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  #101  
Old 09-05-2017, 02:07 PM
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Scott Chastain Scott Chastain is offline
 
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Default Day Fifteen

It was Friday, July 14, in St. John the Baptist Parish when I got up that morning to make some coffee in the kitchenette. As I was packing up, there came into the terminal building a man by the name of Landry, the flightline employee and fueler for the airport. He was wearing a white U.S. Air Force hat and he spoke in a thick southern drawl when I introduced myself and told him that I would be topping off shortly and taking off.

After I packed up and preflighted the Dove, I pushed her over to the pumps. I was filling up when Landry and three other men in dark blue uniforms came walking over. One of them said, “Good morning!” and I did the same in reply. Landry introduced the men. They worked for the Port of Louisiana Marine Division.

I thought I was in trouble for something. There were those grain elevators loading up a ship on the Mississippi the night before, and for a split second, I thought maybe the port authority was there to investigate me. I thought maybe the guy on the golf cart reported the New York license plates on the Sentra and maybe found my witness of the levee operation suspicious.

Ritchie, the oldest in the group, introduced himself as a Commander in the Marine Division, and he said that he had worked there for 17 years. Then Ritchie told me that he and his men had come out onto the ramp to learn about the 40-day flying mission I was on, to learn about the Dove, and to just walk around her for a few minutes to admire the aircraft. Ritchie asked about where I came up with the name, Descending Dove, and when I alluded to the anointing of Jesus by the Holy Spirit following his baptism, everyone in the group knew about that biblical scene and suddenly took a renewed interest in the mission I was flying through America.



My friends all wished me the best as I finished fueling up. Landry told me that he was a fueler in the Air Force for his entire military career, and then he added in his best Louisiana accent, “You be sure and come on back. I got some good fuel for you here anytime you need it.”

I thanked Landry and strapped into the Dove. I looked over to my port side and saw all the billowing towers of steam and the dark pressing gloom along the Gulf coast.



My friends asked for a fly-by before I cranked over. They got one.

There was a lot of convective activity in the Gulf that morning---sweltering monstrosities near Lafayette and Lake Charles that already craned up beyond 20,000-feet.



In about an hour, I landed in Baytown, TX (HPY), about 20 miles east of downtown Houston. I taxied to a far corner of the ramp near the FBO, swung the tail around, and shut down. Almost immediately, as I was tabulating my flight times, two flightline guys walked out of the FBO and headed over. Both were bearded men wearing khaki-colored flap caps.

“Is there something we can do for you?” one of them asked.

I said that I wanted to see Houston. He told me that I should just start back up again and fly over it.

“Do you want me to leave?” I said. “It sounds to me like you don’t want me here.”

No, he told me, it was just that traffic was horrible in Houston and trying to drive through it was a nightmare, especially on Fridays. I got out and introduced myself. His name was Doug, and the other guy was Travis.



Doug wanted to explain himself a little further because he did not want me to feel unwelcome. He asked me specifically what it was in Houston I wanted to see, and I mentioned the Space Center. Then Doug told me that he still recommended I just fly over Houston and not drive through it. He pointed at a parking lot where there was a courtesy car and said, “I beg you, don’t try driving through Houston when it’s a hundred degrees outside!” He was quite sincere and quite impassioned over the city’s traffic problems. I told Doug that I would think about it, but right now, I just needed to cool down and relax. I pushed the tail onto the grass and tied down. Then Doug and Travis went back toward the hangar.



Inside the FBO, I sat down on a couch and started drinking the coffee they had made. It tasted good, and it was strong. Pretty soon I was joined by a couple of local pilots, Mac and Tom. I told them about the flying mission and they asked if I were going to Oshkosh. I told them that, no, probably not, especially after getting turned away the year before. I told them that it did not really matter anyway, because nothing would ever come close to the experience in OSH that I shared with my father nine years earlier. Then Mac and Tom and I shared a few good laughs. They both confirmed Doug’s testament to the horrors of driving through Houston on a hot day, or any day for that matter.





