An unforgettable gift

Summer is defined by holidays. Memorial Day is its start when the season is fresh and new. The air is not so humid or hot. Bare feet find soft, freshly mowed green grass, and tan lines are still unseen. Gardens are planted and summer showers are welcome. July 4th finds the heat of summer entrenched. The cooling breezes and blue skies of spring are but a dim memory. Bare feet find solace in sandals or flops because the ground is now too hot for unprotected soles. The corn is usually ready. By Labor Day, the joy of summer has waned. Most crops are harvested and the garden has either wilted or been eaten by pests. Fall is a welcome anticipation.

In our neck of the woods, summer’s holidays are celebrated by eating the bounty of the season. Perhaps it is not the best pastime to enjoy when one is trying to keep a third class medical, but it is done on a frequent and joyous basis. This year, July 4th fell on a Sunday, a day in the south typically set aside for worship for the devote and recovery for the debauched. Consequently, the city of Jasper decided that the festivities to celebrate the birth of our nation should take place on Saturday so the natural order of the weekend would not be disturbed.

Following this recommendation, the Front Porch Gang decided to host the annual Bring-A-Dish Lunch at the airport on Saturday as well. The McFarland contribution to this feeding frenzy was, of course, the bounty of the garden — corn on the cob, marinated cucumbers, fresh black-eyed peas and cornbread. While this offering is easy on the pocketbook when feeding a crowd, it can be rough on the body as all that bounty has to be picked, pulled, shucked or/and shelled.

This year, Henry and I decided to divide the duties of the day between us. He would fly in the Parade of Airplanes as the opening act for the town’s annual parade, and I would cook the produce and deliver it hot and just in time for lunch. Later in the evening, we would work together to host a gathering for family and friends at home. Sounded like a plan to us, but we were surprised at the reaction of our choices by fellow pilots. They were shocked Lester was not part of the Parade of Airplanes.

Deb and Lester

I guess I should be flattered that some folks think I’m capable of such multitasking. Being a female pilot, as well as a mommy and granny figure, I’m often left with the task of organizing airport events. I don’t mind. I’m good at it. I like to entertain and I love to cook, but I do have limitations. In the past, I could fly a loaded airplane five hours to Lakeland, whip out my gear after landing and prepare a meal for 13 people from the contents of my airplane. But life was different then. I was younger, and we were empty nesters.

Perhaps the most annoying aspect of this chastisement was that several of those commenting that Lester and I should be flying were talking with their mouths full of freshly pulled, shucked and boiled corn. I just shook my head, turned and walked away.

By the time the evening festivities were over at home, I was certain I’d had enough of July 3rd and the 4th and the whole month to boot. Perhaps I was done with summer as well. My body was tired and my mind overwhelmed with too many details.

Sunday morning found me still exhausted after a sleep-in and somewhat annoyed that my state of being was not due to some good old-fashioned rowdiness. I considered going back to bed and staying there, but my Old Man had other ideas.

If there is any thing I like better than flying, it is being flown. I love flying as a passenger in an old, low and slow airplane, especially on a good flying day. Henry dumped, err…I mean, dropped Keely off with his parents, and he took me to the airport where a chariot named Lucy awaited.

When he asked, “Where do you want to go?” I didn’t hesitate. The mountains are a favorite destination, and since it was a holiday, I thought I’d like to see what the tourist town of Helen, Georgia, looked like from the air. It was a beautiful day, and while it may seem cliché, the air was clear and amazingly cool for Georgia. And while a rare northern front had made it this far south, it didn’t bring any wind, so it was truly perfect Luscombe flying weather.

We took off from JZP and heated east. After crossing Mount Oglethorpe, the southernmost peak of the Blue Ridge Mountains, we kept the mountains on our left wing and the rolling forest on our right. We glided by Amicalola Falls, the tallest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River, and admired the park’s lodge perched on the edge of the mountain. Below us was a sea of green broken by waves of rock and granite and above us was a sea of blue dotted with gentle white cotton.

As Lucy purred and the miles rolled on, those maddening details that cluttered my thoughts fell away. The pall of exhaustion was lifted and my body felt lighter. I didn’t have to think, I didn’t have to do. I only had to see. Helen was nestled at the base of the Blue Ridge on the banks of the Chattahoochee River. It was interesting to see the river clogged with neon green and pink floats, a testament that the tourist business was alive and well.

It was even better to view the charming little town from the air and avoid the gnarl of traffic on the major highway into town. To the northeast of town was Unicoi State Park where we once stayed in a barrel cabin, a treat that Keely found fascinating. In only 50 miles and 3,500 feet, my whole outlook of summer changed. It was all fresh and new again, just like in May.

My Old Man flew me three hours on July 4th and I believed it was one of the best ways I’ve ever celebrated my freedom. It brought what was important to me back into focus. I thanked him for the flight and the day, for it was a generous gesture and an unforgettable gift.

Deb McFarland is the proud owner of Lester, a 1948 Luscombe 8E, and part of the “Front Porch Gang” at Pickens County Airport in Georgia. She can be reached at


  1. says

    Breakfast in New York, a board meeting in Boston, dinner at home…a private jet gives you the ultimate in flexibility and control. Now I just have to convince my boss we need one for the company and to send me for pilots training!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *