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Its all about the hat!

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I broke two shovels late Saturday night trying to pry that tree stump from the ground. Photo from rob akers

 

Hey Y’all,

 

Over the weekend, I had a life experience that I thought would make for a nice article for the week. But the reality is no matter how I might drone on and on about how hard work, effort and determination can get something done. You guys already know that. I could have followed my wife’s advice and presented a life lesson about what to do when you find that you have a bigger effort than planned and maybe the smartest decision is to withdraw and refocus your efforts in a more productive way. None of us need more blah, blah, blah about digging up the roots of a dead crape myrtle that serves no purpose.

 

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The stump doesn’t look that impressive when it was freed from the dirt. I got two new replacement shovels Sunday after Church and almost broke them too. Photo from rob akers.

 

In all my stories about my travels around the world, there was one constant that needs to be written about. My trusty sidekick, my good luck charm and the one object that I would not fly without. My baseball cap, I got the hat in the spring of 1998 during initial training to become a co-pilot in the C-130. I was wondering the mall one afternoon with a couple of buddies when I saw him on a shelf in a store. It was love at first sight and when I threw him on my head, the fit was perfect. He only had one job from that day forward, to be on my head anytime I strapped an airplane to my back. We wore these heavy headsets that had a tendency to let the hair find a crevice. When you took the headset off, it pulled your hair out. The hat took care of this annoying issue, plus the visor helped to block the sun. The more important reason I needed the hat was that it advertised my college; Arkansas State University. I needed my swag before the word was invented.

 

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Me and my hat trying to decide what to do next. This was taken the first morning after we arrived. I already felt lost. There are two cots in the picture, mine was covered in stuff. Tracy one of my Load Masters had all his things put away. Photo from Deron Thompson.

 

My hat and I went all over the world. We stood on five continents and in so many countries that I have lost count. My hat has more flight time than many airline pilots and has seen all kinds of things. He has seen the sun rise, set and rise all in the same flight. He celebrated Cinco de Mayo twice in the same day. He boarded an airplane in a raging snow storm and walked off the airplane in the tropical heat. He ate a meal of steak and lobster under the wing in Bosnia and warmed up an MRE during an exercise in Gulf Port Mississippi. Of course, he was there for the thousands of boring hours droning at 25,000 feet and the seconds of sheer terror at 100 feet as a missile fired in anger streaked past the airplane. When I quit flying in the military, he quit too. We took our hosing down in style and we just walked away.

 

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My hat, me and my crew were playing on the Iraqi weapons of war. Photo from rob akers

 

He doesn’t fly with me anymore. In the airline world, we don’t wear baseball hats. Some guys have the bus driver hat and they wear it because they think it makes people respect them. More times than not, they are the punchline of a bad joke because of their uniform hat. My hat has too much dignity to be a negative comment from a crusty, old, bitter airline captain. My hat has a special place in my house, a drawer with all the other junk of my life. I have a new hat now, a clean, bright white mesh hat that advertises nothing. Actually there is a subdued Nike symbol on it, but from a distance of more than three feet it cannot be seen. More actually, it isn’t new. It is four years old and I wear it all the time but it is newer than the old hat. My son is celebrating his seventh birthday today, loves my new hat. Over the weekend, I couldn’t find my new hat so I pulled out my faithful friend and wore him. The stains of years of dirt, sweat, blood and tears have soiled him and he will never be clean despite the gallons of bleach my wife has put on him.

 

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Paul helping me and my hat display an Arkansas State Flag that was sent over by my wife. ASU was the Indians but because they are racially sensitive, the nickname was changed to the Red Wolves in 2007. Photo from rob akers

 

Sunday night when I was packing for this week’s trips, I still couldn’t find my new hat. I tossed my buddy in the bag and off we went with a plan. When I got into the car early Monday morning, my new hat was in the driver’s seat. My wife found it and put it in the car for me because she is always looking out for me. Today, after everything we had been through we got to do something new. We walked on the campus of the University of Tennessee. Camera in hand, we took pictures of all the buildings, the statues, and all the other things that decorate a college campus. What made today special was that he was out in the sun again and we were making a point. Not that anyone noticed, but we knew the secret. My hat can see the future. He told me he would take care of me all those times overseas, and he did.