Nancy, the secretary, sat behind the counter as Travis and others milled through the building. After Mac and Tom left, I decided to spend some time in the flight planning room to write in my journal. There were people coming in and out of the FBO all morning.

I was a little disappointed to discover that Baytown did not offer any after-hours access to the FBO. I found Doug watching the weather in his office.



There were several nasty thunderstorm cells approaching from the Gulf, but it would probably be a few hours before they reached us. I asked Doug about getting into the FBO that night. He told me that they would be locking up the building at five-o’clock and I would not be able to stay after that. What would I do? I said I would probably end up pitching a tent. He sort of shrugged and went back to his tablet to watch the weather.

I decided to take Doug’s advice and not drive a car through Houston. Instead, I used the time to write, to speak with a few people who came through there, and to simply relax. Late in the afternoon, a gentleman came into the lounge area and told me that his daughter was going to take him flying. I saw a beautiful young woman on the tarmac. She was braving the unbearable heat outside and preflighting a Cherokee. As her father got up to leave, I wished him an enjoyable flight. Soon, they both were airborne under the ever-encroaching cumulus.

It looked like I would have to camp outside again. I began asking the Lord to please provide me a place to sleep. I got up and went outside to walk through the hangar rows. I thought maybe I could meet somebody there who could help me. I approached an open hangar and saw what was painted on the fins of a Velocity parked nearby.



Then I walked up to the hangar. There were two men inside.

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  #102  
Old 09-05-2017, 02:10 PM
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Default Day Fifteen (cont.)

Earlier in the day while I was relaxing in the FBO, I spoke with a local pilot by the name of Larry who told me that he was flying to OSH in about a week with a buddy of his. He said that he owned a Commander that was hangared on the field. Larry and his buddy now sat there as I approached in the afternoon heat.

They were both going to OSH in a C-172 that Joe owned. Joe got up and opened his hangar right next door to show me the plane. Larry leaned on the prop and drank from a bottle of water as he contemplated the upcoming journey.



Just before the FBO closed up and locked the doors, Larry told me to jump on a golf cart and follow him over there so I could pick up my flight bag. He wanted to show his buddy, Joe, the RV-8. They both asked me questions about the Dove’s performance, about how long it took to build, and about the paint. Then I followed them back over to Joe’s hangar.



They offered me something to drink, and I asked for some water. Soon after, Joe’s wife, Becky, showed up. She was a nurse who had just gotten off work. It was Friday night, the end of a work week, and they all started cracking open a few beers. Did I want one? I appreciated the offer, but I had to cite the Twelve-Hours-from-Bottle-to-Throttle rule. I said that I would probably be airborne at sunup the next morning, so I was sticking to water.

We spent the better part of two hours talking with one another. They asked me about the 40-day flying mission, especially wanting to know about where I was heading next. Then all of a sudden, they started asking me about where I was going to stay that night. I told them that I did not know. I could pitch a tent, but I usually stayed at FBOs and terminal buildings.

Then Larry recommended that I fly over to a little town called Liberty. He said that he had not been there in a long time, but it was an unattended airport with a coded lock on a building with restrooms and a couch. It was only about twenty miles away.

That was just what I needed. I thanked my friends for their hospitality as they all watched me fold up the canopy cover and preflight the Dove. Larry, Joe, and Becky wished me well on my journey through America, then went back to their hangar to watch me taxi by and take off.



Soon after, I was airborne again and heading to the northeast for Liberty (T78).





I landed ten minutes later and pulled up to the pumps. There was a city employee in a white pickup truck who was leaving just as I pulled back the mixture and got out to top off. The Dove took on about 14 gallons.



I pushed over to a tie down spot across from a portable building that looked like the one Larry was talking about. There was also a hangar facility that was quite large but appeared to be shut down, out-of-business, or both. In any case, I was the only bird on the field, and I had the entire airport all to myself for the night.





The CTAF got me into my sleeping quarters which smelled like stale cigarette smoke, but the room was conveniently air-conditioned and the couch was more than adequate for a good night of sleep.



