I stand here watching my son play on the beach, enjoying the water and sand…chasing frogs and ducks. I can’t help but flash back 45 years to memories of me playing on this same beach enjoying the water and sand…chasing the great grandparents of those same frogs and ducks. Some of the memories are hazy and come in very short clips lasting only a few seconds but a few of those memories are still quite vivid although still of a very short duration. No matter, I was only five so it’s a wonder I remember much of it at all.
But I do.
I have never forgotten the memories of those seaplanes, mainly Cessna 180’s at the time, coming and going seemingly nonstop all day long. There’s not a doubt in my mind that this was building the foundation for a love affair with the sky—an affair that would span decades and not dwindle in intensity but grow ever stronger as the years pass. I still see those red and white, and blue and white Cessna’s idling slowly away from the dock, then powering up to an ear splitting roar as they struggled to break free of the water’s grasp and climb grudgingly into the warm afternoon air—whisking the plane’s occupants to destinations throughout the north Maine woods and adventures that seemed unfathomable to a child’s mind.
These days I find myself behind the controls of a Cessna 206 idling off that very same dock, looking at those children’s faces on the beach watching my seaplane leave for those same adventures—and they ARE adventures. I can’t help but think of what they must be seeing, what it looks like through their eyes and what they’re thinking as I ease the throttle forward. I always take the time to smile and wave, and they ALWAYS smile and wave back. It warms my heart beyond words.
So as I pull away from the dock minutes after this photo was taken, I look over at my son standing knee deep in the water watching me depart and smile; is his imagination working the magic as mine did all those years ago? I believe so. Whether he flys planes, fights fires, drives heavy equipment, or writes books…it makes no difference. The point is to introduce him to the things during the formative years of his lifetime that help create the positive memories that could ultimately lead to a strong foundation for his hopes and dreams.
I sometimes wonder if those individuals that helped develop and guide me know just how thankful I am for them taking the time? Well I’m sure they do, but I’m going to ensure they do and honor them by paying it forward.
I give Nathan one last glance as I turn the plane towards open water…keep smiling son, rest assured I will devote my life to ensure you have the best chance possible at a long and joy filled life.✈️
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.