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  #181  
Old 09-24-2019, 11:47 AM
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Scott Chastain Scott Chastain is offline
 
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Default 27. Scars

The son awoke before 5:00 A.M. in Siren where he spent the night in the FBO without any interruptions. He got up from the couch, made coffee, and checked weather. From the Rockies across the Great Plains states, a strong ridge had set in and everything looked clear with unlimited ceilings throughout America's heartland. The son decided to make this a day devoted mostly to flying. Without any real concerns for weather avoidance, he could relax somewhat in the air and enjoy the scenery below for hours at a time.

The son packed his gear and went out to the Dove to pre-flight. There was a little nip in the air. As soon as he pulled the canopy cover, the bubble fogged up. The scar from a crack repair on the aft section of the canopy lit up with the light of dawn.



The son departed on Runway 32 out of Siren and turned to the south. Off the port side wing, the light of a new day shone over Clam Lake and Big Sand Lake as he climbed out from the Wisconsin countryside.



The son leveled off at 12,500 feet and watched the morning evolve to the east. The pall of radiation fog stretched like a wedding veil underneath him as he passed over the eastern limits of the Minneapolis Class Bravo.



Passing just east of Joplin, Missouri, the son beheld the massive scar left behind by the EF5 tornado that ripped through the city in 2011. After 8 years, the resurgence and resurrection of life was clearly evident, a harrowing memory of loss and suffering to countless lives whose faiths were strengthened by the whips of tragedy.



The son made a slow descent and touched down after being airborne for 3 hours, making a 548 nautical-mile flight and shutting down for fuel in Neosho, Missouri (EOS). The advertised price there was $3.89 per gallon.



While he was topping off, the son could hear automatic weapons firing nearby. There was some serious shooting going on east of the airport. Just then, a young man jogged up from the taxiway and introduced himself as the airport manager. He had just finished his daily 2-mile jogging routine. He told the son that there was a U.S. Army shooting range over there which was why he had red flags on the pumps. It was the airport manager's way of warning pilots not to fly anywhere east of the field when the shooting range was hot.

The son rolled up the hose and pushed the Dove back to a tie-down cross. He used the restroom, then came out into the lobby where he and the airport manager talked about the Joplin tornado, about how it had essentially cut the town in half, miraculously sparing his own house on one side of the swath, and his parents' home on the other. A matter of less than a hundred feet in either direction would have wiped them out. They also talked about Bonnie and Clyde's hideout home in Joplin which had also been spared by the tornado.

After refilling his coffee thermos, the son strapped back into the Dove and cranked over. He departed on a right crosswind from Runway 19 and headed west. The day was warming up significantly, so he climbed up to 10,500 and remained there for a little less than 1.5 hours. His next fuel stop was at Woodward, Oklahoma (WWR), former home of the Woodward Army Air Field.



Two linemen operating a fuel truck signaled him over. He shut down and got out. It was hot, breezy, and the Dove was parked by herself on a wide blank scar of concrete that once served the many pilots who trained in Woodward during World War II.





One of the linemen let the son top off from the fuel truck at $3.70 per gallon. Afterward, he walked into the old FBO building. It was actually the former officers club during the war.



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RV-8 N898W Descending Dove

Last edited by Scott Chastain : 10-20-2020 at 09:44 PM.
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  #182  
Old 09-24-2019, 11:48 AM
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Default 27. Scars

He did not stay long. The son wanted to fly at least a few feet ahead of the heat that had grown considerably throughout the day. He blasted out of Woodward to the northwest for Santana, Kansas (1K9), a waypoint only 93 miles out, then turned north-northwest. He maintained a cool 12,500 feet in perfectly smooth air for 2.6 hours, finally completing over 1,215 miles of flying for the day. He touched down and pulled up to the pumps where he shut down. He was in the small town of Gordon, Nebraska (GRN).



The son finished topping off with fuel and pushed the Dove back to a tie-down cross. The FBO building was right in front of him. He walked up to it and went inside.







