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Late September iPhone 313

Beautiful sunset on Great Pond, Maine.

I used to think I could pass on to the afterlife any day and be content–satisfied.  I felt I’d done most everything in life that I wanted to do and anything else was just frosting on the cake.  Not that I was looking for my life to end early or anything that dramatic, but I was happy with the way my life had turned out and I had attained most of the goals I had set for myself.  It was a comfortable feeling–like there was very little pressure and I was enjoying life…but sort of coasting through it so to speak.

So this bit of info demands a smidgen of background on my and my outlook lest you think I’m some sort of arrogant know-it-all that thinks he has life all figured out by his mid-thirty’s.  This isn’t the case at all.  You see, I had semi-intentionally stayed single until I was thirty-nine years old while making a career at sea in the Navy (sorry to the few ladies that had captured my heart up until this time, I had no idea this would pan out this way…it was just life…as I was finding out).  So with this in mind, I had most of the toys I’d wanted and seen nearly everything that I cared to see…I had it all neatly done and the “box” checked.  Or so I’d thought.

Apparently I didn’t have much of it figured out at all, life came along and threw me a curveball…I’ve noticed it has a way of doing that.  Somewhere along the line I had an epiphany, I found that sharing the things I enjoyed in life with someone who appreciates them also is even MORE fulfilling than doing them alone!  I know, I know, not a news flash to most of you–but it was a turning point in my life.  This learning point was the basis of my finding the right person and settling down, I had the knowledge that with the right person my life would be enrichened immensely.

So as the years passed by, my life on earth as a married man were fruitful and I saw that I had been missing something after all…even if I didn’t realize it.  We truly don’t know what we are missing when we’ve never experienced it…but as soon as you do experience it, you can’t figure out how you ever did without it.  It’s like a hole is filled that you didn’t even know existed.

As time went on I started to feel content again and comfortable once more…but life happend as it tends to do.  I learned I had a son coming into this world and Nathan completely changed me before he’d even arrived!  Now I think twice before doing the more risky things in my life, be it at work or at home.  I realize my wife would go on just fine without me (some would argue she’d do better! ha!) but this young boy, he needed a father; he needed someone to help guide him through life’s obstacles as those great souls helped guide me during my upbringing.

Now no longer do I feel like I’m ready to go anytime soon.  Now I feel as though I have to do my best to live as long as possible–at least until I’ve done my part in shaping my son into a kind, caring, thoughtful and gentle man that will be a positive addition to society.

So on to the next chapter in life.  The chapter I will forever call Nathan…a toast to our future success.

Jonathan

June iPhone Download 007

Jonathan’s hometown–North Haven, Maine

The Cessna Stationair motors along effortlessly as Jonathan, a frequent young passenger of mine, and I fly smoothly at just over a thousand feet above his neighborhood.  I look over at the young boy sitting next to me, his face uncharacteristically shows no emotion.  He’s unable to see out the window without the “booster” cushion he currently sits on, this cushion allows him to look down at the island where he lives much more easily.  I remember the first few times he flew with me he didn’t have the cushion, but he’s been using it the last half dozen times or so and I can tell he enjoys seeing the buildings, cars and whatnot.  What is odd this flight is his quietness, his lack of  emotion.  This puzzles me, I’ve noticed kids typically are unable to hide their excitement or apprehension when they are flying and Jonathan is always one of the children that enjoy it.  Not today, this little fella is apparently the master of the poker face–even at the tender age of six.

Perplexed, I ask him what he thought of flying with me in the airplane.  “So Jonathan, how do you like flying, isn’t this better than taking the ferry?”  He doesn’t say much for a few moments then I hear him through my headsets, “It’s fun, the houses look so small.”  He continues staring out the side window never looking over at me and acknowledging my presence in the seat next to him.  This is a response that sounds familiar, a common answer among children his age but he’s quiet again and now staring at the instruments on the panel in front of him as we pass over the school he attends.  Something must be bothering him I surmise, he would usually be looking out the window.

The needles dance in their cases and have the effect of hypnotizing their young prey–Jonathan seems captivated by the rhythmic movement and not interested in looking out the window anymore.  I continue flying the Stationair knowing that oftentimes children will suddenly grow quiet in the plane when they are hiding the first symptoms of airsickness.  Although today is not that bumpy I know kids are more susceptible to motion sickness, the medical reason escapes me but it’s not important, just knowing the signs is what’s most important.

