Pilots and Flowers Cut by Austin
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       These are some reflections on the people, pilots, and flowers of life, that
we encounter and pass by on our journey down the path of who knows where.
I wonder, and ask, of myself and of you, "Is it possible to love a man"?
When we see true worth in some one who shaped our lives and touched us in
some way that lasts as long as our memory lasts, is it hard , too hard, to
say we really loved that fellow ?
       Ken Carlson was an ex F86 fighter jock who came back from Korea a bit
damaged.
He had to settle for jobs like instructing in small spam cans that he may
connect still with the magnetism of flying..he was hard on me and all the
other students, but I felt privileged to fly with him.
        I was young, very young, but I was fortunate enough to have a sense
of awareness of what Carlson was, used to be, and was fighting with.
          I liked him a lot.
If I could pass his standards then I knew I was going to be good.
I never saw Carlson again after I got my licence, but I never forgot the
sense of F86s and what combat did to a young man made old before his time.
He did that for you and me and I thank him still, 50 years on.
        One day, out at the field, I see a string of Stearmans just
outfitted for dusting and brought out to the line, ready to do battle with
the budworm clear across the country.
I climbed up on one and knew I just had to fly it, but they were leaving on
the morrow and Art was in one of them.
Art Beveridge was once my instructor and teaching was not his real forte' so
he jumped at the chance to be a duster pilot.
      At the end of a long and tiring season, he stall turned and rolled up
in a fireball, never to fly nor see God's Earth again.
    I was shocked, and so it went....one great guy after another, cut like a
flower from the meadow of life and flying.....
     My ground school instructor Jung, terrific sense of humor, bragging
that a good pilot could easily steer a compass heading within 3
degrees....veteran of two tours of bombing in Lancs, was brought down not by
 war, but by snow, landing a 707 in a snow storm up by the Arctic circle
where navaids were just not there.
      What I remember most about Jung was his sense of humor, his smile, and
his forgiveness.
       I have just finished reading a book about a round the world race in
sail boats where the sailors are alone and on the raging seas for 4 months.
   Not all survive, but they all come back with a different appreciation of
life and friends after living through hell on Earth through the Southern
Ocean.
Constant storms and waves of 50, 60 feet that knocked them over and kept
them wet and weary for time unending.
But all said it was beautiful and a voyage of discovery and the human
spirit.
I think a lot about a major cross country in my RV, consuming thousands of
miles and hours of intense awareness, navigating, listening, watching,..I
find I have no time for the mundane...stereo, of chatter, or music, balming
though they may be to some, and to me when I recline in an easy chair, but
now, I am intense and paying attention.
After all, there was a time when a group of fighters came up to meet me over
La Jolla and the coast when I came near an MOA.....I was young and my radio
was poor.
I must pay more attention....
        But when the light started to dim and the horizon turned to black, I
could set down for today and rest in my bag under the wing and wait at my
leisure for a new dawn.
Can't do that on a boat in the Southern Ocean where the ice growlers roam
across your path.
These lone sailors must be like us pilots...we must be brothers, that we
explore the winds and the forces and we have to be borne upon them to see
what lies beyond...and what lies within each of us as well..
      And sometimes, in this search, some of us are lost and some by
accident and we are pained beyond description for that.
     Some of these who have stepped to the threshold and by shear luck have
been drawn back to walk still among us have expressed the feeling that if it
was meant to be, this is the way I would choose....happy, and in the element
of my choosing.
Weep for me, but only for a little while....
I talked to a dear friend today who lost a young family member..not a pilot,
but the semblance is the same, great and dear loss, far too soon, as many
pilots and sailors are, but fate prevailed.
They, as the roses in my garden, brought joy and smiles and appreciation,
and memories fond.
If they wither or are cut down, they leave a legacy and seed that a new
season will bring forth another set of color and life, a mirror of what they
once were, and we will be enjoying them once again.
        Carlson, Beveridge, Jung, Anderson,McDonaugh, Michaud, Witt, and
Watson and many more, these fellows made up the bouquet that I savor... and
love still as I look through my logbook.
Is it possible to love a man ?...I truly think so.
As much as  they extended a love of flying to me, and hopefully, to you.
      At the airfield today, a new RV is about to take wing.
The sky is perfect in its tapestry of cloud, and cold, blue backdrop against
the unforgiving, snow capped peaks around us.
      Wind as cold as ice in a glass, and smoke from the exhaust, drawn and
scattered by the wind and lost from sight as a drop of ink in a pool of
water.
      Blood flowing in the temples and straps pulled tight and throttle as
far as she will go and off and up we go.
        The same story told a hundred times, but never tiring, else why are
we drawn to do it time and again ?
         When I am at altitude and settled down and the needles have found
their resting place, I listen through the headphones to see if I hear
Carlson, or Watson or any of the others who brought me to this place......
       " Are you happy Austin ?...are you in your element ?.....can we come
along and share the joy  ? "
        I surely hope so !