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A Place where I can spout off about anything . . . and often do 

Unusual Experiences

A Haircut

I often ask my wife Nancy to cut my hair. Maybe I am cheap or maybe I know she knows how I like it cut, but after she is done I’ll go outside and shake the cut hair off my shirt and head. One day in the spring I looked outside after this ritual and noticed a bird picking up my loose hair and carrying it away, presumably to make its nest a bit softer. Corny as that sounds, I think it brightened my day more than the bird’s.

Both Sides

In 1966 when I was returning to Findlay, Ohio from my first solo cross country flight, I suddenly realized I was alone in the airplane. I looked up and saw a few white puffy clouds and turned the ADF radio on to listen to some music. The radio was intended to be used for direction finding, but could pick up ordinary AM stations. I climbed the airplane up above the clouds about a mile above the ground and the music on the radio was the Judy Collins song “Both Sides Now”. I had never heard it before. The lyrics say in part: “I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now, from up above. . . You don’t forget an experience like that.

A couple of things to remember if you learn to fly yourself:

· Pull back on the yolk to make the houses look smaller

· Any landing you walk away from is a good landing, any landing where you don’t bend the airplane is a great landing

I decided to learn to fly after being invited to tag along to an Ohio State football game by a friend. His father had his own plane and after that, I knew I had to learn to do that myself.

I’ll bet I’ve taken several hundred people up for their first experience in a small plane and I still hear people say that they have never forgotten the experience.

Thunderstorms and other flying stories

One of the most dangerous things one can do in a small plane is to fly through a thunderstorm. I’ve done it once, and I can tell you it is no fun. Before the days when weather radar was so readily available I took off and did my traffic reports, but as the Western sky looked ominous I headed in that direction toward the airport. The storm came fast, and as I was on approach for the runway, I found myself in the middle of it. The altimeter started going around like a clock being wound as the plane started being tossed about like a kite and I would be looking North, then South within a blink of the eye. The power went out at the airport, and the runway lights went out as I lost radio communications with the control tower operator. I wouldn’t recommend being in such a situation, and most pilots avoid even the chance of being near a thunderstorm, but I used to fly in some pretty iffy weather.

Winds never bothered me too much. I always got a kick out of flying in winds that were greater than the forward speed of the airplane. From the perspective of someone on the ground, the airplane would appear to fly backward, clearly an unusual sight! It was even possible to hover the plane over a spot for as long as the winds remained high enough. Once I hovered over a downtown bridge for about ten minutes.

I used to have a friend who was a policeman and fellow ham radio operator. When I flew in the dark, doing the traffic reports mentioned elsewhere on this site, we would send Morse code messages back and forth. He would use a flashlight, and I would use the airplane’s landing light.

An experience with a Savant in the City of Brotherly Love

A few months ago I took a flight to Philadelphia to visit my parents, who live nearby. It wasn’t the first time an airline had lost my baggage, but I was especially irritated because I was carrying three other bags (a notebook computer, a medically necessary device for sleep and the usual carry on bag full of pills and personal items). I stood near the baggage carrousel waiting for my one checked bag and was getting weaker by the minute since I have M. S. Northwest Airlines is not my favorite, but when leaving from Detroit they are the only one that goes almost anywhere, including Philadelphia. As I walked around the carrousel looking more and more like a drunk, a man approached and suggested I take the one and only place to sit down, which he had found earlier. I was reluctant to take his spot, really just some boxes placed one on top of others, but did so. The baggage agent was nowhere to be found for several hours, and the gentleman struck up a conversation. His first question: “When were you born?”. I responded with the exact date, and after maybe 5 or 10 seconds he said “Sunday”. It turned out that he had come to the airport to pick up a package for someone else and this package had the same fate as my luggage. Finally the baggage agent arrived and we both stood in line waiting to file a claim. He asked a few other people their birthdays, and quickly answered with the day of the week.

I never doubted that he could do this calculation correctly, but last night I did an internet search for “1947 calendar”, just to be sure before writing about this, and sure enough it was Sunday. Recently Scientific American Magazine did a story about Savants (like the original Rain Man, Kim Peek) and the story said that this particular talent is rare and difficult even among savants. This man was truly the reason Philadelphia is called the city of brotherly love. He carried my three bags, and even gave me a ride to the car rental office before disappearing. I will never forget this experience or his kindness.


Another Interesting Individual in Las Vegas

Once while visiting Las Vegas I went into the gift shop at Balley’s and made a small purchase with cash. On the way out the clerk said “Thank you, Mr. Young”. I had never seen him before and I have no idea how he knew my name. I had no name tag on and nothing that would identify me. It was as though he made it his business to memorize the names and faces of everyone who stayed at that hotel. I suppose that Las Vegas is full of people with unusual talents, but I see the makings of an act here

How to build a Camp Fire

My first real job was really as a camp councilor at a Boy Scout Camp just South of Findlay. Every week there was a parent’s night when all the scouts got a visit from mom and dad and we all got to sit around a blazing hot camp fire on a hot summer night. One of the staff would dress up as a Native American and stand over the not yet lit fire praying for it to start and another so dressed would come up and light it.

The natural inclination is to build a fire as one would in a fireplace. Most people would put the small twigs on the bottom and the larger pieces of wood on the top, thus using the smaller ones to get the fire going. But a large camp fire should be built the other way around. You take the larger pieces, say 4 or 5 inches in diameter and build the base with them in a square. Then you use progressively smaller pieces as you build upward leaving the twigs at the top. If the camp fire is built correctly it would be lit at the top, and the heat works it’s way down, igniting the larger pieces.

I demonstrated that it is possible to use electrical lamp cord buried in the ground and running up the middle of the fire to ignite it. All you have to do is take a bundle of kitchen matches and hold them together with a rubber band. Then take a foot or so of the cord and take a single strand of the wire and wrap it around the heads of the matches, connecting that strand to each of the two larger wires running up to the top of the fire. Above that a little paper soaked in kerosene gets the fire going if you just touch the other end of the buried lamp cord to a lantern battery.

Now the guy in the Indian suit can come out and pray over the fire and it would ignite on cue. This used to get a fair number of oohs and ahas from the parents. The only problem was that I used to get stuck building the fire every week.

An encounter from the past

One rainy day I was leaving a fast food joint and heard someone calling my name.  I looked and saw another man my age (let's say over sixty).  He recognized me from basic training in the army.  I was nineteen at the time, and although I remembered him after he told me who he was, I was amazed that anyone could look at someone and take forty some  years off the face and be so sure who it was.  It's a small world and I envy those who have such talents.