On Becoming a Pilot

There never was a day that I did not like airplanes!   Looking up at the sky became a natural thing to do every time a strange noise streamed across the heavens.  The sound and type were always a draw card to that mystery of flying.

Unlike some kids, I was fortunate enough to grow up in and around aviation.  My Dad was a former Navy mechanic during World War II and after the war he continued in this trade and also became a pilot.  In his old log book were many “TH” entries, meaning “Test Hop.”  A short flight to determine that all was well and good with whatever repairs were made.  I remember hanging around him at the Atlanta Airport for as far back as I can remember, probably three, four or five.  I thought he was the greatest man in the world of course and that aviation was the most fascinating activity in the universe.  This was in the early 50’s of the late twentieth century.  Today perhaps, he would be making “IT” entries for “Internet Technology.”

It was a real privilege, at my age, to be spending so much time around these “Time Machines” of the sky.  By a few years later, at Aero Sales, Inc., my dad’s new business at Brown Field, Fulton County Airport, I would come to know some of the great names in aviation like Bob Hoover, Steve Wittmam, Frank Tallman, and others who would come into our hanger for service, fuel, and repairs from all over the country.  And every once and a while, I would “win” a ride in a brand new Aero Commander, or a Twin Beech, or a V-Tail Bonanza.  It was an exciting time!

The most memorable occasion was when Santa Clause arrived one Christmas, all dressed up in red and white, with his bag of gifts for us boys and girls, in a beautiful V-Tail Bonanza, an airplane that I would one day own myself!  It must have been a sign!

Through the years, my family would acquire a Piper PA-12 Super Cruiser, three place airplane taildragger.  On several occasions we would make trips to places we needed to be.  Dad would drop us out, with the engine still running, turn around and take off again heading back home.  I thought I was a “privileged” child, but I never took for granted the fact that we had an airplane.  As time went on, I would come to appreciate the fine art of flying more and more.

Finally, one day, almost right out of the blue, I determined that I wanted to be a pilot!  So, I got myself and things in order, and got my Dad to agree to go in halves with me, if I could find and purchase an airplane.  In just a few weeks, I found and purchased the most beautiful little 1946  Ercoupe 415-C, you have ever seen.  Blue and white with a sunburst design and blue tinted plexiglass.  We originally flew it out of a grass field called Pinewood Airport and then moved it to Cartersville Airport, where I hired an instructor, an operating duster pilot, named Walter Barnes.  He was the greatest and within a relatively short number of hours, five, he had me soloed.  But, the Ercoupe had no rudder pedals, and later I would have to get some Cessna 150 time to learn the rudder pedals, which I did.

I was off and flying for real!  As a student pilot, what I really had was a license to learn about flying, and learn I did.  Basic airplane handling, hand propping, take offs and landings, pattern work, cross country navigation, emergency landings you name it we had to learn it.  I had to take a certified ground school at Falcon Field, Peachtree City Airport, make a certified night flight from Atlanta to Cartersville, Georgia, and back and a short cross country solo to Center, Alabama and back.  By this time, I was based in Atlanta, at Brown Field my new “Home Field.”  And I had a new instructor, Mr. Dan Emin, who instructed for the Georgia State Patrol.  I was learning every day and building my time for my private ticket.

Alas, one day, I got lost on a business trip to Cartersville from Atlanta.  How!!!!  Does that happen??????  The trip up was clear, nice and otherwise uneventful.  It was my first real legitimate business trip, solo, I might add.  By the time I departed, in the late afternoon, the sky had become so hazy that visibility was way, way down, and I couldn’t fine the airport, I could not fine Atlanta, nor any of the local landmarks to find my way.  On board was an old VHF-Coffee Grinder Radio, that I had not learned to use yet, and the tower controller was trying to give me instructions.  It was no good!  I could not learn under those conditions, so I said “forget it” something else has got to work.  I told him I was going west until I found something that I recognized, maybe the Mississippi River! LOL! Finally, I looked down, and to my amazement I found “Lost Mountain,” a place that I was intimately familiar with!  From there I followed the roads back to the airport and made a safe landing!  Wow, the lessons you learn, when you are just having fun!