 

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Another picture of my ASU flag, my hat and some cool dudes we met in a country that probably still doesn’t want to admit that it allowed American forces to operate out of. photo from rob akers

 

Today he told me something else. In just ten short days, the Arkansas State Red Wolves will be playing the University of Tennessee Volunteers in tackle football. In just ten short days, ASU will walk out of the 110,000 seat Neyland Stadium with a victory over one of the most historical football programs in college football. In ten short days, everyone in Knoxville Tennessee will know all about the Red Wolves. Today, my hat and I enjoyed a nice walk on a beautiful college campus. Life is good, football is starting and my hat still rocks.

 

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My hat doesn’t look so bad in the sunlight. The grounds crew were beginning to put down the famed checkerboard orange and white end zone markings. photo from rob akers.

 

Until next time, keep on rockin.

 

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They have a big clubhouse. I hope they win eleven games this year with a single loss to ASU. Photo from rob akers.

Catching Up….

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Ed and Ruth Covert. Photo from rob akers

 

 

Hey Y’all,

 

I am playing catch up today. For the first time since school ended for the summer, I have been able to concentrate on writing. I am getting things done thanks to a sore throat and a headache. I wanted to get out and conduct a veteran interview and get my haircut but I just don’t feel like it. I haven’t even put on any music today or turned on the television. My dogs are wondering what is wrong with me. I am wondering the same thing, no kids and I am still trapped at home.

 

Anyway, the silence has been nice and I have gotten a lot of writing done. Here is your promised update. I am still troubled by everything going on in the world and I really think we need more love in the world. What would it hurt it all two billion of us were happy? I will hold my breath on that to hapen, until then I am giving you two links to the past articles on Mr. Ed Covert.

 

I have known Ed for several years. I met him at a former church the family attended. I knew he was a Vietnam Veteran but I never heard his story in one setting. He served in the Army and was assigned to repair sheet metal on the helicopters. His is a great story of how even a man who didn’t carry a gun or go into the jungle but was still in danger. I hope you enjoy and let me know if the links don’t work.

 

http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/putnam/x1177960302/Veterans-experience-in-Vietnam-leaves-lasting-impression

 

http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/putnam/x1177961713/Veteran-came-home-with-lasting-impression-of-life-in-Vietnam

 

Until next time, keep on rockin.

All we need is love…

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Easy to understand. Hard to do. photo from yahoo.

 

 

Hey Y’all,

 

From Missouri to somewhere in the Iraqi wastelands, to Ukraine, to Israel it seems that there is trouble and hatred all over the place. There is a lot to say, but what is that going to accomplish? It might make you and I feel better but does it really do any good? What is the answer to all of these strangely linked places? To me the answer is that we need more love. There isn’t enough love for our neighbors and it is readily apparent as I am watching the live coverage on CNN that they need some love in Ferguson.

 

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Not this kind of love. photo from yahoo.

 

There are plenty of opportunities to show love to your neighbors. Help them out with something; give them a compliment, or just smile. I’m going to take the bold step of saying some private words to my God. If you are so moved to do that, I think it would be great. Maybe you can give off some positive vibrations to the either or even simply hug your kid. Not to get all hippy on you, but I do believe in the power of love. It changed my life, it changed the life of several people I know and it can change the lives of the people in Ferguson, Iraq, Ukraine and Israel.

 

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It is tough to love everyone but it is important even when it isnt fun. photo from yahoo.

 

I will throw out something less substantial later in the week. I have a couple of links to articles that have been written, that I would like to share. Until then, keep on rockin.