I certainly have to address the possibility of him not feeling well so I ask, “Jonathan, are you feeling OK?  You’re awfully quiet.”  This time he peers up at me, “I’m not feeling bad, I’m just thinking.”  Thinking?  What could he possibly be thinking about besides flying when he is usually an excited young boy full of questions?  Intrigued by the thoughts of this six year old I ask him,  “What are you thinking about?”  Once again he is looking out the window and he doesn’t respond right away, continuing to stare intently at his schoolyard moving swiftly by below–then he looks at me and asks, “What would happen if I dropped bubble gum out of the window?  At school, Bobby said it will stick to a car or house, but I think it will just fly into the woods and be lost.”  I couldn’t help but break out with a smile and feel the relief of knowing I wasn’t going to be cleaning up any mess from Jonathan’s stomach.

Of course he caught me completely by surprise with this question and for a brief second I actually thought about telling him of Federal Aviation Regulation 91.15 which plainly states we cannot drop anything from the plane that might endanger ‘persons or property’ on the ground…but of course I didn’t.  Like any responsible adult I immediately removed the gum from my mouth and showed it to him.  He smiled knowing instantly what I was going to do as I rolled the gooey, sticky mess into a ball.  Thankfully he and I were the only ones on-board that sunny day so I gently banked the airplane back towards his school, specifically the playground.  I quickly reached over with my non-flying hand and opened the window on my side of the plane allowing the wind to whip into the cabin as it passed by the plane at nearly 140 mph.  The noise increased dramatically but our headsets allowed us to speak and hear easily as he watched me toss the gum out the window into the fast moving air.

Now for you naysayers reading this thinking I had lost my mind and should never have done something so silly…so dangerous…it was on a Sunday and there were no people anywhere near that schoolyard, but I still managed to throw it into the woods well short of the school–you know–to meet the all important regulation number 91.15.  Most importantly however, Jonathan knows in his six year old mind that I not only aimed for the slide where he and Bobby play during recess…I hit it.  In his mind let there be no doubt, it was a direct hit!  I mean I am an adult, I am the pilot-in-command of the plane and I told him I could do it, so therefore he knows it was done as advertised.

I reached over and closed the window returning the noise level in our ears to the steady hum we were accustomed to.  Jonathan was grinning ear to ear and not a word was spoken as we turned back towards the airstrip.  I’m sure he was still grinning on Monday morning when he and Bobby found that gum sticking to the side of the slide exactly where I told him it hit as we flew by at 140 mph.

Those two boys have a memory that will undoubtedly entertain them for quite some time and surely any adult they tell will think they are just telling stories as children do.  But this story is true right?  I mean the gum really was stuck firmly to the side of slide.  You don’t think anyone saw me did you?  You know, the next day when I stopped at the playground while delivering the mail and placed a wad of bubble gum on the side of that slide.  You don’t suppose someone saw that and is wondering to this day why some pilot in his mid-forties would take the time to pull into the school yard in the company van and place a piece of gum on the children’s play equipment?  Who in their right mind would do such an uncouth, unsanitary thing?

The gum wasn’t there on Tuesday morning.

Night Sounds of the Forest

Night Camping Passamagamet Lake
A sandy beach campsite on the shores of Passamagamet Lake, Maine

“I think I hear a noise.” she said as she climbed deeper into the sleeping bag.  I also heard the noise but didn’t think much of it—it’s the far reaches of northern Maine and “noises” are common in the forest after dark so I elected to stay warmly in my bag hoping she’d fall back asleep.  Well that wasn’t going to happen.  “Aren’t you going to check it out?” she asks from underneath the mighty sleeping bag in her best defensive position.  Well to be truthful I hadn’t intended to, but feeling her nervous grip on my hand tighten even more, I figured I’d better do something or it might not be the best camping trip of the season.  “Sure.” I said in my deepest, most manly voice I could conjure up at this early hour, “I will see what all the commotion is about.”

I grudgingly slipped out of the warmth of the sleeping bag into the cool night air and quietly unzipped the front of our tent in search of the origin of the odd sounds.  The strange part is I wasn’t hearing the somewhat familiar sounds most campers are used to hearing.  You know, the sounds of a nosy, hungry bear looking for a free meal or the chattering of raccoons as they destroy a campsite…I was hearing things I’d never heard in the woods before.  Not scary sounds mind you, just intriguing and unsettling sounds because of their unfamiliarity.  I was totally perplexed by what exactly could be making all the strange sounds I was hearing, the sounds were certainly increasing in their frequency and intensity.

As I peered intently out into the semi-light I tried to get my eyes to adjust to the scene before me in the slowly oncoming dawn.  The shadows that were present were playing tricks on my eyes, but through the gloom I could make out the shape of my airplane parked safely on the beach merely a hundred feet away.  As much as I tried I could not see anything unusual in the direction I’d been hearing the noises—or could I?  As I looked more intently and my eyes adjusted to the faint light, I could see shapes moving quite adeptly on the floats of the Super Cub.  Not just one or two shapes mind you, there appeared to be three and possibly even a fourth!

