Folks haven’t seen us around the airport much for the past few weeks. An early and long spring has put the Old Man into a planting and building fervor. You name the vegetable and it’s probably planted in our garden. It’s really nice to have fresh produce, but many of the vegetables he planted in large quantities will be ready for harvest around mid-July. I hope he retains some of this enthusiasm when the temperatures are 90 squared (90°F and 90% humidity).
He has also been dismantling a farm building or two and using the lumber to make grape arbors and chicken coops. While a worthy endeavor, one has to wonder just how many grapes and eggs two folks can consume. The kids and grandkids do like grape jelly, and he does make some fine wine, but too much sugar and alcohol will have us sweating bullets at our next flight physicals.
Then there are his girls. They love him and accordingly produce eggs in abundance as a result of his tender loving care. I don’t begrudge him his pets. The Good Lord knows I’ve had my share over the years, but he also has his boys. A good hen house has one, maybe two, good roosters. More than that and there’s disharmony. Most folks put those extra roosters to good use in the dumpling pot. Ours are yard ornaments.
They eat, they crow and they preen, but they are not dumb. Banished from the hen house, they have been wily enough to avoid the hawks, the coyotes, and the neighbors’ dogs (not to mention the deep fryer). Our Great Pyrenees mix, Samuel, doesn’t pay them much attention. He’d rather guard the shade and ride in his truck.
So I think 27 hens, 17 roosters, one very large dog, four grape arbors, and a couple of acres of produce that could feed a small town qualifies as a menagerie. Add a little wine sipping and bluegrass playing on a Saturday evening and it can be downright entertaining.
As much as I love our farm in spring, we do need breaks from all that productivity. The airport offers the perfect respite, and this past week I decided that a day of clear blue skies, calm winds aloft and on the ground could only be improved upon by the sound of my C-85/O-200 droning overhead.
A trip to the airport almost always starts with a stop at the building to gather the latest gossip. We are a close-knit airport in a close-knit community where most folks know each other or their parents or cousins or went to school with his sister. Even though Jasper has a very large transplant population, they seemed to have meshed into the fabric of this small community rather well.
At any time, several regions of the country may be represented by the occupants of the porch. Red is from South Dakota. Ron is from Philly. Ted and Judy have lived all over but have a second residence in Chicago. Our airport managers, Marion and Randy, are local but traveled the world in the military before retiring back home. Adam is from Blue Ridge, which is just up the road a piece.
On this particular day, the talk from this mixed group was about the arrival in town of film legend, Clint Eastwood, to film a scene for an upcoming movie. The buzz was that he was to arrive by helicopter some time that day. He would perhaps land at the airport. I had read about this in the local paper, but didn’t realize the big event was that day. The possibility of seeing Clint Eastwood was exciting, even for a country bumpkin like me, and as soon as I heard this juicy tidbit, I got an idea.
Our plans for the day started with the visit at the building, then we planned to head over to the hangar to mow, followed by fueling both airplanes and then flying. A good plan for a typical day, but this day was not typical. The toughest dude in the universe, Mr. “Make My Day” Eastwood, was coming to Jasper, Ga. The grass could wait. This was Lester’s chance to become a star.
In my star-dazzled mind, I knew if Mr. Eastwood could see Lester’s shiny brilliance and hear the throaty sound of that C-85/O-200 with straight pipes, he would be moved — no driven — to include us in the movie. It made logical sense to me.
So I abandoned the Old Man to the grass cutting. I planned to fuel the airplane and then fly over where the scene was to be filmed. If nothing else, the ballpark scene would be enhanced by the sound of Lester flying overhead. Since I was not totally inconsiderate in my star-studded daze, I thought to make only a few turns over the site, then keep Lester visible in the pattern or on the taxiway. It was a good plan.
Except…my baby wasn’t ready for stardom. It had been a few weeks since I had flown, and on first crank, it was obvious the only sound that film crew would hear from me was the gnashing of my teeth. Lester sounded horrible. The number one cylinder exhaust valve was stuck as tight as Dick’s hat band. There would be no throaty drone of a Luscombe 8E flying overhead in this scene. The letdown was devastating.
I knew this would not be a quick fix. It was already mid-afternoon. Removing, unsticking, reaming and cleaning would take time, and Clint would be gone from my life forever. While not fully knowing my intent, but suspicious of my eagerness to fly at this moment, my Old Man offered me two very generous options. He would start repairs immediately or we could enjoy the beautiful flying weather together in his 8A and fix Lester’s ailment another day.
Having one’s vanity nipped is galling, but losing a chance to fly on such a perfect day would be foolish. I tied Lester down and had no qualms about climbing into that lovely 1946 Luscombe 8A. We did fly close enough to the film set to snap a picture of the trailers and semis surrounding the ball field downtown. I’m pretty sure we were too high and too far away to be heard. However, “Trouble With the Curve” is expected to be released in September. If you hear an airplane sound in the background during a ball field scene, it will not be a throaty C-85/O-200. Instead, it will be a peppy A-65, and it will not be heard for long. While the excitement of seeing a legend in real life was appealing, the draw of the sky was stronger.
I didn’t have up close and personal pictures of Mr. Eastwood that evening to share on Facebook like some of my friends did, but I did have some lovely aerial shots of a countryside dressed in the colors of spring.
And while Clint will always seem larger than life, perhaps the man seated beside me in that little airplane was the bigger star of the day.
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. Deb can be reached at ShortFinal@generalaviationnews.com.
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