After wiping down the Dove, I cleaned myself up over the sink in the bathroom. Then I cooked up a pot of sweet and sour pork and ate. Later, I found a key to a courtesy car in a drawer under the Keurig coffee maker.



It was a Mercury Mountaineer that I drove into Liberty later that night for a McDonald’s chocolate shake. I took the SUV out into the country and enjoyed the shake while I watched the flashes of an approaching squall line in the distance.

Later, I walked along the Liberty runway as the thunderstorm got closer. It was still about 40 miles out when I went back into the stale-smoke building for some shut-eye. Inside, there was an automatic motion-detector switch that I had to cover with a piece of paper so that the lights would stay off when I rolled over on the couch.

I was tired. I was tired but happy that I had a good place to sleep that night. I could hear thunder now, and the lightning outside was still flashing when I fell asleep.
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  #103  
Old 09-06-2017, 01:48 PM
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Default Day Sixteen

I got up at about 6:30 and prepared to depart Liberty. My devotion that morning concluded with Paul’s final appeal to Caesar for exoneration and for the freedom he ultimately would attain only through death in Rome. I finished my reading and prayers, then packed up the Dove for departure. It was time to fly over Houston.

Departing on Runway 17, I made a turnout to starboard and set up for cruise at only 1,200 feet to stay well below the Houston Class Bravo. The oil industry infrastructure prominently whitened the landscape as I flew toward my first waypoint at Baytown.



Soon, the Houston shipping channel came into view where I made a pylon turn around the San Jacinto Monument, constructed during the European outset of WWII. There, the Republic of Texas won her sovereignty in the historic Texas Revolution following the Battle of San Jacinto.





I flew from San Jacinto to the south over La Porte (T41), then powered up again for a climbout near Texas City and Galveston where an ominous cell of convection flung darkness over the coastline of the Gulf.









I leveled off in the cool smooth air at 12,500 feet and took a direct course to the northwest. I began descending soon after the Houston overflight and approached Taylor (T74), a small community northeast of Austin, TX, where I landed and tied down.





I had been there the year before and stayed much longer than I had previously anticipated during the 2016 Fourth of July celebration. My friends, Ron and Linda, had recently moved from Merced to Austin’s bedroom community, Round Rock, and Linda was nearly insisting that I stop by again during this mission flight.

I did not really want to. I was only being honest with myself. I visited out of courtesy, but they already had another guest staying with them when I arrived. I felt like a soup-spoiling carrot getting tossed into the pot unwillingly by a hand that didn’t want anything to go to waste when throwing it out would have been the better choice. I needed my own space and freedom, and for a day I knew I would lose it under Ron’s roof. But I went anyway.

After I wiped down the Dove and walked into the FBO building, I called Ron to have him come and pick me up. I grabbed a cup of coffee and waited. I looked around. I would rather have spent the night at the airport. At least there I had some freedom to move around without invading the comfort of another guest. And plus, it had after-hours access and a couch and a coffee maker. It was definitely my kind of place.

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  #104  
Old 09-06-2017, 01:52 PM
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Default Day Sixteen (cont.)

Ron picked me up about an hour after I landed. The retired Anglican priest pulled up in a blue PT Cruiser. He got out and we greeted each other warmly. Then I put my bags in the back and got in and we drove off the field toward Round Rock.

Ron told me that Linda and her cousin, Debbie, who was visiting from San Antonio, were out shopping for the day and probably would not be home until later that afternoon. Meanwhile, he welcomed me into his home. I began to realize how cluttered it made me feel. I thought of the airport and the couch and the space it offered to be who I really was. I needed airplanes and oily asphalt or at least a little dirt on the floor. The daintiness of the furniture there made my insides curl.



Ron began showing me his train set and a garage that was not really a garage at all, but a warehouse that was packed to the ceiling with so much junk that there was barely enough room to walk or even to breath without wondering if it all would collapse.





Ron showed me how he had decorated the mantle of his fireplace with wood from an old upright piano that he disassembled and cannibalized piecemeal for its elegant carpentry.



