One Hell Of A Ride!
I get an email now and then advising that at the end of one’s
life they should come sliding and skidding up to their grave spraying gravel while exclaiming, “That was onehellofa ride!”
In my case that would be as accurate a description of my life as
could be written, and if the VA would let me inscribe that on my tombstone, you better believe that would be the way
it would read.
The first seventeen years was a battle for survival. Abandoned
to the streets of New Orleans and the weirdos who took advantage of a seven year old roaming the streets unsupervised.
Joined the US Air Force on my 17th birthday and the next thirteen
years were spent learning to live with others, and becoming a productive adult. The Air Force gave me the opportunity to
advance in life, to become a useful, dependable, productive member of society.
I learned personal hygiene, started eating the right foods, received
great health care, and an education, career wise, then later on a formal education through the Vietnam Veteran's
The job training offered by the Air Force gave me the security of
a lifetime and, because of the circumstances of serving tours of combat, further education became available to me.
The Air Force offered the opportunity to earn all the required FAA Ratings in my off duty time to become a pilot in my own
right. I could not use that position in the Air Force during my military career, because I had no college degree.
opportunity came after I retired and attended and graduated from Kennesaw State College under the Vietnam Veteran’s
G. I. Bill in 1984.
Women passed in and out of my life. Some hung around
a while, then moved on. It always seemed that I gave some of them a good reason to leave, others gave me
a good reason to leave. Seems
the life of an aviator always coming and going was not conducive to good relationships.
The years I spent with women, either married, living together,
or simply dating always started off as great times and lots of fun. Then, eventually the good times ended, for one reason or another,
and one of us left the relationship.
hearted? Yes, always, but there were always others coming along to assuage the loss. There is a country song that perfectly decribes
my experiences with the women in my life, by Garth Brooks, "The Dance"
So, the first thirty years of my life was a learning curve that
brought me to the year 1970 and for the next 20 years, until 1990, I consider as the peak of my life. The most exciting,
wonderful time any man could ask for.
The stars aligned, the music exploded from The Beatles and on
to the rockin' seventies, and eighties, opportunities were offered and accepted, money poured in, and you
might say the music of the Eagles became the sound track of my life Women came into my life, shared love and good
times, and faded out of my life as fast as they entered. There was always another to share the fun and
I was traveling around the world, involved in wars, hauling supplies
to other people’s wars, exploring new countries, making new friends, enjoying new conquests, advancing professionally
and personally, all the while partying like there was no tomorrow.
I’ve enjoyed walking the streets of Copenhagen eating open-faced
sandwiches and strolling through the Tivoli Gardens with the beautiful daughter of the American ambassador
to Denmark, and visited the “Little Mermaid” who just happened to have had her head hacked off the night
before for the umpteenth time.
I’ve had a bird's eye view of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, from
the Flight Engineer's seat of a C-141 while making an approach to their local airport in Pisa, Italy.
I’ve enjoyed walking the warm sandy beaches of Alicante, Spain
with one of my true loves who lasted 2 years in my life. I learned more than just Spanish with this Senorita!
I’ve watched the “Running of the Bulls” in Pamplona,
Spain from the sidelines. Wasn’t quite drunk, or stupid enough to join in that dangerous stunt.
Experienced the extreme adrenalin rush of fear as the single engine aircraft I was
in, as a crewmember, lost power at 150 feet while flying the pipeline in Spain, on my birthday, no less, and crash landed
in a vineyard south of Madrid!
I marched in full dress uniform into, the famous Plaza de Toros at
Madrid Spain, one Sunday as a snare drummer in the Torrejon de Ardoz AB Drum and Bugle Corps, playing
the 'Grand March' from the Opera Aida. Over 25,000 Spaniards roared their approval to that entrance!
Watched the fire and smoke from the local volcano drifting up as
we took off from Siganella on our way to Nairobi, Kenya.
Stood alert for two weeks in Athens, Greece with three C-141s
while waiting for our rescued hostages from Iran. That wait was in vain as the rescue mission failed miserably due to an emaciated
military, done in by politicians, and poor planning.
Brought Rock Lamps from the Intercontinental Hotel in Tehran, Iran,before
the hostage taking, Hibachi Pots, megawatt speakers, and boxed Motorcycles packed in crates, from Yokota, Japan, and enjoyed
the 25 cent ice-cold face cloth rubdowns at the NCO Club in Bangkok, Thailand.
Relaxed after the long flight to Kadena, Okinawa from Anchorage,
Alaska with the Mama san backwalking massages before enjoying a Kobi Beef dinner at my favorite restaurant
in downtown Kadena.
