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  #151  
Old 09-15-2019, 03:56 AM
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Scott Chastain Scott Chastain is offline
 
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Default 22. Wisdom

The son turned from the names on the memorial and walked through the streets of Harlan. What he found there were many shells of buildings from a bygone era---buildings that had been gutted, closed down, abandoned, and left to the elements. It was like walking through a ghost town. The son could feel himself holding the body of a dying friend in his arms. The music coming from the town square echoed down the streets where no people could be found. It was as if wisdom were calling people out from the shafts of darkness to a place where children could be heard laughing and playing at a distance.

















The son drove back to the airport and prepared to settle in. There glowed to the west a lovely twilight, and in the Dove the son could clearly see the beckoning promise of a new day coming.



But first he had to shower and get some sleep. There was a crushing avalanche of snow piled up behind him that had given rise to his home for the night. It was a place where he could feel himself being held.
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  #152  
Old 09-15-2019, 06:02 PM
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Scott-- I really appreciate you posting all these beautiful photos of your adventure. I have to comment, though, that seeing all these dying small towns in middle America is upsetting. I see churches, graveyards, and shuttered buildings. Where are the farms and factories?
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  #153  
Old 09-15-2019, 06:30 PM
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When I went on a High School summer mission labor program there, per capita, Harlan county was the poorest in the country. 1988.
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  #154  
Old 09-16-2019, 06:08 AM
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Wasn't Harlan County the venue for the TV series "Justified"?
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  #155  
Old 09-16-2019, 01:05 PM
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Default 23. Clouds and Thick Darkness







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  #156  
Old 09-16-2019, 01:06 PM
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Default 23. Clouds and Thick Darkness

At first light, the son awoke. Through the panes of glass in the pilot’s lounge, the son could see that the airport was buried under a thick layer of fog. He got up and made coffee, then went outside where it was like stepping into a hot shower stall after the water had been turned off. The Dove was dripping with the condensation of a still Kentucky morning.



For two hours the son waited in the FBO building for the fog to lift. He looked online at the weather and packed his gear. Finally, at 9:45 AM, the son removed the canopy cover and pre-flighted the Dove. After a thorough runup, he back-taxied to the end of Runway 26 and kicked the tail around to line up for departure.



On the crosswind turn, the son looked to port and beheld the unmistakable glow of a coming resurrection in the clear-cut forests of Loyall.



On the downwind departure, he made an aggressive climb-out through a patchwork of towering cumulus and leveled off at 9,500 feet. He flew along the western flank of the Appalachians for nearly 200 miles before deciding to crank hard to the west over Upshur County Regional, West Virginia (W22). The air was cool and glassy smooth as he proceeded westward. He landed for fuel after only 2 hours of flying at the Ross County Airport (RZT), about 7 miles from Chillicothe, Ohio.





The son shut down by the pumps and realized that it was an assisted service facility. Nobody was around. He walked into the FBO building to find a lineman.



Inside, the son was met by two dogs, a large black and white poodle, and a smaller Schnauzer-type dog. There was somebody talking inside of the main office, and the son found a lineman having lunch in the pilot’s lounge. The son introduced himself. The employee introduced himself as Ryan. He was young man in his thirties, thin, with closely cropped hair and a thick black beard. The son wanted to know the names of the dogs. The poodle was Arthur, and the Schnauzer was Frank. They belonged to the airport manager who was in the office.

The son asked if he could get topped off with fuel, and Ryan got up very astutely and led the way out to the pumps. As Ryan approached the Dove, he asked what kind of plane it was and the son told him. Ryan wanted to know how fast it could go and if it could do aerobatics. He had never seen an RV-8 before, and that surprised the son. Ryan had told him that he worked as an avionics technician in the big blue hangar behind the pumps. He said he was booked solid for the next year with ADS-B installations.

After topping off the tanks, the son saw Frank and Arthur come running out of the FBO building toward the Dove. Arthur bounded behind the large blue hangar and disappeared as the airport manager approached, calling after him. The manager, a tall man in his fifties with short white hair, asked the son if he was on his way to Oshkosh. The son told him that, no, he was not planning on going. The manager called again for Arthur and walked behind the hangar to find him. He came back around with the big poodle leading him over the tarmac to the FBO. The son walked into the FBO with Ryan and paid his bill, used the restroom, then walked back out and strapped into the Dove for departure.

He took off on Runway 23 for a right crosswind turnout to the west. He climbed up to 12,500 feet in smooth air and flew over scattered cumulus and an infinity of farmland.



Two hours into the flight, the son could see a large system of thunderstorms wreaking havoc over Oshkosh and Madison, Wisconsin. About 200 miles to the north, huge anvils were forming and covering the upper atmosphere with a large thin disk of dissipating vapor.



