Reflections of a Beginner in Texas By: Glenn Smith Posted: January 10 2001
After watching a glider circle over my small Texas town for several hours, I went to the airport to check it out.
I asked the manager of our airport "Where are the glider people?" He told me to just walk to the end of the runway and I would see them. Sure enough, as I got half way down the runway, I saw a group of adults all wearing bucket hats sitting under a white tent. I do not know about other parts of the world but here in Texas this is an alarming sight.
My first thought was that they were really a group of kids who had been kicked off a bus years ago on the way to summer camp with Haley Mills. Because of my concern, I sat down next to a hangar and watched their goings and comings for the next several hours. Of course, I almost dehydrated sitting in the Texas sun.
The next day I went to the airport (this time wearing a hat and carrying a water bottle). I got up the nerve to walk all the way to the tent. When I arrived, I really did not fit in due to my lack of a bucket hat. However, after walking 3500 feet in the sun their white tent looked awfully appealing. Well, it was a nice group of diverse people. There were airline pilots, architects, medical people,etc. all wearing bucket hats and talking about what a great day it was. Only Thor could have thought this day was good for anything. You see by late summer in Texas, everything is dead, burnt and withered. The grasshoppers would take over except they fall in the cracks of the earth and the roaches just give up and die.
I inquired into a "discovery flight" as they called it. The next thing you know I am being told to step into the front seat of a 222. I became concerned when the guy said don't step there, there or there. "Why I asked?" He said "Because your foot will go through it.
I said "What?!" He said, "Yea, most of this thing is aluminum pipe and cloth." Next, I felt a strong wind (read that hot strong wind)being blown at me from a crop duster pulling in front of us.
I was followed into the bird by a gregarious pilot who explained everything that was happening right up to the moment he said "pull that red handle NOW!". As I now have learned our 222 had zigged when it should have zagged. Apparently, I should not have been able to wave at the tow pilot from a position just off his right wing.
Man did it get quite when we got away from that damn crop duster. My pilot bagan circling and I marveled at the feeling that we were floating more than flying. Well, all went well from that point. When we landed, several bucket hats came out to help us drag the 222 back to the tent. I later meet the Dali Lama of the group. He told me I could join so long as I was either a Republican or, if not, I had to act like I was. This seemed a bit odd but you don't argue with full grown adults when you are the only one not wearing a bucket hat.
I have now had 5 flights with the Dali Lama and he is the greatest teacher. When things get tense (like when I am looking at the side of the tow plane) he just leans forward and puts both hands on my shoulders saying "you got it". My response is ususally along the lines of "He__ I know I got it...but what am I going to do about all that slack line in front of us?" The Dali just laughs and braces himself as the slack starts coming out.
If you are ever north of Fort Worth, Texas and see a glider in the sky, just follow it to the white tent. I will be lawyer in the group...oh, I also will be wearing a white bucket hat.