat after me:
Nixon was not elected President until January of 1968.
The Purple Heart is awarded to those who suffer wounds inflicted by ENEMY action.

John F. Kerry for Democrat Nominee in '08!
Cindy Sheehan for Vice President!

Now, sign the SF180 as you promised you would, and let's get on with the campaign!

07 October 2006

Like It Was Meant To Be....

Since she is 5' 11" tall and mostly legs, Sara Jean sometimes has trouble finding clothing that fits. There's a shop on Main Street in our little town that carries nice jogging outfits, and she had found some that fit her in the past. "Let's stop off there and see if they have some I like".
I nose the car into the curb between two other cars. It's early Saturday afternoon, so there is considerable traffic on Main Street. As we were walking toward the door of the shop I caught a glimpse of a black blur peeking out from a car 30 or so feet away, then retreating. When I focused in that direction it reappeared....... a tiny black puppy, maybe 3 pounds worth...... frightened, scrawny, and a little sickly looking.

Big Bubba had seen it too, and was already on his way. With the traffic whizzing by, this puppy would soon be a canine frisbee if someone didn't get it under control. The puppy popped out again and Big Bubba stooped to one knee on the sidewalk......."come here little one"! The pup started toward him, then retreated again. He called again and it came to him. When he picked it up, it hugged and licked him.

We went up and down the street, inquiring at other shops. No one in the shops or on the street knew anything about this skinny pup...... a little girl.
We took her home.

We were a little fearful about how the miniature Dachshund would react to her. He's only 10 months old, and we knew he would resent her moving in on his territory. He did immediately go and make his mark, and we punished him for it. But he also began to play with her...... gently at first, then more rough as she showed she could dish it out about as well as he could. In 10 minutes they were both covered with one another's saliva from gnawing on each other.

She ate like a horse when offered food, then drank her fill. Soon she found a lap and went to sleep.

We called the newspaper. We called the radio station. We called the Police. No one was worrying about a lost pup.

We named the Doxie Destin, because we were on our way to that Florida town when we got word he would be ours. We frequently shorten that to "Desi".
When two days had passed and it looked like this Little Miss would be ours to keep, we puzzled over a name for her.
I thought of Desi and...... Lucy.

Lucy now cocks her head when she hears you call her name.
If you want to claim her, you'd better bring a gun...... we won't give her up easily!

Everyone she meets falls in love with her. She's not like most little dogs...... not nervous at all.
"How old is she?"
"We have no idea. She adopted us last week".
"What is she?"
"We don't know. What do you think?"

We've decided to call her a Yorkie-Poo, 'cause she looks like a good 50-50 cross of those two breeds.

She goes to sleep the moment you give her a lap to occupy. I've got a lapful of dog as I type now, head and front legs slung over my leg, rear legs hanging between my legs.

How is it someone abandoned this delightful creature?


02 October 2006

Stand-Up Comedy in Afghanistan?

Something I really don't understand:
What was Jerry Seinfeld doing yucking it up with Muhammed Atta before 2001?

01 October 2006

September Night Scene

"You are enroute to the scene of a Motor Vehicle Accident- a head-on collision. Two fatalities on the scene. **** * (another of our company's helicopter ambulances), is already on scene. Your patient is a 40 year old woman. They are extricating her from the wreckage. That's all the information we have at this time."

The scene was less than 15 minutes away. Visibility was unlimited, so the only thing that kept us from seeing the scene from our takeoff point was the treeline between us and the accident. I contacted the scene commander:
"Please give us a patient update at your convenience, and let me know where you want me to park this thing."

He responded, "We'd like you to land West of the scene in a cornfield. One of my officers is standing in the field with a flashlight shining it vertically. Let me know when you see him."

Cornfield? I needed more info-
"Understand I'm landing in a cornfield West of the scene. Has the crop been harvested in this field?"
"How much residue am I gonna kick up with my rotorwash upon landing?"
Long, long pause....... It's obvious he hadn't considered that.......
"Yeah, that's gonna be rough. Let me send a guy down to clear some cars out of the way so you can land on the highway."

By this time I was within range for our other company helicopter to contact me. He called-
"**** *, why don't you just land behind me? I think there's plenty of room."

I contacted the scene commander, and he approved that plan.
The landing zone was tight, but adequate for both helicopters and I landed one-and-a-half rotor diameters from the other BK117.

Shortly after I landed and got my crew on the way to help, the crew to the other BK came with their patient, and since the scene was nicely secured by the police, I was able to help them load their patient. I watched with pride as the other helicopter took off. My crew came back to the helicopter about 5 minutes later. The flight to the Trauma Center took 15 minutes. My crew was too busy to make the radio call to the hospital, so I made the call on the "mercy" frequency and informed the receiving hospital of our ETA, and gave them general information about our patient and her condition.

The flying part proceeded normally. We landed, I helped my crew unload the patient, then cooled and shut the engines down prior to going into the ER. They were doing CPR on our patient when I walked in. They pronounced her dead 15 minutes later.

She had just left home. The accident was close enough to her home that her daughter heard the crash and ran to the scene.
I'm glad my landing site was far enough from the scene that I didn't get to watch the daughter as her Mother was extricated from the wreckage and loaded onto our stretcher. Now, in spite of our best efforts, her Mother is gone.

These scenes bring such mixed emotions:
They are exciting. I can say honestly that they are the closest thing to flying in Combat I have experienced as a civilian.

remember I mentioned the pride I felt,
watching the other helicopter leave the scene?
I taught that pilot to fly helicopters 16 years ago!