Later, I would make my big and final, long cross country trip, from Atlanta to Augusta to Americus and back to Atlanta.  All in one long Friday day trip. I would be back by late afternoon, or so I thought. The day would begin out with a sign, when my left front valve was stuck and, as I often had to do, had to open the engine to pop it loose.  100 octane fuel for an 80 octane engine, would do that, if the valves had not been reamed out.  But, it was fairly routine by now, and besides, it had NEVER happened while the engine was running, only on shutdown.  Well, eventually I made it back to Atlanta, three days later and one forced landing!  It was a heck of a trip and in another post, someday, I will tell you all about it and all about meeting the proverbial farmer’s daughter!

Next, I would take my “Check Ride” with the authorized FAA Instructor to get my private ticket.  The day was clear and nice.  After doing all the basic maneuvers required we approached the airport for landing.  Remember the Ercoupe had no rudder pedals.  Well, the Examiner, Mr. Bill Mobley, was so fascinated by the lack of rudder pedals, he wanted to see if “He” could land the airplane safely, and he did!  He said, here, it’s your airplane, your all right!  And upon getting out, he signed my ticket!  Wow!  I was a pilot!  A real airplane “Pilot!”

It was just the beginning of a long, life time, learning curve with many new and exciting adventures that continues to this day!


The American Civil War

The American Civil War or The War Between the States was a crucible of self-determination for all Americans. The years 1861-1865 were four of the most formative years that faced all Americans since 1776 when we first declared our independence from Great Britain.

Nowhere, in the annals of history, were the implications more complex and yet seemingly simplistic. Slavery was foremost in the minds of all abolitionists and its abolishment would have no end to its means. States’ rights were equally important to all of those who felt that self-determination remained within the power of each state. Economics, of course, entered into the fray as well as cultural more’s on each side of the question. All in all, it was an awful mess, that ultimately, would only be settled by what you might call a contest of fisticuffs and weapons to the extreme! It would remain, until this day, one of the great enigmas of our time!

When I was a small boy, about the age of six years old, I was first introduced to the records of this great conflict through a book, “The American Heritage Picture History of the American Civil War,” at the local library in Austell, Georgia. This book, among other things, carried the outstanding artist work of David Greenspan, depicting many of the epic battles of this great war. They were broadly scoped, colorful, and almost three-dimensional in their rendering. In short, they were marvelous! Only there could a young child or even an adult begin to take in and understand the scope and gravity of this great conflict. I was hooked, line and sinker on the graphic subject matter, and over time this interest only intensified.

By the time I was twelve years old, only six more years, I was deeply involved in the whys and wherefores of this momentous event in our history. In only one more year, the United States of America would celebrate our 100th Anniversary of this formative event. Much was planned to commemorate the event. I wanted to be a part of this commemoration, and I learned from some friends about re-enacting. Soon, I was joined up with the Twelfth Georgia Light Artillery and The First Georgia Volunteers, depending on the day and time. I made many new friends and was introduced to many new people, places and things, like weapons and equipment. It was very exciting and a great adventure, especially for such a young fellow as myself.

Over the next four years, I would travel to places all over the country for re-enactments and would receive a “Medal of Participation” for that particular battle. Places like Olustee, Florida, Brices’ Crossroads, Mississippi, Chicamaugua, Georgia, Chattannoga, Tennessee, Jonesboro, Georgia, Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia and others. The medals hang on my fireplace mantle today, as a reminder of my own little contribution to the remembering of these momentous occasions. These were great formative years for me.

The highlight of these exciting times for me was the formal dedication of the only Georgia Monument at Kennesaw Mountain National Military Park, when I was part of the Confederate Honor Guard. It was a humbling and memorable time in my early life. I was only 16 years old.

