Friday, April 27, 2007

Too Low To Be High ...

In 1956, I was a student pilot taking flying lessons at Jefferson County Airport. The requirements for obtaining a Private license included 25 hours of solo cross-country flight time (flying alone without a flight instructor). This procedure found me flying into airports at Houston, Galveston, Kirbyville, and several towns in Louisiana. It was quite interesting and I met many fine people.

But being a student pilot flying solo meant that there would be some “beginner’s mistakes.” I made my share of those miscues.

One afternoon, I planned to fly over to Hobby Airport in Houston and then return home. I filed a flight plan with my instructor and with air-traffic control. My instructor gave me a few tips before I taxied out for take off. The last thing he said was, “There are a few thunderstorms in the area. Fly over or around them or turn back. Never fly into a cloud.” This was wise advice as sometimes the turbulence in a cloud can be pretty risky for a light aircraft.

On this particular flight, I was flying a single-engine Cessna 172. I took off for Houston and climbed to an altitude of about 3000 feet. Generally this flight in a 172 took about 40 minutes depending on wind velocity and direction. I was flying under Visual Flight Rules which meant that I kept visual contact with the ground at all times.

I was in the air for about 25 minutes when a dark rain cloud raised its ugly head. The cloud was several miles ahead so I decided to fly over it. When my plane reached 7,000 feet in altitude, it was evident that I would not be able to climb over the cloud. So then I decided to go under it.

The rain began. It was difficult to see because of the watery mist. I flew lower and got down to about 700 feet. I could see to neither side nor straight ahead. But I could see the ground. My compass told me that I was headed west but I wasn’t sure where I was. In other words, I was a little bit lost.

My instructor had taught me that if I ever got lost, to draw a circle on my chart (map) encompassing the general area where I was. Then look on the chart for prominent landmarks within that circle. Using this method, I might be able to spot something to enlighten me as to my whereabouts.

I spotted an extremely prominent landmark on my chart. The San Jacinto Monument. That monument is 604 feet tall. By now I was flying at about 550 feet. Clearly I did not want to find the San Jacinto Monument. I climbed back to 700 feet. But again I was having trouble seeing the ground.

Suddenly I broke out into a beautiful sunlit sky. The storm was behind me. I had made it safely through the turmoil. And directly in front of me was the airport. Nice long runways and no turbulence.

I climbed to 800 feet, which was the altitude for light aircraft to enter an airport’s traffic pattern. I planned to circle then land. But what were all those airplanes doing parked on the airport tarmac? Dozens of them all in a row. They looked like jets. Fighter jets.

Oops. I was flying at 800 feet over Ellington Field, which at the time was a “no fly zone” military air base. This airfield was located several miles south of Hobby airport. I made a hasty exit of Ellington Field’s airspace and landed safely at Hobby.

I have always remembered my instructor’s advice, “It is wiser to turn around and leave than to head straight on into a storm.”

Winston Hamby
The Beaumont Enterprise

Saturday, April 21, 2007

"Tis The Season To Be Sweaty."

In a way I felt sorry for Richard, but not really. Allow me to explain.
Richard was his real name. He lived next door to Jimmy Cassady on Harriot Street in Beaumont, just one block away from Daniel’s Bakery.

The Cassadys had a nice large old house. The lot next to them was vacant. This made a nice safe side yard where kids could play without getting too close to the traffic on Harriot Street.

Jimmy and I were big sophomores at South Park High School. Richard was just a sixth grader. When he would see us older boys out playing in that side yard, he would want to play. Now that’s understandable. Richard wanted and needed to belong in our group.

But there was something else that was understandable though not exactly right. Jimmy and I did not want Richard hanging out with us. Remember, we were in high school and Richard was just a sixth grader. Since when did high school guys want sixth graders milling around?

One summer afternoon Jimmy and I were resting in the shade of our favorite tallow tree, located beside the Cassady’s house. Over across the side yard there were carpenters repairing the front porch of Richard’s house. Jimmy and I commented on how hot it was for those men to be working outside.

Richard came over and asked us, “Whatcha doing?” We replied that we were resting. Then Richard asked, “How come you’re resting?” We explained that it was too hot to do much else. Richard kept on, “Aw c’mon, let’s do something.”

I asked Richard if he could sing? He answered in the affirmative. We told him to sing a song for us. He said he didn’t know anything but some Christmas Carols. We asked him what his favorite Carol was and he answered, “Joy To The World.” We asked him to sing that one so he sang through the first verse of Joy To The World. He missed a few words and changed his pitch a few times. But all in all he did a good job for a sixth grader.

We assured him that he did a great job with that song. Then we said, “Richard, look at those men over at your house working out in the hot sun. They must be burning up.” We suggested that he ought to go over and cheer them up by singing them a few Christmas Carols.

Richard didn’t want to go at first but we assured him that he had a great voice and that those poor men working in the heat of the day needed a refreshing serenade. So, Richard went over and stood behind the men as they worked. He started out with, “Joy To The World.” The men glanced over at him but continued on with their work. Then Richard concluded with a rendition of, “Here Comes Santa Claus.”

Richard came back over to where we were. We complimented him and told him how thoughtful he was to sing for those men as they worked. Richard perked up and felt really good about himself. Then he said, “Think I’ll go back over and sing for them again.” We agreed that would be a noble deed.

While Richard was busy singing his second concert, Jimmy and I eased into Jimmy’s house. Through an open window we could still hear Richard as he struggled to remember the words to, “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.”

