After a while, as long as your mind stays with you, something that happens or something someone says or something you see brings up pages out of your past that are sometimes entertaining, sometimes forgettable and occasionally troublesome.

I’m scrolling through FaceBook and my friend Doug mentions seeing people lined up for cheap beer early on a Saturday morning at a convenience store in South Florida. The image is indelible.  Would I ever be in such a line?  My Goddess, NO!  Get a cup of coffee, Doug, and leave those ne’er-do-wells to their own devices – or six packs.

It’s so easy to superimpose superiority on almost any situation.

One day sometime ago, myself and three other guys decided that we’d have beer with breakfast and then some.  I mean, we were in Minneapolis after all.  I think that’s close enough to Milwaukee to count. I believe I remember it being Grain Belt Beer.  The subtitle, in small print, said, “It’s strong beer”. It had the same effect on me as would have a morphine drip.  I’m not a morning drinker.

The rest of the day was spent trying to cleanse our bodies of the alcoholic fuzz because of a regulation or principle generally accepted by the private pilot fraternity that there should be twelve hours between the bottle and the throttle.  We had a little room to spare, but we also had a few beers to dilute in the time remaining before we flew our little airplanes back to Texas.

We had flown to Minnesota to the Bellanca factory to pick up three new airplanes and bring them back to Plainview, our home base.

After signing for our three airplanes at the factory: a Scout, one Champ and a Decathlon, we take off for out first stop – Omaha.  It is important to know that we are not flying above the weather.  We are flying in whatever weather there is.  Ahead we can see rain storms brewing right in our path.  We want to be in Omaha, which we can see off to our right but there is a vigorous storm between there and our location.  Any port in a storm seems to apply here.  We divert to the Council Bluffs airport, across the river, and land one right after the other and tie our little feather weight craft down and wait out what turns out to be a short but vigorous hail storm.  

Our objective it to refuel and make contact with the fourth member who is flying back to Plainview in the larger airplane that brought us north.  Alas, we have missed him due to the hail storm in Council Bluffs.  I am leading the flight into Eppley Field in Omaha and called the tower to announce the arrival of a flight of three Champs, but the tower says he sees only two.  An anonymous voice, deeply resonant, emanating probably from the 727 commercial airliner on the ramp waiting to take off, asks the obvious, “Where is that mystery Champ?”

It turns out that one of our number had gained some altitude to make radio contact with the person that brought us to the factory.  He then came in late for refueling, after giving messages to the pilot that we would be home later than expected.

Our next stop was Dodge City Kansas for lunch.  We were flying low and slow over the tops of wheat and corn across the heartland of the American bread basket.  I always wanted to say that.  It was like flying over the illustrated Rand McNally Atlas of he USA.  It is hard to imagine a more fulfilling experience for someone who had spent many hours as a child immersing himself in such a map book fantasizing what it must be like to actually see that part of the world.  I had to laugh.  It looked just like the map.  Little two dimensional rectangles bordered by roads as though someone laid it all out on a table with a square a ruler and pencil.  I entertained the thought, briefly, that I should have become a cartographer.  Actually, I think I would have enjoyed that.  It was quite a thrill.

The thrills were not over, however.  As we approached the Texas Panhandle, the weather began to deteriorate, again.  A front was passing through just as we sighted Plainview.  Luckily, we were able to duck in just under the worst of the wind and rain as the light faded in the western sky.

Now, it was really “Miller Time”.  It was a long day but nothing can match the the rush of flying a light airplane off the tops of the corn and wheat from Minnesota to Texas.  Well, nothing except a cold beer, some barbecue and an exciting rehash of the trip.  As I recall, it wasn’t cheap beer.  But memory being what it is, we’ll never know.

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