The son began making a descent near the Mississippi River and picked up a nearby ASOS report of 14-knot winds coming directly from the south. 20 miles west of the Mississippi, the son made a straight-in approach for Runway 27 at Monroe City (K52), with the left wing dropped heavily and foot full of right rudder. It was a direct crosswind, but nothing the RV-8 couldn’t manage easily.

The son taxied up to a little shack with galvanized metal siding and a slight tilt in the building itself that suggested the imminence of collapse. It appeared quite run-down with a wooden door and a standard keyed entry.

“This does not look promising,” the son said to himself. He pulled up to a tie-down cross and pulled the mixture back. “It does not look promising at all.”

As he was tabulating numbers in his log book entry, a stout man in his early sixties came walking out of the tin-covered shack. He wore a dark set of sunglasses under a camouflage-colored baseball cap, and had on a light brown shirt and blue jeans. His hair was thick and gray, and there was a neatly trimmed goatee patterned around a square, firmly set jaw. He was not smiling at all. The son thought that perhaps he had violated some rule on the airport because of the seriousness of the man’s approach.

“You build this?” the man said under his hat. He was walking around the nose of the Dove as the son finished entering numbers.

“Yes, sir!” the son replied.

“How long did it take you?”

“Ten years,” the son said, getting out of the plane. “Ten years with my father helping me out.”

The son thought the man was eyeing him and questioning him with suspicion. But when the son told him about flying through America for the first time since his father died, there came a distinct softening in the man’s voice and demeanor. The son introduced himself and extended his hand.

“Del,” the man said. “Del Buckman.” He pointed down a row of hangars at the east end of the ramp. There were only about four or five hangars, and they were all fairly old, weather-beaten and, like the FBO shack, leaning precariously as if anticipating collapse but holding onto every last sliver and nail to prevent it.

“You can take that end hangar down there,” said Del. “A guy just pulled his plane out of there and he won’t be back for a week or so. You heading to Osh?”

“No,” the son said. “My father and I shared an experience there back in two-thousand-eight, and I’d hate to tarnish it by trying to step into the same river twice.”

The son climbed back into the Dove and cranked over. Del walked ahead and led him to the doorless hangar at the end of the row where the son kicked the tail around and shut down. There was a soft bed of dirt where the tailwheel suddenly buried itself as they were pushing the plane in. Del scrounged up a couple of two-by-fours and the son lifted the tail of the airplane onto the rail and rolled it back a few more feet. It wasn’t much of a hangar, the son thought, but it was better than nothing and a very kind gesture on Del’s part to offer it.



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  #157  
Old 09-16-2019, 01:08 PM
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Default 23. Clouds and Thick Darkness

Del took the son back over to the tin shack and showed him his Decathlon. It was painted in a patriotic red, white, and blue color scheme and Del hangered it right next to the FBO.



Inside, the son was introduced to Ruth, a woman in her seventies who handled the paperwork and bookkeeping at the airport. She had a dog named Sammy who struggled behind Ruth’s back as the two hopped into the car to run a few errands in town. Sammy was trying to get better acquainted with the son.



A short while later as Del and the son were conversing in the shack, a man pulled up in a jeep and got out. He could barely walk. His spine was bent to one side like a question mark and he shuffled his feet to move forward. He was in his late seventies or early eighties, with Caesar-like wisps of white hair gracing his temples and a red, cherubic face that exuded contentment and ease.

“Oh, here comes Rodney, our mechanic,” said Del. “He had a bad motorcycle accident a while back, left him pretty beat up.” They watched the old man shuffle across the front window. “He can’t get around too good, but he sure knows his ****.”

Rodney came in and sat down in front of the son and Del.



He had an alternator and an Ohmmeter in his hands. Apparently, the local veterinarian owned a Bonanza that kept having electrical problems. The alternator kept getting kicked off line for some reason, and Rodney was doubling down on his theory that the voltage regulator had gone bad. He proceeded to check the alternator with the son and Del watching.



Later, as the son was exploring a Cub that a local pilot was getting ready to sell, Del and Rodney came out to look her over, too.



Del asked the son if he was planning on spending the night. The son told him that, yes, he would like to spend the night, but hotels were out of the question. Then Del told him to sleep on the couch in the FBO. There were blankets, he could take a shower, make coffee, and basically make himself at home. Right now, though, he would take the son out to his place to get him his wife’s car.

“She can’t drive it, anyway,” Del said, “and she won’t be able to drive for another month or two. She’s just had surgery on a torn retina and can’t see anything out of one eye.”

So Del and the son drove about three miles south of the airport where Del owned a 48-acre ranch with his wife, Patty. Driving onto the ranch, Del said, “This here’s my little piece of heaven. I worked as an electronics technician for the phone company for 40 years, and I did pretty well.”