There wasn't any air conditioning, but with a fan and a few open windows, the son thought he could easily make a comfortable night of it on the couch. There were restrooms, a coffee bar, and an apparent courtesy car. The keys were nowhere to be found. Nevertheless, the son went back outside to gather his gear, wipe down the Dove, and cover her up. Then he walked back inside, plugged in the fan, and cooked up a pot of beef stew. While waiting for the stew to settle, the son found a phone number to call on the office door. It was for the City of Gordon. The son's call was directed to the airport manager who answered by Glen. The son explained that he had just landed and needed access to the courtesy car parked outside. Glen directed the son to punch in the 1-2-2-8 CTAF frequency on a keypad to the office door. Just inside to his left, a set of car keys hung on the wall. The son thanked Glen, took the keys, and hung up. Then he ate his stew and took a short nap on the couch.

When the son woke up again, it was late afternoon. He went out to the Crown Victoria and climbed in. He wondered if the car would even start.



It did. The car seemed to run fairly well, but air conditioning was out of the question. The son drove off the airport and into town.



At an American Legion post, the son turned off the highway and parked in downtown Gordon. Then he got out and walked through the streets.







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Last edited by Scott Chastain : 10-20-2020 at 09:46 PM.
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  #183  
Old 09-24-2019, 11:49 AM
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Default 27. Scars

The streets were quiet for the most part. An occasional vehicle would pass through town, and shops and stores were open for business. The heat of the day was now turning into the approach of a storm from the west, and a dark overcast began to envelop the town as he walked through it.



















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  #184  
Old 09-24-2019, 11:50 AM
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Default 27. Scars

A few blocks away from the downtown area, the son found a small park where several families with children were playing happily. A small museum nearby sat idly under the trees of the park. The son rounded the corner and headed back to the courtesy car.











The son climbed back into the Crown Victoria, started it up, and drove down a road to the east. He discovered that the Sheridan County Fair was just getting started, so he drove in to have a look.





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  #185  
Old 09-24-2019, 11:51 AM
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Default 27. Scars

The son parked the courtesy car next to a livestock trailer and got out. He could hear somebody talking over a loudspeaker not far away. He walked through the parking area past a police car and wandered into a display booth. There, the son spent some time admiring some of the artwork presented to him by the children of Sheridan County.









The son walked past a few livestock displays over to a pavilion where the loudspeaker was. The championship round for showing sheep was in the process of being judged just as the son walked up.



It was starting to sprinkle outside, and the son could see lightning in the distance. On the way to the courtesy car, he turned from the pavilion and walked past a row of cows.


The son drove out of the fairgrounds down the dirt path and stopped at the highway intersection looking west. He could see a break on the horizon where the setting sun lit up the underside of the storm clouds and drew west-bound travelers into a blaze.



Back at the airport, the son parked the courtesy car and watched as the storm crawled closer and the setting sun reddened toward darkness.





There were two young men standing next to the terminal building as the storm approached. The son wondered who they might be since there were no other planes on the flightline. A number of tie-down ropes were hanging on the front side of the building, and the son quickly took a set out to the Dove and secured her firmly to the tarmac. When he came back over to where the two men were standing, the son introduced himself. They were Kyle and Patrick, chopper pilots who flew for the Oglala Dakota Rescue Service out of Hot Springs, South Dakota, about 60 miles northwest of Gordon. They were waiting out the weather before flying back. The Bell 407 helicopter was hidden behind closed doors in the large hangar next to the pilots lounge.

It was raining steadily by the time the sun had fully set. Lightning and thunder accompanied the storm as it passed by in cells. Meanwhile, the two chopper pilots told the son about their flying experiences in the U.S. Army. Kyle, who flew combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, lamented the many struggles he faced when trying to re-establish himself in the civilian world, particularly in aviation. Kyle was so accustomed to the rush of adrenaline in combat and the clear mission parameters set before him daily that, to his consternation, flying commercially was like trying to stitch a life-threatening gash with Silly Putty. The wounds were deep. He missed the comradery of warfare. As a father, caring for his wife and baby girl meant finding work that not only paid well, but also rewarded him with an intrinsic sense of achievement. The civilian world provided neither.

Kyle finished his cigarette and joined Patrick with a look at the weather. Soon, it was time to go. The two chopper pilots pushed the Bell out of the hangar into the drizzle and pre-flighted. They wished the son well before climbing aboard and firing up the turbine. There came the rising whine, the low thud of ignition, and then the slow but steady rise in RPM as the blades began to turn with the whirring chop and slice of air getting split overhead. The son watched as the chopper lifted off and flew away like an oversized Christmas ornament, carrying two wounded soldiers into a distant silence and the black of night.

