Getting to Athens was a little more than strange. Uncle Mel has an airplane and he can actually fly it. It has a real engine so you feel better about the trip when you hear the thing start up and you see the propeller start to turn.
Cason and Mom flew with us. Ten year old Cason was not his normal ebullient self and I think it was because he has always flown commercial in large planes. It was really unusual not having constant commentary from Cason who was relegated to the cheap seats and given a set of earphones that were purposely inoperable. He could hear us but we could not hear him. Some things work out perfectly.
The weather was good and the flight perfect. The big problem that we did not foresee was the thriving airport at the bustling college town of Athens, Georgia was shut down tight. There was just the flicker from an old Fourth of July sparkler to guide us. Paul had to chase down the runway waving the sparkler so we could see to land. We did catch the glint of Uncle Ben’s bald head in a helpful flash of light.
Paul and Aunt Kay had hailed a man on a small motorcycle who opened a gate for them so they could meet us on the runway. Uncle Ben kept sweating the TSA showing up and undressing them all. Uncle Ben is a very nervous person and highly resents being groped. If Aunt Kay and Paul had not caught the guy on the Moped we would have had a terrible time hoisting our fat fannies over the high fences around the airfield.
The big challenge occurred on the return flight to Dawson. We had no problem flying from Dawson but when Uncle Mel, Mom and Cason flew back toward Dawson they were not allowed to land in Dawson, Americus, Albany or Eufaula, Alabama because of heavy fog. I understand Cason grew quieter and quieter.
They finally were diverted to Dothan, Alabama to land and they had to get a hotel and spend the night in Dothan. The next morning they barely managed to fly out in front of a storm. There was a huge black storm cloud only moments behind them as they lifted off. Unfortunately they were once again refused landing privileges at Albany and Dawson.
Finally, Uncle Mel, who remained cool as the proverbial cucumber managed to set the plane down in a sharecropper’s back yard right near Leesburg ,Georgia and they called my Maw Maw (Barbara Cooper) so she could do what every lucky woman in the world would love to do on her birthday. She rode out to Leesburg into a cow paddy filled pasture to pick up her eldest daughter, her only son and her youngest grandson to taxi them back home.
It was a fantastic birthday present for Maw Maw because Mel got’em all back safely on the ground.
They actually set down on a crop duster’s landing strip on New York Road in Lee County. I thought saying they landed in a sharecropper’s backyard was a tad more romantic.
I understand Cason has once again found his voluminous cache of wild thoughts, words and crazy ideas and is now talking non-stop.
How Not to Fly to Athens?…………Drive your car!