I tried to appreciate the house tour, but I needed to get outside and breathe off the clutter for a few minutes. I looked out into the back yard and went. It was hot out there, but at least I did not feel like my soul was being crowded and systematically sealed into a plastic tub where a priest could try, in the futility of his own mind and without any success at all, to understand it.





I went back in and Ron showed me my room upstairs. He became a tour guide again, highlighting the ancestral history and significance of the bed I was to sleep on.

Those people were dead, I thought. I thought about how their transience now availed me the opportunity to recline upon its frame without objection. I thought about the bed, and I thought about the people who once slept on it. Then I thought about how absolutely clueless my host was to the coming spiritual maelstrom that would soon strip him and everyone else of their worldly possessions, and not even the dead would be able to talk about it. And then I told Ron that I just wanted to take a nap. When he left the room, I closed the door and did just that.

When I woke up a couple of hours later, there was a storm approaching. Ron and I watched it come from inside the house. There came a violent sweep of hot air through the trees, and then came a mighty crack of lightning and thunder, and the waters poured down from above and made little rivers through the grass toward the street.



Linda and her cousin Debbie were stranded somewhere on the side of the road while the storm passed through the Austin area. After about an hour, the squall began to dissipate. Linda and Debbie came home and told about how the storm shut down traffic and about how they had to wait it out on the shoulder.

Later in the kitchen, Linda and Debbie made tacos, and we all ate dinner together that evening. They wanted to hear about the 40-day flying mission, about what I had seen, and then about where I was going next. I did not know where I was going next, and they all found that a little hard to believe. They seemed to find a lot of things about the mission hard to believe, and I marveled at that.

We all walked through a nearby strip park on Brushy Creek after dinner. There were tree limbs torn mercilessly from their trunks and strewn everywhere. Some trees were completely uprooted, and it was going to take several days for the city workers to cut through it all and clean up the mess.



A little dumbfounded, Ron walked over and craned up toward a shorn trunk sticking out of the earth like a wooden fang.



I wondered about how many fires had been lit in an iron barbeque that now leaned twisted and smashed by the weight of a fallen tree trunk. I wondered about the many families who had eaten there, about the laughter of children as they played nearby while their fathers talked over the sizzling coals and their mothers shared motherhood stories with one another over picnic tables and under the shade of the trees that now lay shattered and dead before me.



Then I was showing Ron a few images of the mission from weeks past, and I was telling him about my experiences on Orcas Island and in Georgetown. But it soon became obvious to me that he was not hearing it. He did not want to hear any of it. The destruction around us of the miniature storm a few hours earlier had already closed his eyes, closed his ears, and hardened his heart to the reality of the holocaust that was coming, and it was coming quickly.

When we got back to the house, I watched as Ron put the key in the door, and I heard him thinking. I heard him thinking about losing all of that junk in his house, because that was all it was. That was all everything in this world was fast becoming. Junk. He knew it. But that did not mean he wanted to believe it.

I took a shower that night while Ron and Linda and Debbie were upstairs in the den watching a television show called, “Father Brown.” After I showered, I asked Linda if I could please do some laundry. She told me that it was no problem. In fact, she had some of her own to do, and she got up and took what I had and went downstairs to get it started.

Then I went into the guest room and lay down on the bed of the departed, and there I fell asleep on it for the second time.
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  #105  
Old 09-07-2017, 01:57 PM
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Default Day Seventeen

I woke up to my alarm the next morning at 6:00, but I was so groggy that I rolled over and snoozed for another thirty minutes before I got up and went downstairs to get my laundry out of the dryer. I had to use the restroom first, and when I stepped out, there was Ron---just standing there in the dark waiting for me. I half-expected to see him there when I opened the door, and that was what made it kind of weird. I told him that I had to get my laundry, and he moved off to the side so I could get in there and start pulling my clothes out.

I honestly could not figure out why he was standing there in the hallway that morning, but I could definitely tell that his space was being invaded. I knew that leaving sooner rather than later would be a good idea. I had shown up when Ron and Linda already had another guest staying with them, and I was feeling like a fish that had been left out the night before and was now stinking up the house.