After hearing my nervous tent-mate ask for the umpteenth time what it was that was making those noises, it finally dawned on me—I was watching a family of otters having a blast playing on the floats of the plane and chattering up a storm while splashing around in the water in the still of the early morning twilight.  I knew I’d go out to that airplane after they’d left and find evidence of many fresh water clams on and around the floats of the Cub, those little critters were having a feast and my floats were their dining room table!  Now that was the easy part, my next task was to try and explain to my anxious female companion that river otters are not man-eating monsters intent on catching us unaware in the tent…

Childhood Dreams

Ready for Start
Seconds Before Firing the Green Cub Up.

Summer 1982, Fourth Debsconeag Lake—Indian Camp.

I had just turned twelve years old and was staying at some sporting camps in the woods of northern Maine with my Grandfather and a close friend of his named Randy.  The owner of the camps had asked Randy to watch over them for awhile so he could take care of some personal business, business that would take two to three weeks.  Randy had asked my Grandfather if he’d like to spend a couple of weeks in the camps with him and that he should bring me along—this was the custom, I’d been tagging along with these two in this same airplane since my earliest childhood memories.  Well needless to say we had an enjoyable stay in those camps that summer.  Having spent time in a camp President Theodore Roosevelt had stayed in and another fascinating cabin called the Indian Camp, it was more than I ever could have asked for and it was truly a great experience for my young soul.  I could write a good, long chapter in a book based on my twelve year old memories that summer of ’82, but one stands out and has never been told—until now.

I had left the camp one rainy day to go wander in the woods around the area leaving Randy and Gramp in the cabin.  This day however, I didn’t go very far like I typically did, this day I headed across the property and the passed the other camps to where the plane lay tied up to the dock.  To me Randy’s airplane was mystical.  Sure I knew it was a Piper Super Cub, but at twelve years of age I really didn’t know much.  I stood and looked at it for quite some time floating gently on the surface of the rain-splattered lake.   I’m sure it was quite a few minutes before I worked up the courage to climb up into the pilot’s seat.  I vividly remember sitting there looking out over the instrument panel and dreaming this plane was mine…that one day I would have a plane just like this of my own.  I remember the feel of the cold metal of the control stick; I remember the sweet smell of the mixing of metal, wood, fabric, oil and fuel.  These are the same smells I still associate with old airplanes.  I needed to cut this journey of mine short though.  You see, I didn’t ask for permission to climb into that plane.  Although I’m sure Randy wouldn’t have minded, I still knew enough to know I was supposed to ask and what I was doing was wrong.  So with this in mind, I was sitting there no more than five minutes, probably much less, when I hurriedly jumped back down onto the dock…looked back at the green Super Cub and walked away.  I had a feeling in that seat.  A feeling I couldn’t put words to if I wanted to, but it left an impression on me that has NEVER left.

I fondly think of this memory from time to time but mostly when I’m on some pond in the woods, right as I settle down into the seat and peer over that very same panel, and out that very same windscreen.  I knew I would have a Super Cub one day…I just never dreamed it would be the exact one from my childhood.  Now when I push that starter button I can hear my Grandfather and Randy’s voices in that cockpit as clearly as I did those thirty-five years ago.  I’m sure they are looking down on me and smiling.  I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if they even knew back in 1982 that I’d climbed into that seat.  One thing is for sure though, I know that I owe them both so much…and I’m still trying to repay them.

The Adventure Awaits!

me-on-second.jpgHey there!  I’d like to introduce myself, my name is Shawn and this is my 1952 PA-18 Piper Super Cub I affectionately call the “Green Machine”…she’s my magic carpet to many destinations throughout Maine on wheels, skis and floats.  I have been flying as a licensed pilot for over 30 years throughout the United States, including Alaska.  My first memories as a child are of airplanes and flight–it’s been my passion ever since and I cannot fathom doing anything else!  This airplane and I actually go back 40 years now and if you are interested in finding out the story of the Green Machine, how she came into my life, and some of the fun we have had…well stick around!  This page will certainly entertain you if you like flying small airplanes in the backwoods like I do (some would call it bush flying…whatever it’s called, it’s fun!).  I’m looking forward to telling you some of my stories, fact and fiction, of not only this fine airplane but of many other types of planes I’ve flown and other types of flying I’ve done.

This page will always be a work in progress as I’m forever learning and adapting to writing, story-telling, and blogging so feel free to leave me your thoughts on what I may be able to do better or what you really liked–I definitely want to make this page the best I possibly can.  Anyway, I’m looking forward to you joining me on my adventures in the Green Super Cub–so climb aboard and let’s go flying!

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