Del introduced the son to his wife and two pet terriers. He took the son over to a small barn where he showed him a brood of freshly hatched Guineafowl, his chickens, and his two pet peacocks. A shooting range lay off to the side of a wide pond area, and a machine shop with reloading equipment was built into the garage. Then Del handed the son a set of keys to his wife’s Chevy Tahoe and told him to be careful leaving the ranch.

“Stop and wait about ten seconds. Sometimes they come flying over that hump before you can see ‘em on the highway.”

The son thanked Del for his generosity as he climbed into the Tahoe. He proceeded down a long gravel driveway where he stopped and waited for lingering traffic under a blind spot about 50 feet away. Then he pulled out onto the highway and drove into town. The son got out and walked though Munroe City as it was bathed in the golden beams of twilight.









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  #158  
Old 09-16-2019, 01:09 PM
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Default 23. Clouds and Thick Darkness









The son walked a circling path back to the Tahoe and climbed in. He drove through a neighborhood where he was effortlessly taken to a small cemetery. He stopped and got out.





There was a large bronze marker for a departed Catholic priest, recently erected and altar-like in appearance. Behind a crucifix burned a glorious flame of the setting sun, and from the north the unmistakable and ominous layers of an approaching storm heaved darkly and heavily toward town. Clouds and thick darkness quickly overtook the burning flame. The son turned away and drove back toward the airport as the skies clouded over.



The son parked behind the tin shack and got out to watch the approaching storm. It was all part of the same disturbance he had witnessed near Oshkosh earlier in the day, and now it was making an entrance through Missouri. The son went inside to make preparations for the onslaught.





He cooked up a pot of chicken stew, took a shower, and he could already hear the rumble of thunder by the time he finished dinner. Outside, the wind began to howl through the many crevices of the little building, and incessant and successive flashes of heat lightning set the darkness to dawn for the better part of an hour before a heavy squall of rain and wind passed through. Eventually, the son turned off the light and lay down on the couch to sleep, but the lightning and thunder did not let sleep come. They cracked through the blackness all night while the rain was falling light and thick and warm on the asphalt.

Under the blankets, which had been pulled from a closet crammed with linen and Christmas decorations and ornaments, the son could smell in their folds the familiar smell of a barn, as if the blankets had been buried in hay those many years and had now been yanked from the pile so he could remember what a barn smelled like. And it reminded him of a hot, clear, cloudless day.

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  #159  
Old 09-17-2019, 01:05 PM
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Default 24. Crossings







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  #160  
Old 09-17-2019, 01:06 PM
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Default 24. Crossings

The son awoke the following morning well before sunrise but stayed tucked under the covers for a couple of hours. He knew that Ruth would not show up until at least 8:00 A.M., so he made a pot of coffee and began looking at weather online. Outside it was overcast with dissipation moisture from the storms of the night before. The tarmac was still wet with rainwater.



At 8:15, Ruth came into the FBO and greeted the son. She wanted to know how well he had slept. He told her that all of the thunder and lightning kept him awake most of the night, but he still felt rested. Ruth shared with the son that she had recently lost her husband that past September, and the son confided about losing his father in December. Caring for his mother now that she was widowed had become an important shift in his family role. Del showed up not long after with a newspaper and spent the better part of 20 minutes reading it while the son sipped his coffee. Del told the son that his daughter was the editor of the local paper. It was a job that he said did not pay well, but she enjoyed the position.

It was Sunday morning, July 21st. The son decided to attend a church service, so he drove into Munroe City and walked into My Savior Lutheran Church, with Reverend Scott Salo presiding.



In the narthex the son admired a shovel that had been memorialized for the church after a groundbreaking ceremony that took place in 2003.



Then the son took a seat on a front pew where a large woman sat in front of an electronic keyboard and played traditional church hymns and the liturgical sequences. The sermon that day centered on Mary and Martha. The pastor was very serious, dogmatic, and overly dramatic with his readings and enunciations to the point of embarrassment. After being served Communion, the son brought back with him the small plastic wine cup. There was a little girl giggling about it behind him because he did not place the cup in a tray that was stationed by the altar. Her name was Adlee. She befriended the son and introduced him to her brother and sister, Waylon and Audrey, at a luncheon following the service.



After church, airplanes were arriving for fuel on their way to Oshkosh, and Del was busy assisting them at the pumps.



The son asked Del if he could use the Tahoe for a few more hours for a visit to Hannibal, about 25 miles away. It was the birthplace and childhood home of Mark Twain, the legendary author. Del told the son to enjoy himself, and the son arrived in Hannibal about 30 minutes later where he parked, got out, and started exploring.









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