We all went to church at St. Richard’s Episcopal at 8:00, and so it was already 10:30 before they could drop me off at the airport. Ron, Linda, and Debbie all came out to the tie-downs to watch me preflight the Dove, and I was a little bothered by that because I needed to collect my focus, and they were definitely not aviation-savvy and did not understand how distracting a pilot with small talk during a preflight was irksome to say the least. I did not want to be rude, so I finally told them how thankful I was for their hospitality, and now I had to go into the terminal building to check the weather. I thanked them again, and then they were gone. I had my freedom back.

I cranked over, taxied out, and took off. I departed Taylor on a climb-out to 12,500 feet to get above a scud layer. I headed north along a string of waypoints that I added enroute, flying between storm cells and weaving through towers of cumulus that were heaving upward all around me.



I was looking at fuel prices and felt a genuine call to land at Kinsley, Kansas (33K). The FBO there was run by a crop dusting company, and $4.00 per gallon beat out the price at Dodge City by nearly a dollar. I descended through a broken layer of cumulus and started getting knocked around a bit. I circled the field to get a handle on the winds and on the layout of the airport, then landed.



As soon as I shut down, I was tabulating my flight times when a guy drove up in a large white Chevy pickup with Tyree Ag., Inc. logos on it. He got out and said that I sure had a nice looking RV. He was a big guy wearing a ball cap and a Commemorative Air Force tee-shirt. I thanked him and introduced myself. His name was Avery.

Avery said that he was just leaving, but he wanted to see if there was anything I might need before he left. I asked him if the shed over there by the fuel pumps was accessible. He said it was, but there wasn’t anything in there. It was still under construction. He said I could find a hotel in town if I needed a place to stay, but I told Avery that I wasn’t going to do that. I told him that I was on a 40-day and 40-night flying mission through America to meet with people and to pray over them and over the cities that I went to.

Then Avery said that I could stay in the hangar facility where he worked. He was a crop duster and they had a kitchen in there and a couch, and plus, I could use the Chevy truck to drive into town for something to eat. I told Avery that I liked walking through towns and exploring them, but he insisted that I use the Tyree Ag truck to go get something to eat. There was a pizza place just beyond the approach end of the runway.

He told me to get in. He told me to drive us over to the company hangar. So I did. Then he took me inside and gave me a quick tour.





Walking in, I could smell the oily-sweet stagnancy of spray chemicals in the hangar. Inside the actual housing unit, it was cool and comfortable with the air conditioning running. There was a kitchen with a dining bar and sink, a television, a restroom and shower. Upstairs, there was a large bedroom with two queen beds and one double bed.





Avery told me to make myself at home and to just leave the keys to the truck inside when I left. I asked him what time he would be coming to work in the morning, and he said at six. I said that I would still be there then, so I thanked him, and then he went out, got into his own truck, and drove off.

I went back out to the Dove to wipe her down and collect all my bags for the night. As I was doing so, a local C-172 owner and pilot named Larry drove up and asked about where I was from and what I was doing. I told him, and then I went over to his hangar to look at his plane before Larry took it up for a short flight in the afternoon heat.





I brought my bags back over to the crop duster facility. I walked through the hangar itself and beheld the large network of tanks and routings into the pump system which stood readied for the next morning’s load-ups.



From upstairs, I could see that the operation was much larger than I first thought. An entire fleet of farm applicators and chemical storage units sat poised across the street.



After putting my bags inside and getting to know my surroundings a little better, I decided to climb into the Chevy for a drive into Kinsley to do a little exploring. I did not know what I would find there, but I was excited to find out.
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  #106  
Old 09-07-2017, 01:59 PM
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Default Day Seventeen (cont.)

It was Sunday afternoon in Kinsley, KS, and the streets downtown were nearly empty. It appeared that all the shops were closed and everyone had gone home. I wondered if they had even been open at all that day.