Brush with history…

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If this is true then I guess I should be thankful that I met Lynndie in Iraq and not at my kid’s school. Photo from Yahoo.

 

 

Hey Y’all,

 

This morning I was sitting in the Charlotte-Douglass Airport waiting for the next flight to Knoxville, Tennessee where I will be working this week. Days like today are not my favorite as I dozed off last night about 2:00 AM only to wake at 3:10 AM to make my way to the airport. It is a long night followed by a short day followed by another long night. Oh the joys of being a professional vampire. Since I have time, we might as well get a short story in.

 

When we last left off it was late November 2003, Kuwait. I had just returned from Germany because of a minor medical issue. My good friend, Kyle A. had taken over my crew and when I returned, we spoke and I suggested that he continue to fly in my spot and I would tag along as an extra crew member. Our deployed Commander, Sleepy thought it was a good idea so we pressed on. I assumed the role of Load Master and spent my time working in the back with Ron B. We had a good time and he was glad to have some help although I was more trouble than I was worth.

 

We only had two flights like this before we were scheduled to return home. I don’t remember anything from the first flight so I assume it went without incident. The second flight we were doing troop rotations back to the states. At this time, the Army folks had been in Iraq since early February and were approaching their rotation dates but since Iraq was turning into a long term commitment, they had long since earned the right to go home for some rest and relaxation. They were given three weeks off and the C-130 was the first step on their journey. All smiles and giggles, these men and women were ready to get on board and head out. We configured for 60 passengers and a couple of baggage pallets. We were going from Kuwait City to Baghdad and back three times in a single day. I remember Kyle asked me if I wanted one of the legs. I knew he was joking but I also knew how tired he was because a 20 hour day is still long. Of course I said no. I was kind of digging the Load Master job, working hard on the ground and napping in the air. It was nice to be on the other side of the phrase, “Gear Up, Feet Up.”

 

 

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C-130 unloading cargo in the middle of the dessert. This is from the first Gulf War. Photo from Dave Weddington.

 

 

On every stop, we surveyed the troops looking for two lucky souls to sit up front. The crew bunks were better than any bed in the Army and it was nice to have some leg room up front. Plus it was kind of cool to get a couple of 20 year old kids and find out what was really going on in the war from their perspective. We always looked for soldiers from West Virginia first, then females for Kevin the Co-pilot and Gummy Bear the Flight Engineer, and if we couldn’t find someone then we picked the two lowest ranking people. I made more than one Colonel mad when I told them there were no seats up front and then walked two Privates up front. Standing on the dark ramp with the Army guys, I was running my mouth while Ron was working and I came across the “home run” of all troops. A female, Private First Class from West Virginia; I was talking to some guy asking if anyone was from WV and he just pointed and said “She is from West Virginia.”

 

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It would have been easy to find a less flattering photo of Lynndie but I want to be fair to her. It is very possible that my memories of her personality cloud my memories of what she really looked like. Photo from yahoo.

 

I did a double take to just to make sure this person was a female. He assured me she was so I asked her name and sure enough. She was a girl. I can be a practical joker so I took her with me and we went to Ron. The sweat was pouring off of his head when I interrupted his work. We were a very informal crew and didn’t use rank when we spoke to each other. It was all first names or nick names. They called me Rob. I’m sure this person wasn’t sure how to react when a Master Sergeant rebuffed a Captain for not helping him work, but I probably earned his attitude.

 

I said. “RB, this is Lynndie and she is going to sit up front with the boys.”

 

He literally looked at me like I was stupid and looked at her for what seemed a lifetime. Then he broke into a huge smile. He told her where to stand then ordered me to help him strap down the luggage. Rarely have I seen someone work so hard while laughing. He knew what I knew and he liked it. He told her to be the last one on the airplane and waited until the lights were out before he escorted her up front. He got her up front, on headset and buckled in. I was outside monitoring the engine start. When they were running, I closed the crew door and he waived me to the back with him.

 

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Load Master watching the engines start. Photo from Yahoo.

