Finishing Up by Austin
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[ed. If you enjoy reading this, please drop a note to Austin at firstname.lastname@example.org and thank him.] The "S" cowl must be the bane of my existence. It does look beautiful and more precise and 7 pounds lighter to boot, but it is plagued with little holes which I try to fill and sand and fill and sand until I feel that some sort of price or punishment is exacted to you in order to have and appreciate the new and tech edge lightweight cowl. I am so sick of sanding. I spend all kinds of money to buy filler only to sand it all off and have it blown away by the wind. And better that than finding the residue dust in my nose when I wash up at the end of all the sanding. I retreat to a chair and a glass and read of simple things like a Cub, almost totally devoid of glass faces in the panel, only the bare basics and no electrics at all... At least that way, if nothing is there to fret and worry over, there is little to hazard the flight and less for us to consider may go wrong. Simple is best I guess . This Cub is only 3 years younger than me and still it travels to the wild and desolate reaches I have never seen nor had the courage to explore. But I speak only of a Cub because until now, No RVs were on floats, but they are now. The essence of flying far away and alone however, is the same. I think of adventures past........... A fire on the beach dies down toward the morning, and the floats are pointing outward where they were the night before and after the third swing of the prop, the Continental starts and purrs on. A hand on the cylinder head becomes the cylinder head temp gauge, and soon the oil temp shows we are warm enough to fly. Throttle in and loons dive for safety and nose high and spray along the windows, a push forward a bit and the Cub is on the step and running. Friction becomes a kiss and suddenly we are climbing away. Not fast, but surely. Below, there are white torpedo like shapes in the water racing along at play and puffing a spray as they exhale, breathe, and dive again.........Belugas........ In the middle of the river a round white form paddles to the far shore and a dip of a wing low confirms a Polar bear heading for the rapids where the fishing is particularly good. When the sun is overhead, it casts a shadow of the Cub which gives a sense of company and also tells of some speed which cannot usually be sensed. An Eskimo, upon asking a missionary what heaven is, asked , " Is it like a land where night never sets and blossoms bloom across the tundra as far as you can see and the Loons cry their song forever " ? Caribou, in their thousands, turn the landscape from white to black and brown as they migrate to the land of the "Old woman who never sleeps"... Fall and Winter are not far off and at our most Northern desolate and quiet reach, the body of a Kodiak Grizzlie has been found, lying in the shallows of the river where he passed into the netherworld of what nature holds for all of us when the body ultimately fails. He was fishing for the Salmon who , at the end of their 4 year life cycle, beat the punishing rapids and rocks to return to their birthplace to lay eggs and start the whole mystery of life over again. This old Kodiak had at one time killed a man, and we knew this because upon examination of this huge fellow, it was found that he had survived an old bullet wound up through his lower jaw. This could only have happened if a man were on his back and rifle upwards, fighting for his life. Another tale of a hunter never seen again. If this story was only about RVs, perhaps you would be happier and relate to its relevance, but as I said, RVs are now on floats and for some odd souls, who care not at all for an auto pilot or a full panel, but are drawn by whatever force to strike out far and alone to test man and airplane, there are many wild stories of these souls who are bound to answer the call of a very different siren song. The wild is still there..in spades...and when man and machine and element touch down where other habitation is in evidence, they always seem to encounter the kindred spirit that ties man to man when they are against nature and the wilderness. I happen to live in an urban setting, but even here, a cougar has done battle with a hiker and torn the man's scalp from his head, ripped off an ear and clawed out an eye. But the amazing thing is, the victim holds no rancor whatever..he survived by pulling out a pocket knife, opening the blade, all the while being chewed on, and stabbed the big cat in the throat. Poor fellow was very hungry and all he wanted was to survive, reproduce, and live in the forest which we encroach....one of only many battles for survival between us and them. In the North, one carries a good carbine, and usually a nice .357 Magnum on the hip, hoping that this will be our salvation and stop the beasts of nature who would do us harm in order to live and continue the age old life cycle. Night falls and the wind stills the lapping of the water on the lake and the old airplane stands guard in the red of the dying sun and actually becomes a companion to lift us out of desolation to friendly faces and warm cabins. The days actually become longer and we are in bright sunlight at midnight, and fuel stops become a real worry. Up here, life is very different and reality and choices seem to find their own resolution. A 182 came in the other day and since it is such an event for humans and animals, a Husky pup ran out to greet the airplane and had its head cut badly by the slowing prop. An Eskimo simply picked up the poor creature and smashed its head against a rock. Horrified, I was speechless with disgust, but in the end, there was nothing else for the situation since there were lots of Husky pups and no vet or medical treatment to be had...it was the quickest end. There really is no way to absorb and accept brutal reality in far off wilderness. One of the most difficult factors in Northern flying is how to determine if the ice is still thick and strong enough to support an airplane landing on skis when thaw arrives. There is now, in the far reaches of the Arctic Circle, a beautiful and pristine Twin Otter lying at the bottom of the Arctic Sea where it slowly went through the ice and settled ever so slowly beneath the surface... a million or so ??....nothing could be done in time to change the outcome... It is still there, to be discovered and recovered some day far off in the future, possibly by archaeology kids. Snow flurries raise an alarm that it is time to retreat and the compass reads Southeast all day long now. Out of the ice and heading home, at last the tree line appears where before there was nothing but white expanse and no features to guide me. With the appearance of those trees and some green unfolding below, it is at once heartening and nostalgic to overfly miles of fiery red, yellow, and green leafed forests with Maple syrup swelling the trunks, smoke rising from cabin chimneys, and home and hearth not too many miles distant . Flocks of the great Canada Geese with their honking and vee formations point the way to milder climes and safe haven. When home base appears at last and the GPS is no longer needed, warm stoves in the workshop beckon as a very good way to spend time at home. I had a visit last night from a family of Raccoons and they went through the kitchen leavings and picked everything clean....what a mess to clean up, but I thought to myself, poor little beggars, doing what they have to do for family and survival, just trying to get by, I wish I had something better to offer...Winter is coming... With that, I put myself up in front of the TV, mug in hand, and pop in a video of "Twelve O'clock High " and sense a likeness of pilots now old, both theirs and ours, and recall how, when talking to them, they all had a sense of brotherhood and reminiscence of the blood sport of combat, high altitude, veins in the legs like fire hoses, parachutes through the cloud deck and onto a pasture where wide eyed cows were the only sentries, of bullet holes and creases permanently etched in the faces from the oxygen masks. It all begins to diminish as the sounds fade and the music plays on and the hand drops the mug to the floor.... I am off once again dreaming and talking with those forever young and squinting at that dot in the sun. Austin.