Friday, December 08, 2006

My Wildest Ride

I have been a gyrocopter pilot for many years and always thought that gyro flying was the most exciting thing I've ever done, and it was, until I had a ride in a New York taxi. All else pales in comparison. Talk about exciting...the taxi ride was heart in the mouth, white knuckles,and prayer time all rolled into one.

I had been invited to attend a gyroplane conference at Hofstra University in New York. Because I had been flying gyros since the early days of the Bensen gyrocopter era, I was considered a gyro pioneer and as such I was asked,along with about 18 or so other old timer-gyro pilots,to attend the conference where we would be honored as pioneer gyro pilots. I was to attend the banquet Friday night where the awards were to be presented and the next morning I was scheduled to give a speech on my years of gyro flying.

I was accompanied on the trip by my daughter Donna and granddaughter Lynette. Our flight landed at JFK exactly one hour before the banquet was to begin...panic city! Here we were, our first time in New York, almost already late for the banquet and still 20 miles or so to our hotel near the University.

We scrambled about for a taxi...there were lots of them about, but there were more would-be customers than there were taxis . We found one, asked the driver if he knew where the town of Hempstead was. "Yes, yes", he said ,as he loaded our luggage and the three of us in the cab then after a discussion with another driver, he admitted to us that he did not know where our destination town was so, luggage and weary traverlers were put back onto the sidewalk and the search was on again for another taxi...the clock kept ticking away during all this and our time was running out.

Then another driver stepped up and vigorously answered ,"yes, yes", when we asked if he knew where Hempstead was. He loaded the three of us and our luggage into his taxi and we set off. OHMYGOSH!!!! He took off like the devil was after him. I live in Southern California where wild driving is the norm, but this was a whole new experience to me. Crazy driving is taken to a new level in New York. I knew it was going to be the longest 20 mile ride of my life and I began to wonder if we would survive it.

Mind you, it was rush hour and the traffic was bumper to bumper. When he approached a stop, the driver slam on the brakes and would stop maybe 1/4 inch from the car in front of him. Turns he took on two wheels, and the three of us in the back seat would slide as one to the other side of the car. There we would be packed together like sardines until he turned a corner in the opposite direction at which time we would slide across to the other side...meanwhile the clock was still ticking down.

We drove up one street and down another...he would get on the road again then take an off ramp, saying in his very limited English,"this the way". A few minutes later we would be back on the main road again and looking for another off-ramp. He called his dispatcher and got directions then we were off again on more side trips. Finally, my granddaughter Lynette, said to him, "You don't know where Hempstead is, do you". "No", he admitted. He was lost. Lynette had been questioning him along the way, asking if he knew where the heck he was going, etc. As he drove, the driver drove spent more time looking over his shoulder talking to us in the back seat than he did looking at the road.

Finally,Lynette said to him, " Give me your cell phone and the number of your dispatcher". He didn't quibble, but just handed them over. She called the number and told the dispatcher that we were wandering all over Long Island and she wanted correct directions to Hempstead and further more, she thought we should get a discount on the price quoted for the trip because we were being inconvenienced because of the driver not knowing where he was going. She got the right directions but no discount.

Thanks to my take-charge granddaughter getting the right directions, the driver finally found the town he was looking for and , would wonders never cease, he found our hotel. We untangled ourselves from the back seat, gathered up our luggage and then we rushed inside and got the key to the room , rushed upstairs and dropped off the luggage, rushed out to find a ride to the University , found a shuttle bus and finally ,all of us out of breath, we walked into the banquet room just as the guests were being seated.

That was definitely the most exciting ride of my life. As a memento of our wild ride, the girls gave me a refrigerator magnet with the image of a New York taxi.

The gyroplane conference was organized by Dr. Bruce Charnov , who is a professor at Hofstra. The conference was in honor of the 78th. anniversary of the invention of the gyroplane. Bruce did a fine job of putting the event together and gathering so many early gyro pilots together.

Johnnie Miller, a gyro pilot of the Pitcairn and Kellet autogiro era was one of the attendees. At the time Johnnie was about 98 years of age. we met his daughter and she told us he had driven the two of them to the conference, a distance of 95 miles. That surprised me, but then his daughter said, " Hey, the man still flys" . I guess you just can't keep a good gyro pilot down.