 

He said. “Dude, that is one ugly girl. I thought she was a dude but I couldn’t figure out why his mom gave him a girl’s name.” Up front, the two pilots could not see her, they just heard her voice. Harry the Nav and Gummy Bear could see her and they were in on the joke. Everyone started making comments about how Kevin was single, blah, blah, blah. Kevin is too smart and too professional to be crude but there were a few moments of not so innocent flirting between the two but it didn’t last long. Of course, RB and I were literally crying listening to the conversation. Once she started talking and all innocence was lost.

 

We learned that Lynndie worked in a chicken processing plant across the WV border in Maryland. She took great pains to describe how they treated the chickens before they were processed (killed). I will not describe the details of what they did, but to describe it as inhumane is generous. Ten minutes into the flight, Lynndie had managed to make six aircrew guys sit in silence. Trying to change the subject someone asked what she did in Iraq. She was a guard at the former Iraqi prison called Abu Ghraib. For the next ten or so minutes she very graphically described how they treated the detainees. Honestly, the chickens under her care had it better than the prisoners. After she finished speaking, the only responses from us were checklist items only. No one said a word for the last hour of the flight. No one wanted to give her a chance to tell us something we didn’t want to hear.

 

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Lynndie described this scene to us as well as more. What they did to the prisoners was wrong and disgusting. These people were out of control and they did not get their just punishment. No matter what you might read about what they did, I promise there is more you don’t know. Photo from yahoo.

 

After we landed, cleared the airplane and unloaded the pallets. We held an impromptu huddle under the tail of the airplane. We were all in shock, it is hard to shock a bunch of aircrew guys but this woman did it. The rest of the night all we asked ourselves was could it be true? Two days later, we rotated out and went home. None of us forgot about what we heard. We spoke about it with the other crews, they asked the same questions we did and we all came to the conclusion that the things she described could not happen in a US military prison. The USA does not treat prisoners of war like she described. We knew the rules, no pictures of POWs, give them water, keep them safe, and protect them because they can’t protect themselves.

 

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She never mentioned to us that they were directed to do this by a higher authority. This might be the truth but it sounds like lawyer talk to me. Photo from yahoo.

 

It couldn’t have been true, therefore she was lying. That was the only thing that made sense. The morning after we returned, Saddam was captured in his spider hole. Things were looking up. A few weeks later there was a new story. A story about prisoner abuse, shocking to say the least. Since Kyle was technically in command of the crew, he was the one who reported the event to our people back home. We were told to stand by but they didn’t need our testimony. She was found to be guilty of being the most disgusting human I have ever met.

 

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I never met this guy but I think his twin drove me from the airport to the hotel this morning. Photo from yahoo.

 

Until next time, keep on rockin.

Walking the Dog…

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There are just too many cameras today. You cant have any fun anymore and that takes the fun out of fun. Photo from yahoo.

 

Hey Y’all,

Another busy week just got busier. But before we get to the breaking news, I have to clear something up. Last week my phone started blowing up with texts. All the comments were along this line.

“Dude, is that you?”

“Walking the mama again?”

“You are just not right.”

“How does it feel to finally be treated like the dog you are?”

Totally clueless, I asked what my friends from around the nation were talking about but none of them were kind enough to fill me in on their secret. I am one of those people who gets 99% of their news from the internet. I usually read the Drudge Report headlines and maybe once a day I will click on a link but most of the time a quick scan of the headlines is more than enough information for me. Last week there was a link about a woman walking her nude husband like he was a dog.

http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/weird/2014/08/01/woman-walks-naked-man-leash/13467293/

I didn’t click on the link just assuming that it was another crazy couple in San Francisco or Portland. Turns out the perverted couple was from West Virginia and all my perverted friends were checking out the link. Even worse they assumed that I was playing the role of a dog.

 

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It wouldn’t be so bad if she looked like Christy Brinkley. Just being honest. Photo from yahoo.