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Last edited by Scott Chastain : 10-20-2020 at 09:52 PM.
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  #186  
Old 09-25-2019, 12:05 PM
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Default 28. The Wind







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  #187  
Old 09-25-2019, 12:06 PM
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Default 28. The Wind

Several times throughout the night, the son woke up and looked out the windows into darkness. It was not discomfort. It was not distraction. It was not anything other than not being able to stay asleep for very long. Finally, when he awoke and raised his head to look outside, there was a thin slice of pink over the plains. It was 4:20 A.M. and the son decided to just get up and get moving. He made coffee and went online to check weather.

After sunrise, the son went outside to pre-flight. The Dove was dripping with water and the bubble fogged up as soon as he pulled the cover off. The smell of freshly cut hay and wet fecund earth drifted soggily over the tarmac.



After the son cranked over and back-taxied down to Runway 22, he kicked the tail around for a runup and saw the hay bales glowing like so many covered wagons in the morning light.



Then he applied power and blasted out of Gordon on a wide right downwind departure.


Flying nearly due north, the son crossed over the Badlands of South Dakota under a perfectly clear sky.



He continued north where a few straggling cloud layers, left over from the night before, cast crazy patterns of light and shadow on the happily watered plains below.





After 1.8 hours of flight, the son turned from an extended base-entry-to-final for Runway 31 at the Dunn County Airport (9Y1), just north of Killdeer, North Dakota. The son had to make his turn fairly steep, and he aggressively added power to make the runway. The winds from the west were pushing him back hard. After touching down, the son taxied in and parked with his nose into the wind and pulled the mixture. He could feel the Dove rocking back and forth as the wind rippled and gusted over her wings.



The son climbed out and walked over to the terminal building past a blue Stinson that had rags stuffed into its cowling, presumably to keep the weather out.



There was after-hours access to the building. Inside, the son found an air conditioned facility that was slated for demolition. A new building was being planned. He was pleased to find such investments being made in airports across America where pilots had a place to spend the night in comfort.



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  #188  
Old 09-25-2019, 12:07 PM
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Default 28. The Wind

After using the restroom and refilling his thermos with coffee, the son went back out and topped off with fuel. He spent about 10 minutes in the wind, wiping all the grime and grit from the Dove while a Cirrus practiced touch-and-go landings. By the time the son cranked over and back-taxied out for departure, the Cirrus was gone. The son kicked the tail around and pointed the Dove's nose down the runway. To the south, the slow bobbing cycle of pumps in an oil field, a backdrop of alfalfa bales against a wide clear sky, and the shallow fluttering of prairie grass in the wind---they all bade the son fair travels as he threw in the throttle and pushed the stick toward the firewall.



The son flew west-northwest over the scarred landscape of North Dakota and eastern Montana. He fought a steady 35 to 40-knot headwind the entire flight which was smooth and clear and pleasant.



He continued northwest along the course of the Missouri River and did not begin a descent until he had flown well beyond Fort Peck Reservoir.



There was a steady 20-knot headwind on a straight-in approach for Runway 26 when the son landed at Malta, Montana (M75).



The wind sock was sticking out like a torpedo as the son taxied back to the pumps where he pivoted into the wind and shut down. He was the only plane on the field.



He climbed out and topped off the tanks. He pushed the Dove back into the northeast corner of the tarmac where a lone pad of concrete provided a good tie-down. Another wind sock beyond the flightline played over the rippling grass and pointed directly toward Malta where a tree line rose in the distance.



Then the son walked over to a large hangar where he found a sign hung over a door. It was a stick with the words, "Hitch Aviation." He opened the door and walked in.





Inside, the son met a slender man in his sixties wearing a blue striped shirt, jeans, and a green cap. His name was Dixon Hitch, the owner of the FBO at Malta. The son introduced himself and began having a conversation with him. Dixon told the son about his years in crop dusting and how he was now focusing solely on aircraft maintenance and running the FBO. The small lounge had a couch, a restroom with a shower, and a coffee bar. Dixon told the son that he was just about to leave town for a few days, but the room stayed open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The son was more than welcome to stay the night if he chose to. There was also a courtesy vehicle beyond the gate that the son was welcome to use. The keys were tucked over the visor.