I visisted with my gyro friend Teddy today and tomorrow evening I'm looking forward to having a BBQ dinner with him and new gyro pilots, Tina and Dave.

Till next time
Marion Springer

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Best Things in Life are Free

I have always heard that the best things in life are free and over the years I have seen or heard a number of things that fit that description. Here are a few things that touched me and left lasting memories.

A spider web in the outside corner of our house where one room met another. The spider web was perfect. It was large, measuring about 12 inches or more in diameter and it was well anchored to the wall of the house. It was an architectural marvel and when it was covered with early morning dew drops and the sun was shining on the sparkling drops, it's beauty was was breathtaking.

And more sparkling drops of water and sun...Early one morning I sat in my car warming the engine up and in front of me all the sagebrush in my yard was full of morning dew drops. The morning sun shining on the dew drops turned them to tiny sparkling , shimmering colors of the rainbow...a real light show of my own in my own front yard. Then one afternoon after a rain shower all the native Creosote bushes to the west and on up the hill were covered with rain drops. The sun shining on the water droplets made them look like tiny sparkling lights...awesome, and it was free for my viewing pleasure.

A sound...I loved to hear a Commanche airplane with it's gear down in the traffic pattern for landing. It made a most beautiful melodic whistling sound...pure music.

Outside in the yard of our office I would hold out my hand and Ultralight, a Starling bird we had rescued when it fell out of it's nest as a baby, would fly to me and land in my hand. To see it hover in the wind then touch down so gently in my waiting hand was a special thing.

A Doberman Vokie had eyes only for me. He would spend much time just watching me. Docko would say that he could see pure love for me in Vokie's eyes. I could see it too.

Nature's beauty...In early spring, looking down from altitude when flying and seeing carpets of yellow mustard weed and then a little further on seeing carpets of purple Lupine flowers. So beautiful.

Wonderful scents...flying over the apple canneries in Sebastopol, Ca. and smelling the wonderful scent of apples being made into applesauce or apple jucie.

A feeling...of peace,contentment and pure joy when flying my gyrocopter.

Welcome sights...After being handed each one of my babies soon after it was born I would check it's fingers and toes and all parts of the tiny baby to see if everything was all right and feeling so happy when each baby was perfect. They are all grown up now and all are still perfect.

Till next time.
Marion Springer

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

My Little Red Wagon

When I was a kid back in the stone age, every family with children had a little red wagon. A little red wagon that said , ' Radio Flyer', on the side. Some of our toys, most in fact, we made ourselves, like a pair of stilts that worried our mom to death when we walked on them, or stick horses, or bean flippers...any kid worth a his salt could make a good bean flipper by cutting a sturdy Y shaped branch and tieing two rubber bands cut from an old inner tube and a small piece of leather onto the Y branch. Every boy carried a pocket knife and I did too, I still do, as a matter of fact.

Marbles, we all had a bag of marbles...they were store bought and a staple in the life of country kids, as was the little red wagon. There was even an old song titled,'Won't you ride in my little red wagon?'. The little red wagon had many uses beyond coasting down the hill in it. It was used to carry chopped wood and kindling from out back to the house. It was used to carry vegetables from the garden to the house, and to carry corn to from the field to the barn . It was a toy and then some .

When I was a young mother, my own children had a little red wagon. Many times I would walk to the grocery store nearby with baby Donna riding in the little red wagon and then walk back home with baby Donna and groceries in the little red wagon.

Now in my 'golden years', as they're called, I still have a little red wagon and use it almost daily for one thing or another. It is handy to carry the bags of trash out to the dumpster, or to carry the big bags of dog food or bird seed from the car to the house or to carry my sewing kit ( kit must weigh 15 lbs.) and drapery material from my home to Linda's home about 200 feet away. When the guys were digging the trench on Linda's place this summer the little red wangon was the water wagon. It was kept busy hauling ice , soda, water , gatorade and all that stuff to keep the guys going.