 

For the record, that was not me and this woman is not my wife. I don’t judge because we all have something and goodness knows that I am not above doing something stupid. But, I would like to address this fine couple. Come on man! You can’t keep that in the privacy of your own home? West Virginia has a bad enough image without you people. Please, don’t help us out anymore.

 

Now that the issue has been properly addressed. Breaking news, I have been offered the Head Coaching position for my son’s flag football team. Once again, I will be leading the Red Wolves into battle and putting my undefeated record on the line. Last year, I guided the Red Wolves to a 9-0 record. Of course, this league doesn’t keep score but why get bogged down in the details. I’m looking forward to it and will keep you updated as the season rolls on.

 

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I got to start practicing yelling at the kids. “Are you eyeballing me boy?” “I said 240/water/grass/club/comedy/341 on 2. Are you stupid? You ran a 240/air/dirt/drama/341. Don’t ruin my perfect record.” or maybe this. If you are going to act like a first grader then go sit by your mama. Oh you are a first grader? Then act your age, not your shoe size.” Photo from yahoo.

 

 

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Don’t forget yelling at the referee either. “Do you have money on this game?” or “Come here four eyes.” or “This is upward football, one step below the NFL. You better earn your paycheck, you stripped zebra.” Photo from yahoo.

 

Finally, I got a couple of veteran articles to pass on to you. The victim from the last article is Dave Weddington, former C-130 Flight Engineer, neighbor and good friend. This is a two part article. Hope you enjoy.

 

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That Dave Weddington is a sexy beast. Photo from Rob Akers.

 

http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/putnam/x720303001/Glancing-at-veterans-colorful-military-career

http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/putnam/x228395124/Vets-career-signifies-home-is-more-than-just-being-a-West-Virginian

I need to get busy designing plays for the team. Like last year we will be running a modified version of a pro-style, veer with elements of the west coast and a vertical passing game. We will be going no huddle again this year so those kids better be in the books. And I don’t mean school books.

 

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I am putting the finishing touches on my own statue to sit outside the bedroom window. Photo from yahoo.

 

Until next time, keep on rockin.

Champagne wishes and Caviar dreams…

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I don’t know who this cat is, but I like his attitude. Photo from yahoo

 

Hey Y’all,

 

My ship has come in, all of the problems have been solved. I am going to buy my baby a new pair of shoes, and the drinks are on me. I got paid!

 

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All expenses paid trip on the Titanic. Who wants to go with me? photo from yahoo.

 

I don’t just mean paid, I mean paid for my words. I have officially lost my amateur status, and the next step is Hollywood, New York, and London. No more waiting in line like a schmuck, no more housework and no more wishing for the good life. That’s right baby, I’m talking swimming pools and movie stars.

 

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Just a summer cottage. Photo from yahoo.

 

My next stop is to be with the rich and the beautiful, partying like a rock star, hanging out with Lindsay, Paris, Miley and Jay-Z because I just joined the social elite.

 

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This guy is rich and famous. Proves the fact that no talent is required. I will fit in well. photo from yahoo.

 

Don’t think I am going to be one of those empty headed stars either. I have got to have an agenda. Right now I am vacillating between insect’s rights or railing against the conspiracy that flossing your teeth is good. Yes it is a myth propagated by big corporations so they can sale more wax string. Now that I think about it, I will go with both. Live your life, be happy, drop the fly swatter and the floss.

 

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If the rich people eat a thousand dinner a night, there must be a lot of bulimia going on. All for a good cause. photo from yahoo.

 

I have already put a down payment on my second house, a new Ferrari, a new wardrobe of designer white tee shirts, and a face lift.

 

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Black, white and pink are the only colors I need. Everyone has a red one, I can’t be a boring rich guy like everyone else. photos from yahoo.

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Speaking of face lifts: “What do they call a modified 757? Joan Rivers, new skin, old bones. photo from yahoo.