I saw a water tower near the downtown area that said, Kinsley, Midway U.S.A. and I wondered what that meant. I thought maybe there was a twin city next to Kinsley called Midway, or perhaps there was some significance in Kinsley to the island in the Pacific that became famous in WWII. I did not know. I just saw it and wondered what it meant.



I walked through Kinsley wherever I felt led, taking captive to memory every artifact, every building, every shadow and reflection cast by the day’s angling light until, finally, I made it to the railroad tracks where I followed them for a time along the outer reaches of town.











Then I found the reason why Kinsley was called Midway, U.S.A. There was a sign posted by a museum entrance in front of a collection of antique farming equipment and a locomotive.



I was getting hungry. I drove over to Romano’s, that pizza place Avery recommended, and there, I ordered a taco salad. It was better than I expected, being made in a place where most people came just to have pizza or Italian food.

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  #107  
Old 09-07-2017, 02:01 PM
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Default Day Seventeen (cont.)

After dinner, I dove back past the Midway sign where I found a place to breathe in the coming twilight and listen to the transience of passing traffic on the highway nearby. I heard the muffled hiss of rubber on asphalt and wondered where people were going and what people were thinking or mouthing or wondering themselves as they passed through that tiny town in the heart of a nation that was itself fading into twilight.



I left a cross of Merced soil there and prayed over it, then headed back to the airport. About a quarter mile from the airport, there was a baseball park and what appeared to be a fairgrounds arena where men on horseback were practicing for a team roping event. I parked the truck in front of the Tyree hangar, then walked back over to the arena to watch them practice.







There, I met a young man in his twenties named, Hector, who gave me some insight into the intricacies of team roping. A few young boys were given the task of prodding the small herd of calves into a chute. Then, two mounted ropers readied themselves on either side of the chute. The lead roper, responsible for lassoing the head, nodded to one of the boys to open the chute, and the two ropers chased the calf into the arena. The second roper had the more difficult job of lassoing the heels of the hind legs. Both riders then faced each other to stop the clock. The shorter the time from open chute to standoff, the better.



I watched and asked questions for about an hour, and then the men paused for a cerveza break. Hector’s father asked me if I knew how to ride a horse. I told him that I did. He asked me if I wanted to ride one around the arena for awhile, and I said sure, that would be great. He tightened up the saddle on one of the horses, and then I mounted him.





It took a few times around the arena for me to get connected to the animal, but once that happened, we trotted and cantered and galloped through the arena together for about fifteen minutes while the other men were drinking cerveza. Hector’s father said that I did pretty good, and I thanked him. I certainly was no cowboy, but at that moment, I was glad that I had friends in Kinsley, Kansas, who were.

The boys began loading the chute again with calves, and the men began roping again. I heard gunshots. There was a skeet range right next to the airport and I could hear people over there shooting. I said farewell to Hector, and he wished me well on my journey. Then I walked over toward the gunshots.

In the fading light of day, I could see the Dove sitting distant and alone on the tarmac while a family enjoyed a little trap shooting. Kelly, the mother of Shaley, an eleven-year-old girl sitting next to her, was keeping score while her husband, Brock, observed from behind. Their fifteen-year-old son, Cole, was competing against Uncle Fred, Brock’s brother.



Cole won. They asked me who I was, and I pointed over to the Dove and told the family about the 40-day flying mission through America. Brock said that he would let me shoot his competition shotgun if I let him fly the Dove. I told him laughingly that that would never happen. Then Brock turned to his wife, Kelley, and told her to go inside and buy me a box of shells. Brock wanted me to shoot on the trap range against his son, Cole. I said, sure, no problem, but it was something I had never done before. I had a shotgun back home, but I had never shot trap before. No problem, said Brock. Cole will help you out.

Shaley, the little girl, kept score. Her tiny voice calling out our standings made me giggle a few times as we started shooting. Cole beat me easily. I shot a 16/25, and Cole shot a 20/25. Shaley did a great job keeping score and gloated ever so slightly at my defeat.