I find it much eaiser to use the little red wagon than a wheel barrow for carrying things, especially if what is being carried is heavy. Where the wheel barrow is akward to handle, the little red wagon just tools along on four wheels nice and level and with no hassle.

The saddist thing I've ever used the little red wagon for was to carry my beloved Doberman Vokie, when he was too weak to stand and slipped down to the ground, alive, but just barely. I couldn't carry him for he was heavy. I put a blanket in my little red wagon and somehow I managed to get Vokie into the wagon. I was able to take him into the house by taking the little red wagon up the wheel-chair ramp to the front porch. I knew that my old friends' time was growing short , and so I took him into the living room so the other animals could say good-bye to him which they all did. I covered him with his blanket and there he died a short while later still in the little red wagon. The next day the little red wagon was the vehicle that carried him to his final resting place in the back yard.

Yesterday in the daily newspaper I saw an advertisement for Advanced Hearing Systems in Victorville. The good folks at Advanced Hearing Systems have a friendly French poodle named Charlie. Charlie meets and greets customers in the office. He is a good will ambassador. The picture in the ad was of Charlie sitting in a little red wagon that said ' Radio Flyer' on the side. Yeah, the little red wagon has stood the test of time and is here to stay and I couldn't be without mine.

Till next time.
Marion Springer

Friday, December 01, 2006

Smart animals continued

Animals are smart enough to seek help when they are injured or lost. Take the parakeet who flew several circles over head as I was sitting on the porch swing late one afternoon. He would cry out as he went past. After a few passes he landed in a bush near the porch. He sat there for an hour or so until I was ready to go into the house. I thought if I could catch him then I could keep him safe from hawks and owls. A colorful bird like the little green parakeet is a beacon to predators in the desert.

He sat there and let me try to reach him but my fingers barley brushed him, then he flew away. " Well", I thought , "thats the end of him . I'll never see him again". But I was wrong. Next morning he was in another bush in the yard. I asked my son to help me catch the bird and so with Dave on one side of the bush and me on the other the little green parakeet simply dropped to the ground at my feet and let me pick him up. We called him Johnnie and he lived with us for nearly three years then passed away.

There were two foxes that lived in a burrow just on the other side of our fence. One of them turned up severely injured. Every day I would take them food and water. they would bravely sit beside their underground home until I was no more than 15 feet from them then they would dissapear down the chute until I went away.

We could see the injured one was having more and more difficulty getting around. Then one day he made his way into our yard and simply let Dave pick him up. It was late in the day so we put him in a cage intending to take him to a vet the next morning but he didn't last make it through the night. I think he wanted help but waited too long.

And then there was our German Shepherd Gyro. For exercise I would walk and run around the runways on the airport at Tracy. Gyro needed exercise too but he really didn't want to run. If I didn't put him on a leash he would run with me for about 50 feet then he would just sit down and wait patiently for me to make the entire trip around the airport then as I made it back he would run out to greet me and act like he had run the distance himself. If I put a leash on him to make him go with me he would hang back putting drag on the leash . I would just tug on the leash and make him keep up and finally when he saw his little ruse wasn't working he would get with the program and run along side me .

One day we were loading the van for a weekend trip. I was carrying something out to the van when I looked back and there was Gyro carring an exercise mat that was rolled up like a sleeping bag and had a carry handle. He would carry the empty waste basket back to the office after it had been emptied and he would carry the mail from the mail box for me.

After we moved to the desert a white rabbit started showing up and I started putting food out for it. Soon it was waiting every morning for it's breakfast. I had no intention of taking it in but then it turned up needing medical attention. We took it to the doctor. He gave me some pills and said, " give him a tablet every three hours". I couldn't see trying to find him every three hours to give him his meds so we took him in. We called him Mikey. He would run loose in the house. Old Gyro just loved that rabbit. He would cradle the bunny rabbit between his paws and wash his face with his tongue. Docko made a cage for Mikey outside . One day I saw that Gyro had made a hole in the chicken wire of the cage and he was lying down inside the cage cuddling Mikey and giving him his daily tongue licking.

We had taken in a starving Doberman nmed Butch. He and Gyro were great friends . About three years later the doctor told us that it was time to let Butch go to his rest for there was nothing more the doctor could do for him.