 

Finally, you all should know that I will be moving on. I can’t associate with the little people any longer. It isn’t personal, but I can’t have followers. I am toying with the idea of retaining you all, but at a greatly reduced status. I think you all should be at a higher level than worshipers. I am leaning towards call you all subjects. I am going to reserve the term follower for the paparazzi. Anyway, it has been nice hanging out with you guys, but since I am big time now. I just don’t have the time.

 

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Did you notice that most of the paparazzi are taking pictures of someone approaching to the left? Do these people have no respect for the celebrities posing? I will probably lash out and throw a fit if this ever happens. photo from yahoo.

 

All of this is in good fun. I have a long way to go until I am that guy. But you might want to think about sucking up now, so that I might act like I know you later. Ha ha. Thanks for reading and hope you had a good laugh.

 

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Hard to read, but the amount is FIFTY dollars. That’s right suckers. I am FIFTY dollars down the road to being somebody. My wife asked if I was going to frame it. I said “Nope, I’m going to cash it!” photo from my scanner.

 

Until next time, keep on rockin.

 

 

 

 

Life moves on too quickly….

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Dave is in the brown jacket. I am not sure who the guy holding the life doughnut is, but he sure looks young. Photo from Dave Weddington.

 

Hey Y’all,

 

Another busy week here writing away like someone who should get paid like a rock star, but unfortunately none of it is for profit. It is for others but it all serves the greater good. I finally finished the next veteran interview for my local newspaper. It should be printed this Friday but as my editor always says, she controls the printing date not me. When it becomes public, I will give you a link. This week’s victim is Dave Weddington. Dave was a Flight Engineer in my former guard unit, he also lives around the corner from me so it was easy to get him to sit down. He served thirty years and his article is about twice as long as the previous article about Bert Clendenin. Dave’s article was tough to write because I am so close to the story, most of them I knew and some I lived with him. Also, it is tough to summarize a long career in just a few words. I know you will enjoy it when it is published.

 

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My first trip to Alaska. Dave is next to me in the blue shirt. This was taken in 1998. Photo from Dave Weddington.

 

 

I am tempted to write about Malaysia 17 that was shot down last week over in the Ukraine. However, our good friend Karlene Pettit did a fantastic article about the event and after reading it, I am sorry to say that there is very little I could add. So head over to her place if this is something that interests you. http://karlenepetitt.blogspot.com/2014/07/mh17-shot-down.html

 

A couple weeks ago our good friend Abby Jones asked if I would write something about why I blog for a series she is doing over at her site. I said yes before I read what some of the other writers had to say. Suddenly, I had that vary familiar feeling inadequacy, but it was too late to back out. It should be published on Tuesday. I want to thank her for the opportunity to speak to her audience. Sometime I the future I am going to open up the home station to her. I hesitate because once y’all see how a real writer can craft a sentence then there will be a mass exodus. I might follow you all out the door too. Ha ha. Here is her site. http://gentleandquiet.com/

 

Since I don’t have much to say this week, I will leave you with this short video clip. I don’t normally link you over to YouTube because there is so much garbage and most of it takes too much time to watch. But this is different, I got this from Steve W. who is a retired Captain from my airline. When he was flying, he had too much time on his hands. He would send me all kinds of things, all the time, at all hours of the day and night. But now that he is retired, I guess he has too much going on because I rarely get anything from him anymore. He was a great Captain and one of the few guys that I totally trusted to help flatten out the hump in the Roanoke Va. Runway.

 

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These dudes are super crazy. Watch the video to see the last seconds of life. Photo from yahoo.

 

If you are squeamish, don’t watch the last three seconds of the clip. If your real squeamish, let your kids watch it first and they will tell you when it is okay to look. This is the body of the e-mail that Steve sent to me and sets up the clip perfectly.

Another Wingsuit Flyer Meets His Maker – YouTub

 

It’s crazy what these daredevils will try!

 

 

 

Until next time, keep on rockin.

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