Kelly and Cole and I picked up all the spent shells on the range, and then we all talked for a time while Fred packed up his shotgun and Shaley finished off her soda. The owner of the range, Sheena---a 3-time Kansas State shooting champion---came out after she locked up. I thanked my friends for the quick lesson on trap shooting, and then I walked back over to the Tyree hangar. It would be dark soon.



I walked the length of the runway in Kinsley that night and caught a large toad and thought about Abigail, my little friend in Perryville, Missouri, who caught toads with me at an airport near the banks of the Mississippi. Now I was in America’s heartland riding horses and shooting guns and still catching toads at an airport, only now, I didn’t have any friends helping me. I let the toad hop off through the green-white-green-white flashing and into the black of night. Then I was alone with the Lord on the high plains, toadless and tired.

I went back to the hangar and took a shower. Then I went upstairs and peeled back the covers on one of the queen beds and climbed in under the darkness and fell asleep.
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  #108  
Old 09-09-2017, 07:26 PM
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Default

Enjoying the story and been logging in hoping to see an update, hope you didn't get stuck in the bed at the FBO.

Thanks for documenting your summer trip and sharing the details with us.
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  #109  
Old 09-11-2017, 01:54 PM
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Default Day Eighteen: Part I

At 5:00 in the morning, I got up. I quickly moved my bags to the downstairs area after getting dressed, then shuttled them in the Tyree truck over to the Dove. Then I went back over to the hangar complex to check the weather.

Just before 6:00, I heard a truck pull up. I could hear the bifold door motor engage and the tension wires tugging around the reels as the door creaked slowly up to let in a new day of crop dusting. I opened the side door and stepped into the hangar. A young man in his twenties was there and he looked genuinely startled to see me.

I introduced myself, then told the young man about Avery giving me permission to be there. His name was Thomas. I could tell that he was very preoccupied with the business at hand, so I went back in and sat down at the bar as Thomas went about mixing chemicals and getting ready for a day of spraying.

Not long after, another guy showed up. His name was Brian, a Tyree Ag pilot who already knew I would be there. He told me that Avery had called him the night before warning him not to be alarmed when he found a transient sleeping in the pilot’s lounge. Thomas came in and went over a few paperwork details with Brian while I continued looking at the weather online.



Pretty soon, Avery showed up for work. He came into the kitchen area and looked over the paperwork sitting there on the far end of the bar. He asked me how I slept, and I saw his eyes flick down to the couch to give it a cursory inspection. I told him that I slept well and thanked him for his generosity for letting me stay the night. His eyes flicked down to the couch again and then back to the paperwork, and I wondered why he thought that I slept on the couch and not upstairs in one of the beds. I thought that maybe he just did not want to wash the sheets after a transient slept in them, and the couch assumption was a safe one. He had enough work to do without having to do laundry as well.



Avery went out into the hangar and climbed into an Air Tractor and fired it up. He cinched down his shoulder harnesses, then taxied out into the pink of dawn where he powered up, feathered the blades a few times as the turbine spooled up, then took off. I watched my friend depart to the south.



Soon enough, I was ready to leave. I went out into the hangar where Thomas was hosing down the floor. A chemical that smelled a little like dead fish turned white with the water and swirled milk-like into the drainage trap. I asked him if he planned on becoming a pilot, and Thomas said that, yes, he was working toward his private license while his wife was in medical school. I said that it was good to have met Thomas, and then I walked out to the Dove.

I pushed her over to the pumps, topped off, and climbed in. Just then, Avery came into the pattern and cranked a smart base-to-final before landing to get more chemical. I fired up the engine and let the oil warm up for a few minutes before the runup. As I taxied out to Runway 18, Avery keyed his mic and wished me the best on my journey. I thanked him again for his help and hospitality, then blasted out of Kinsley on a left two-seventy over the field. I saw Avery take off below me and bank to the southwest.



I crossed over a large wind farm near a town called, Spearville, and I saw the blades turning at a good rate.



When I landed at Dodge City, Kansas, the winds were much stronger than I expected. There was a stiff crosswind and I got bounced around pretty good before touching down. There were two guys cutting grass when I pulled off the runway. One was on a large John Deere tractor with a Bush Hog behind it, and the other was riding an orange mower.