I left Butch's collar and leash and his blanket in the van after his passing. Every time when Gyro was in the van he would pull Butch's things to him and tuck them in close to him. It was clear that he missed his friend and was grieving for him. He did that for a solid year. Feelings run deep in animals. They make great companions.

till next time
Marion Springer

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Birds and Animals are smarter than you might think

I've never understood why they are called, ' dumb animals'. I think they're pretty darn smart. Take the female cat that was dumped at our office in Tracy years ago. She was a wild thing, wouldn't let me touch her, would spit and hiss at me every time I tried to reach out to her. She did accept the food I put out for her though. She stayed around the office through the winter then one day she brought out a litter of kittens. They appeared to be several weeks old.

Mama cat was a loving mother to her babies. She played with them,taught them to stalk, and to hunt and to climb trees. She seemed to enjoy them immensely. When they were a few months old she started to be mean to them. When a youngster would try to nuzzle her she would strike it. She made them all keep their distance from her. That went on for awhile until the young cats just gave up and ignored their mother. Apparently that was her goal for it turned out that she was pregnant again. She had taught her young to hunt and to survive on their own so when it came time for her to leave them they could make it on their own.

Sometime later I knew she had had another litter of kittens but didn't know where she had them hidden until one day I saw her with a baby in her mouth and bringing it toward the office. I went out to see what was going on-I could see the baby looked like it was injured. It was clear that something had gotten to her babies and had injured at least one of them.

Mama cat walked right up to me and laid her injured baby in my outstretched hand then she went back to the hangar and brought out another baby. One by one, she brought four kittens from the hangar and placed them in my waiting hands. The last one she brought out of the hangar was obviously not alive so she just walked on past me with the dead baby. I never knew where she took it or what she did with it, only that she knew it was beyond help. I looked after her four babies for a few days then mama cat took over motherly duties again and no, she still wouldn't let me touch her, but that didn't matter. I felt honored that she trusted me to help her with her babies when she needed help. Smart mama cat.

One day at Tracy we heard a great calmmoring of sparrows on the roof of the office. I went out to see what the ruckus was about. There were what seemed like hundreds of sparrows on the roof and all were shrieking loudly. One sparrow was perched on the rain gutter over the door. Another sparrow which I took to be the mother bird was frantically flying between the bird on the rain gutter and her nest in the ivy alongside the door. Then I saw the reason for all the clammoring...there was a snake in the vines and he had found the bird nest.

The mother bird continued to fly to her mate on the rain gutter and implore him to do something. She would flutter in front of him crying all the while then she would fly back to the vines and scream some more at the snake. Her mate just sat there like he was cemented to the spot. The rest of the birds on the roof just gave moral support from a safe distance.

Docko took a garden rake and took the snake from the nest but from the lumps in his body it was obvious that he had had his dinner and the nest was empty.
Life can be tough for the wild creatures.

I saw a program on PBS station that piqued my curosity. It was about a scientest who saw a lizard on a rock near the path he took every day on his way home from the lab. One day he put some food on the rock and the lizard ate it. Soon the lizard was waiting for him every day and before long it was accepting food from the man's fingers. That went on every day until winter came along and the lizard disappeared . Spring came and guess what-the lizard was back on the rock ready to begin another season of handouts.

There happened to be a gecko lizard ( I looked that name up in an animal book )that I would see often in our yard. He would walk with me but with a fence between us as I went from the house to the hangar in back. He seemed to be there all the time and seemed fearless so I decided to try to duplicate what the scientest did and feed the lizard. Sure enough, he would eat the small bits of weiners that I would put on the ground for him. It wasn't long before he was waiting for me and taking food from my fingers .

One day he was eating from my fingers and he suddenly ran through the fence and stopped just beyond the fence but close enough that I could still hand him the food through the fence. He had run because Vokie, my Doberman had walked up to stand beside me. The lizard was smart enough to know that he was safe on the other side of the fence so he just stood there with the fence between him and Vokie and waited patiently for each bite of weiner.

Winter came...the lizard disappeared but returned when spring time came around and we took up where we left off and I began feeding him again. It was neat to see that small wild creature waiting there patiently for his dinner and then taking it from my fingers.