So in a way, I am sorry we teased Richard like that. But on the other hand, it made him feel good and who knows? Maybe it made those men feel better, too.

Winston Hamby
The Beaumont Enterprise

Saturday, April 14, 2007

What Time Is It Not ... ??

So we have Daylight Savings Time. We spring forward and we fall back. That’s OK. It keeps us in the light more than in the dark … supposedly. This got me to thinking and allows me to share a few thoughts about saving things in general.

Saving daylight is fine with me. I work my job from 9 AM till 6 PM, rain or shine, light or dark or whatever. But another faucet of our lives that is very important along with Daylight Savings Time is time itself. While we are prudent in saving daylight we also should be vigilant in just how we spend our time.

Consider the realm of sports. How long does a football game last? By the time you leave your home to attend a game till you return home following that game, you will spend at least 6 hours of valuable time. Now what can be done to save some of that time?

One thing that might help is to have the teams run only their scoring plays. Most of a football game is taken up watching the teams run up and down the field. Once in a while, one or the other will manage to cross the goal line. What if during a game each team scores one touchdown? And of course each team would want to kick their extra point after touchdown. That’s OK. So there would be one touchdown and one extra point for each team. That would be a total of four plays. Wouldn’t the game be much shorter in duration if they just ran those four plays? You see, the game would be over in about ten minutes. Then those fans who wanted to see the bands march could hang around for that. But the entire event would last no more than thirty minutes or so. Look at the time you could save.

Suppose a game was going to end in a tie score. There would be no need to play the game at all. The visiting team would not have to travel. Those unnecessary night games would not be played saving thousands of dollars in stadium lighting expense for the schools.

Now if the sudden-death playoff rule were in effect, that would cause one additional play to become necessary. That last play would have to be included to complete the game. But that’s OK. Sudden death has its place.

And baseball could have similar advantages. Why should two teams waste time playing scoreless innings? Just play the innings where scoring occurs. If a slugger is going to hit a grand slam homerun, first send the three runners out to load the bases. Then let the guy homer. Don’t take time watching those singles, walks, hit batters or whatever just to load the bases. I once saw the Houston Astros play an eighteen-inning game. That game lasted for hours. Wouldn’t it have been more time efficient just to play that final inning where the team that won scored the winning run?

Basketball games would be a lot shorter if they just took the shots where the ball goes through the hoop. Why waste all that time shooting shots that are going to miss?

I am sure you have the drift. Daylight savings time is OK but what really matters is how our time is spent

If you like this column then fine. But if you don’t like this column, look at the time you could have saved by not reading it. At least five minutes.

Now don’t lose any more time thinking about this. Go on to something else. Your time is not going to hang around forever.

Winston Hamby
The Beaumont Enterprise

Friday, April 06, 2007

Please Don't Pay Me Money ... I'm Easily Spoiled

Do you have any unmarketable skills? I do. At least my wife tells me I do and I suspect she is correct. The dictionary defines unmarketable as, “Not marketable or not fit to be offered for sale.” Sounds pretty worthless doesn’t it? Well not necessarily.

When my daughter Deana was three years old, she thought it was pretty wonderful that I could push a penny into my left ear and pull it out of my right ear. Having my daughter thinking I am wonderful is no worthless matter. However, my “penny in the ear” trick had to stop when one day I discovered Deana trying to shove a penny into her ear. I even quit showing her how I could push that same penny into the back of my neck and have it come out of my mouth. It’s amazing what actions kids will pick up on by just watching their parents.

Also I can concentrate and cause “goose bumps” to appear on my arm. Then I can think again and cause them to go away. “Interesting, but unmarketable,” says my wife.

I love to write puns. My wife says they are not funny. I’ll try one out so that you can be the judge: Do you know why the chicken would not cross the road? The chicken would not cross the road because he was standing at one end of the road. The road was 2200 miles long. The chicken would have had to walk the entire length of the road and he was too “chicken” to walk that far. I think that is funny. My wife says it is not funny. She may be right because no one has knocked my door down offering me a job to write puns.

I do have one talent that is sought after about once per year. My wife invites me to her school so that I can make animal sounds for her preschool classes. She shows pictures of the animals and I make sounds corresponding to whichever animal is being featured. I can moo like a cow, baa like a sheep, neigh like a horse, bark like a dog, meow or mew like a cat or kitten, crow like a rooster, chatter like a monkey, bray like a donkey, grunt like a pig and even caw like a crow and do other bird calls with my fine unmarketable whistling skill. Then to top off my performances I walk around the classrooms like an Egyptian goose.

The kids love it and I think it’s great. But my wife has never offered me money to mimic the animal kingdom. The only way I can take off from my regular job is to tell my manager that I have been invited to speak to a school assembly. If the manager ever visits the school to hear one of my speeches, either he will send me to an animal shelter or have me quarantined for rabies. Or fire me …

And I can make other mouth noises that sound like musical instruments. I can sound like a violin, cello, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, trumpet, or trombone. I can even sing and hum at the same time making for an interesting duet. And finally, I can sound like a Harley-Davidson Motorcycle shifting through all gears. Sound impressive? I think so. But still, no money …
I’m not even going to tell about holding the record high score on Pac-Man back in the early ‘80s while living in Lovington, New Mexico. No one offered me money. No one cared.

Anyone want to hear me pop my knuckles? Just call for an appointment.

Winston Hamby –
The Beaumont Enterprise