The son thanked Dixon and walked out toward the Dove to gather his gear. Just then, he looked over his right shoulder and saw a pilot struggling in the wind to pull his unpainted RV-7A off the taxiway. The engine was shut down and the pilot was pulling the aircraft by the propeller but having enormous difficulty in the wind. The son walked over to help.

The pilot told the son that he had just lost his left brake. There was brake fluid splashed all along the outside of the wheel pant. The pilot said he was on his way home from Oshkosh to the state of Washington. Did the son have any brake fluid?

"No, I don't," the son said, "but if you run over to the office right over there, you might still be able to catch Dixon, the owner of the FBO. He's getting ready to leave, so you'd better hurry. I'll pull the plane over."

The pilot thanked the son and ran across the flightline and disappeared behind the hangar. Meanwhile, the son pulled the plane off the taxiway and slowly steered it over to a parking spot. Then he walked over to the Dove and started gathering a few things to bring into the lounge, including his sleeping bag. Without any help, it was far too windy to attempt putting on the canopy cover, so he latched the bubble shut and turned toward the FBO. Dixon and the RV-7A pilot were already busy working through the problem of a lost brake.



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  #189  
Old 09-25-2019, 12:08 PM
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Default 28. The Wind

The son dropped off his gear in the pilots lounge and headed out the gate where the courtesy vehicle was parked. It was an old brown Chevy suburban.



He started it up and drove under the railroad tracks into Malta where he parked in front of the town square. A small veterans memorial stood before him.





There were markers honoring the local veterans of 5 conflicts: WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and Desert Storm. There was a blank spot to the right of the Desert Storm marker, presumably reserved for conflicts in the War on Terror.



It was a railroad town, an important junction for travelers heading in every direction through Montana. A small railway keepsake sat frozen with rust just beyond the veterans memorial.





The son walked through the streets of Malta for about an hour, past City Hall, the downtown theater, and a place called the Little White Church.







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Last edited by Scott Chastain : 10-20-2020 at 10:03 PM.
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  #190  
Old 09-25-2019, 12:09 PM
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Default 28. The Wind

The son was drawn to a small brick building that was heavily stained by years of sprinkler water. He stopped for a moment to look at it. The wind pushed through the tree limbs overhead like a sizzling tide over sand.



There was a small indistinct sign near the door: Religious Ed Center. The son turned to walk up the steps. He went inside and heard a door chime somewhere down the hall. There was a small chapel to his left with couches, lumpy pillows, and blankets readied under the Stations of the Cross.



A large woman with short hair came walking down the hall where she met the son. She looked a little surprised, even startled, to see him standing there in the foyer.

"Can I help you?" she asked.

"I'm just passing through from out of town. I saw the sign outside that said this was a religious education center. I was curious to know what that was, so I came in," the son said. He introduced himself and shook her hand. She told him her name was Brenda.

Brenda gave the son a tour of the entire building. It was a retired convent for the local nuns who used to teach at the private Catholic school next door. Brenda told the son that if he wanted to get a taste of old Malta, he should venture over there. Originally built in 1914, it was now the local Boys and Girls Club. Through the window, Brenda and the son watched a train of small children being led out of the building and down the street.

"They're probably heading over to the library," said Brenda. "It's the last part of their day at the club."

The son thanked Brenda for the tour of the convent, then walked over to the old school building. There were some renovations being made to the outside of the building as the son walked in.



Inside the old high school, another woman by the name of Carol gave the son a complete tour of the building. Original light fixtures, paneling, seats, doors, hinges, and radiators in the building made it somewhat of a museum as well as a place of learning.











Carol took the son into the kitchen, and then out through an exit at the back of the building.



Outside at the rear of the school, Carol insisted that the son remove a heavy steel door from the mouth of a stairwell. It led down to a basement where a pair of old boilers sat. She beckoned him down. Through the hole in the ground, he could see the white chalky powder of disintegrated concrete layering the floor of the basement. The son looked up and felt like he was standing in a sepulcher. Outside, a lone basketball hoop invited him back up where the wind and the wide open sky called him out of the darkness.

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