When the children were growing up we had a German Shepherd named Duke. Duke chased every bird that flew through our yard, no matter if it was 30 feet above the ground, he chased it. One day I saw a baby bird that had fallen from it's nest. It lay there fluttering on the ground. I ran toward the helpless baby hoping to beat Duke to it for he was running toward it too. Duke got there first. He picked the baby bird up in his mouth as I watched helplessly from 20 feet away expecting him to crunch it. But no, he held that tiny baby bird so tenderly in his mouth and brought it to me and gently placed it in my hand. Unbelievable!

Later on we had Vokie, my very special Doberman. One day I was in the office and Vokie was just outside near the steps. I was on the phone with one of my adult children who at the time was taking a walk on the wild side of life and it was worrying the heck out of me. Unable to talk sense to my wayward one and being very frustrated I hung up the phone on my child. I couldn't hold back the tears and Vokie heard me crying. He came inside, put his forelegs up on my lap and nuzzled my face. He was comforting me. He stayed by my side until I was able to control the tears. Oh yeah, the wild child came back into the fold shortly afterwards.

I think animals are so great. They add much to my life in so many ways. There will be more animal stories in another blog/journal. Stay tuned.

Till later
Marion Springer

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Painting, Pigeons , Gyro friends and uncoorperating computers

Linda and I finally reached the end of painting the inside of her doublewide mobile home...well, almost finished that is. There is still some misc. painting of small itmes to be done, but the big stuff, walls and ceilings are done, thank we start on hanging drapes . Bit by bit she is making the mobile home, HER home. A good feeling, for sure.

Out back there are six setting pigeon hens with two eggs per nest and a pair of baby pigeons about 5 days old in one nest. There have been times when for one reason or another I have been the caretaker of baby pigeons and it is astonishing how much more quickly they develop when the parent birds take care of them. Nature does it right!

Several weeks ago I set the young pigeon with the damaged beak free. I was concerned that he might not be accepted by the other birds because his beak and forehead have an unusual shape but so far he is doing very well. his beak healed well and he can forage with the rest of the birds. He seeks me out whenever I'm outside. He doesn't allow me to pick him up but I know he remembers me. That's a good feeling.

Hop Along, the one winged pigeon is hale and hardy. He is a miracle of survival spirit. It looks strange to see him flap his wings with a full size wing on the right side and a stub wing of about one inch on the left side. In the evening I cover one side of his cage to keep the table lamp from shining in his eyes so he just moves to the other side of his cage where he can continue to keep an eye on family activities and not miss anything. He has adapted well to his new life style.

I've been hanging out with gyro pilots again, even took Linda along this time. Gyro buddies Bobby Bettis and Teddy Udala were up over the weekend...well, actually, Teddy is a resident of El Mirage now but he still spends four days a week working down the hill. Bobby came up for a few days and the two of them, as is their custom, barbequed their dinner and we were invited. Tina and Dave came up late Saturday. After dinner we all sat around a roaring campfire and talked gyros. It was all of 9:30 PM when Linda and I got back home! For and old desert gal that seldom ventures out from home in the evenings that was staying out late indeed. Good dinner, good company, what could be better?

I bought a lap top computer last week and yesterday decided to get it up and I know anything about getting new computers up and running! All went well for awhile then we ran into now Linda had taken over as I had run out of ideas and patience. She was making no progress at all so she said , "let's turn on the desk top computer and maybe somehow that will help us". Wouldn't you know, the desk top computer refused to go online for the first time ever.

All day she tried...nothing happened with either computer, both refused to go online. Finally Linda suggested that it must be phone line problems. I pooh pooed the idea. It was us, had to be. Phone line problems? naw, Linda, you're reaching! The telephone was working just fine. Big computer had worked fine earlier in the day. Finally, in desperation, she called the telephone company to see if they knew why the dial-up phone number wasn't connectig. Linda was right after all, it was the phone line. It turned out to be old Murphy at work...the phone company said there was a fire down the hill and the phone line had been damaged and that was the reason the computers were not responding. At least it wasn't something we had done to mess up the works.

Till next time.
Marion Springer