Today, I honor that memory! As I now continue to move on at the ripe old age of 67, I still can hear the “Bugle Call” of that long-ago time, just like the young boys before me who answered the call for real. New wars, and new boys and girls, men and women, have now heard and answered the call for battle in this new age. The time we live in is challenging and presents new thoughts and new actions. My hope and final thought is that we will learn from the past, we will remember the fallen, and we will strive to make the future a wonderful place to live for us and for those who come after, free from strife, hurt and pain and full of fulfillment and peace.

Good Morning Sunshine

Another day has opened for us with a beautiful sunrise on this cold frosty morning in the middle of winter.  It is so beautiful!

The air is crisp and clean, and here, visibility is unlimited.  CAVU – as we we say in aviation, Clear Air Visibility Unlimited.   This is a good metaphor for how our lives should be conducted, but, it is often clouded with low clouds, rain, snow, or even hail.  On the more severe side, we may even experience hurricanes or tornadoes.   Even high winds and limited visibility can create severe limitations on our day to day operations.

As we proceed through life, most of us are going VFR or Visual Flight Rules, but, when the going really gets tough we have to convert to IFR or Instrument Flight Rules or stay home.  This, in my opinion, means that we must proceed cautiously, using every skill of knowledge and power, to get the job done.

As I write my books and stories, I have found that “Faith” has often played a big role in the writing and developing of my characters and the inevitable circumstances in which they find themselves, just like us.   As defined in the Bible, faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not yet seen.

When I was young, I developed “faith” that, one day, I would be big and strong and that perhaps, I might even be a writer.  I even wrote little pretend newspapers with pictures and headlines and made multiple copies, so as to disseminate the day’s news.  Of course it was just scribbling but, I “knew” what I was doing.  So it is, that a young kid gets started in something he or she loves doing!

See you next time for more on why I began writing and why you can too, if that is something that you get excited about!

Actually, now is next time (on my blog) and I would like to continue on some of the aspects of writing and what got me started in that direction.

Most of my life has been pretty busy just like yours probably.  I worked so much that I never had time to write or do a lot of the things that I thought I would want to do.  I, probably like you, did a little here and a little there, but writing was not the only thing I wanted to do.  I liked many things, including art, music, building things, discovery, adventure, science, reading, airplanes, etc.  In fact, I guess you could say that there was not anything that I was not interested in!  But, as we go along, we pick and choose those things that “grab” our attention, and the written word was one of those things.

I was born into a home at 1020 Gordon Street, Atlanta, Georgia, on July 6, 1948.   West End or Westend, as it was called, was a beautiful and luxurious side of town, with wide streets and paved sidewalks.  We lived only three doors up from Joel Chandler Harris, one time Editor of the Atlanta Journal & Constitution, and the great story teller of Uncle Remus and Bre’ Rabbit and all his magical friends.  He called his home “The Wren’s Nest” for the tiny bird that had made its home in his mailbox.

Up the street, by the time I was little, maybe three years old, was the Uncle Remus Library, where my literary imagination was seeded.  So, I grew up on the wonderful stories of Uncle Remus and all his friends and I found out about books, books, and books!  By now, there was no turning back!   Writing developed, for me, as a direct outreach of the magic of words and I became a “word-smith.”





Happy January 2016

Welcome to the New Year and Thank You for reading my new blog!

Hope is eternal and eternal is forever held in hope that the future will be good.  This little bit of sharing will “hopefully” bring us closer together as we build on a conversational relationship of sorts.

This is new to me, so bare with me as we approach the attempt to communicate via this method.  I hope to bring to you some fresh ideas, some insights, here and there, and share a few good old looks at the past.

In my new (latest book, which completes my trilogy), “Under the Wedding Tree,” we take a look at some more contemporary times starting about the beginning of World War II and advance to about 2011 or so.  This time period is more contemporary to yours and mine lifetimes and the story allows me to share with you some of the more important aspects of these years.  The core of the book centers around the four major marriages on the family farm;  that of my wife and myself, and the subsequent marriages of our three grown children, showing how family customs and traditions often emotionally center around the old home place.

So, take a trip with me as we discover who we think we are, who we really are and even who we hope to be.  I think you will see yourself somewhere along the way!