Enjoyed the Turkish delights of Adana, Turkey, and the tour
of Amman, Jordan. Took secret pictures of the Russian MIGs at the airport of Saa'na Yemen.
Experienced the cool breezes on the beaches of Bermuda while
a broken airplane awaited parts.
Spent many warm, enjoyable nights with ladies in the Panama Canal
Zone of Panama. Listened to three Panamanian waitresses discussing me, not realizing that I speak Spanish fluently after 8
years of living in Spain.
Whoa!, To experience what they were saying!
I often think back to the beautiful blonde Swedish lovely that I
visited in Malmo, Sweden at least once a month, while ferrying bomber crews to R&R spots around Europe, or the English
lasses waiting to be signed in as guests at the NCO Club in downtown London..
Many nights at the piano bar in my favorite night spot in Rome, and
the visits to the Coliseum and the Spanish Stairs, where I "painted my masterpiece", always with a beautiful Italian
lady by my side..
The TDYs to Altus, Oklahoma to learn crewmember duties on the
C-141 and C-5 aircraft and the friendly nurses who always looked forward to our too short TDYs!
The nights spent at the greatest little bar in America, The VFW Club
and Bar in Altus, OK with some of the friendliest ladies in the midwest!
Most Flight Engineers of the period will remember, "Big Red" the
friendliest of 'em all! Toby Keith has a song that describes the VFW at Altus, OK to a "T" named, "I Love This Bar."
The trips through Anchorage, Alaska, landing through the "ice fog" in
dead of winter on our way to Saigon,Vietnam, Yokota, Japan Clark AB The Phillapines, and Bangkok, Thailand, to
be met by my favorite WAF stationed there just to make my crewrests warm and cozy. Waiting for the mama moose and her calf to be chased off the road
to allow our crew bus to pass.
The loading and unloading of bag drags and souvenirs bought in all
the places visited, into the aircraft, into the crew buses, and into the hotels, before and after each leg of a "staged" flight.
The checking in and out of the little snubnosed .38 Revolver and
the rough leather shoulder holster that wore you slap out during a 12 hour "mission".
The sweet thangs that did the “Hustle” with me every
night at the NCO Club at Little Rock AFB in Arkansas, while I was learning crew duties as a Flight Engineer
on the C-130B & E Models. Some
knew how to do the "Hustle" and others could never learn, but they sure were nice to bump into when they
turned at the wrong time!
The waitresses at the NCO Club at Charleston AFB who kept me
company and one who actually saved my life by helping me make the decision to not fly a certain trip that ended 18,000
feet in the side of a mountain in La Paz, Bolivia in August 1974.
The Air Force WAFs who shared both the good times and the bad times
over the years during this time of my life. One long haired blonde Medic, a MSgt, comes to mind frequently.
Let me drive her Corvette "Stingray" to New Orleans during the Mardi Gras one year while she cuddled up next to
The trips through Kingston, Jamaica on the way to Asencion Island,
buzzing Russian trawlers off that coast who were eavesdropping in on our communications to that missile tracking facility
after takeoff heading for Monrovia, Liberia, Kinshasa, Zaire, and Johannesburg, South Africa.
The Cordon Blu at the Pan Am hotel, in Liberia, at the prodding
of my Instructor FE, Ernie Koen, at the Monrovia Airport was my first taste ever and was delicious.
My trip to Leopoldville, The Belgian Congo, now named Kinshasa, Zaire,
when anything and everything white was being destroyed, or killed during a revolution there and the 15,000 foot runway. Longest
I’d ever seen until landing at Kennedy Space Center with electronic equipment. We rescued white European doctors, nurses,
nuns and priests. Pulled arrows and spears from the skin of the C-124 aircraft after landing in Europe.
The crew rests in Hawaii while flying both the C-130 and C-5. The
landing that broke a right, rear main gear in Saigon, Vietnam while delivering replacement cannon barrels, two, each weighing
The 'Nose Visor' of that C-5 trying to cycle open at 28,000
feet just as we were entering the Saigon FIR, causing loss of pressurization.
Thoughts comeback frequently of a boat ride up the Perfume River
in Hue-Phu Bai to help rescue some Bird Dog mechanic friends of mine trapped in their villa during TET January,
Retiring from the Air Force eventually, and obtaining a four
year BBA-Management Degree in 2 years 11 months, getting hired at three airlines and checked out on the B-727 and the B-747 in
four years, and teaching those aircraft system operations to new pilots.
From the Air Force, to college, to work at three airlines without a break between the military,
college and civilian airlines with some overlaps kept me busy.
Retiring from aviation, obtaining a grad degree in Computer
Science, getting MicroSoft software and hardware certifications to join the computer revolution in the Silicon Valley.
Yep, It’s been 'onehellofaride'!