I taxied onto an empty ramp with a NEXRAD antenna sitting braced below a pristine blue sky.



Then I saw a guy raising his hands for me to taxi over to the FBO. When I shut down, I introduced myself. He said his name was Amador.

“You mean like Amador County in California?” I asked him.

“Yes,” he replied excitedly, “just like that!” He explained that he had been to California a couple of times, but only in southern California, so he had not seen Amador up in the gold country part of the state. He complimented me on the Dove as I wiped her down.

The wind was whipping past us in gusts that kept wanting to snatch the cloth out of my hand. Amador explained that Dodge City was dubbed the windiest city in America, averaging a 13-knot wind over the course of a year, and not uncommonly hitting the 50-knot range. When he took me into the FBO at Crotts Aircraft Service, I saw large magnets on the doors to keep them from blowing open. The doors kept slamming shut every time somebody walked in or out.

I sat on the couch while Amador worked behind the counter and Crotts personnel conducted business. Everyone except Amador seemed to be in a grouchy, depressed mood. I thought that if I had to live in windy conditions like that every day, I would be pretty grouchy, too.



I got up and fixed a cup of coffee and took an exploratory walk through the building. The hallway leading to the restrooms was lined with Hollywood’s Gunsmoke cast on one side, and the legends of Dodge City on the other, including pictures of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday.



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Old 09-11-2017, 01:56 PM
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Scott Chastain Scott Chastain is offline
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: KMCE
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Default Day Eighteen: Part I (cont.)

I went upstairs to a conference area, but there wasn’t much up there to see except the declined view of the coffee bar and the empty space of the floor below.



I went outside and wandered over to a terminal building where the regional airline service operated. Except for the employees working in there, it was empty.



It was clear that Dodge City did not offer any kind of access after business hours, and I had no intention of trying to set up a tent somewhere in the wind that was progressively getting worse as the morning grew warmer. I went back into the FBO. A woman was filling candy jars by the coffee dispensers. I introduced myself. She seemed a very unhappy person who had to go out of her way to shake my hand. Then a few more people who worked for Crotts came into the lobby. They all seemed unhappy and cold and emotionless. It was almost like the wind outside had sucked the smiles right off their faces and slammed the doors on the way out. There was a joylessness---a very palpable sadness hanging in the room---that was nearly suffocating and unbearable.

After about thirty minutes of door-slamming silence, I said, “So, how does one go about getting into town?”

Both Amador and the woman behind the desk seemed to shudder at the question. An almost imperceptible head-shake could be seen. Neither one of them had a reply for me. I could not get over the lack dialogue in that place which seemed more to me like an expression of abject suffering that howled from their souls in such muted fashion that I suspected them being held hostage by some unseen but life-threatening entity in the room.

“So what is that?” I said, somewhat astonished at the lack of acknowledgment. “The ten-thousand-dollar question around here, or what?”

Still, without saying a word, Amador opened up a drawer and started sorting through an assortment of keys. Then he turned to me and said there was a courtesy car outside, and he walked out from behind the counter with a set of keys in his hand, opened the door, and went out. The door slammed shut, leaving me alone in the office with the sad, silent woman who leafed through some paperwork and carried on as if I were not even there.

A few minutes later, as I was looking at the pictures of Wyatt Earp and James Arness and the Gunsmoke cast on the south wall, the door slammed shut again and Amador came up to me. He handed me the keys to a blue Buick sedan.



He told me the driver’s side window wouldn’t roll up anymore, but it ran fine. He gave me directions into town. He said that once I turned out of the airport onto the main highway, I would see pretty much everything there was to see in Dodge City if I stayed on it.

I did not plan to stay on it.



I parked the Buick in downtown Dodge City and began walking. Much like what I found in such towns as Beatrice and Kinsley, I found the streets of Dodge City bereft of people and traffic. In some places, I felt I had the whole town to myself to explore. So I did.











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