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Power To The POs. Some Venom Can Be A Good Thing
State Of The Onion Address
Since I've been on HP right about 6 years--I can't remember the exact date--I thought I'd get a few things off my chest. Surely I've earned that much for all of the money I've made HP. I really don't care for the ways things are smelling......er....going lately.
I realize HP is a business and it's only natural for them to do what they think is best, it's just that I think they're making a mistake alienating writers with the silly labels they put on things. But I don't have to tell them that, I had it out with them before about calling ordinary members with the Elite label.
This Editor's Choice and Related Hubs controversy is just an example of what I'm referring to. HP will simply ignore those who do not like it until they get tired of complaining. Same old same old. Okay, time for a tale. And then the real stuff.
WILD FLYERS IN THE SPRING
There were six of us young men waiting this late March evening, trying to stay cool and hidden in the shade of the trees on the west edge of a vast cleared area. The site was deep in the wilderness near the Okefenokee Swamp, owned by a pulpwood company which grew trees like a crop of corn, albeit a bit longer for the yield to come in.
Our “mission”--as we liked to call it-- was not scheduled to begin until after the sun disappeared from the Georgia sky as darkness was preferred in our line of work. Our “line of work” being the importation of Colombia’s finest smoking product. Yes, a bit illegal for this time in the late 70’s, but we knew the government wasn’t telling the truth about the innocent herb, so we did out best to ignore it. Besides, it was both exciting and rather lucrative in the bargain.
This day however, we heard the humming of radial engines long before sunset occurred. The old twin engine plane had caught a tailwind most of the way from Columbia and was way ahead of schedule. We had to scramble to get the trucks into place before it began its approach over the recently cleared woodland.
While the pilot flew as low and as slow as possible, Rick began kicking out cloth protected bales of Santa Marta Gold through a hole in the belly of the aircraft. In less than 20 minutes we had all three trucks loaded and was heading home. Another successful mission was accomplished and the herb shortage was ended.
Once A Fighter Pilot....
After WWII ended, there were lots of soldiers coming home to continue their lives and hopes for the peace they fought so hard for. Most of them picked up just where they left off when the war started, marrying their sweethearts who’d waited so patiently, and having the children who would fill their once dubious future.
They returned much wiser about the places they once had only heard of in books and on the radio. In our small town of Clear Springs, Georgia these men were much respected for their deeds , were bolder and didn’t care to put up with local political nonsense any longer, nor nonsense of any kind. Most wanted to have peace in their lives and did so. But not all of them.
Leon Murphy was the exception to rule, a former fighter pilot who’d flown both P-38 Lightning and P-51 Mustangs, he also performed as a test pilot following the war ,flying all sorts of single and multiple engine airplanes.
There was nothing he couldn’t fly if he set his mind to it. His son Rick and I were best of friends for many years. On the few days off from work on the farm, we would play music together, get a bit smashed as the rain fell on the cropland, and make plans only young men make in their early 20’s.
Leon was not satisfied with peacetime, I suppose. I can only imagine piloting the fastest piston driven aircraft in the world, and the Mustang was certainly the fastest. of all the fighters during WWII excepting the German jet which was introduced late in the conflict.
Unlike today’s modern fighters, you had to actually see the enemy with one’s naked eyes and not on a radar screen or long distance camera. Leon could actually see the enemy pilot he was shooting at, could see the 50 caliber bullets tearing the aircraft apart, could see the pilot bailing out if he were lucky. Yes, it was a close-up and personal war in those times.
Tales Of War
I’d often ask Leon what he felt during an air battle, wanting to understand what he went through and felt during his many dogfights. A hard drinking, hard fighting, stocky and strong individual, I’ve never met his like before and will never again. “How did you know where the enemy was coming from, Mr. Leon?” I asked.
“You turn yore ged dim head around and look high and low,” he replied sarcastically. Ask a stupid question, I suppose. He said, “During a dog fight I didn’t know if I was flyin’ upside down or not, I was so intent on either downing the enemy or getting out of his gun sights.”
He seemed to have no fear of dying at all, except perhaps, dying of boredom. In fact, Leon's face shone with pure serenity as if he was completely satisfied by retelling his exploits
At any rate, during the late 70’s Leon decided he had experienced all of the peacetime he could handle and hooked up with some backers to start his own import company. And that’s how I and several other local young men became part of the “missions” Leon flew. I suppose we needed a bit of excitement of our own
At any rate, during the late 70’s Leon decided he had experienced all of the peacetime he could handle and hooked up with some backers to start his own import company. And that’s how I and several other local young men became part of the “missions” Leon flew.
At first we merely played it by ear. All of us could fly as it was considered a rite of passage in this area of the south. We looked for likely spots for a large plane to land in an isolated rural area. We also figured the logistics of the mission including refueling the plane while the unloading process took place.
Several times I walked a deserted runway at night because I was accustomed to measuring farmland in this manner. The runway had to be long enough to handle the aircraft’s arrival and departure. Rick and I took turns as Leon's Copilot on some missions.
I could tell you stories of being lost in the Columbia countryside because of a malfunctioning radio on the plane, or of hearing officials scrambling jets over Cuba because we violated their airspace briefly.
But you wouldn’t believe the tales. You had to be there, I suppose. We were lucky on most of the flights, but after a few close calls with the law and airplane mechanical problems, all of us but Leon had had our fill of the business.
Not many months after we quit the missions, there was a report of a plane crash on the news. The night before, DEA agents had forced a suspected drug plane into the ground, creating a fiery explosion when the aircraft struck the trees. It was on TV I all of it’s flaming glory.
There were no survivors of the horrible crash. Leon was only identified by a previously broken bone in the few pieces of his body remaining after the intense heat of the fire. It seemed a shame that such a valiant soldier ended in this manner, but I suppose he was satisfied going out that way. It did seem strange he didn’t try to take the agents plane down with him, knowing him like I do.
Several months after Leon’s funeral I received a telephone call late one night. “What the ged dim hell are you doing,” the voice asked. “Is Rick there?”