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Memories of dad and flying

On the Bright Side

Mel Makaw.

One sunny afternoon recently friends Leila and Julee and I had a delicious lunch together at Thai-Hachapi and then went for a yummy ice cream dessert at Frosty Frills (we were celebrating Julee's birthday!). After all that we decided to go out to the glider port – Mountain Valley Airport, off Highline Road – and see if there was anything going on.

It was a beautiful, breezy day, and there was. The tow plane was busy pulling a couple of different gliders and people were waiting for rides. It was such a fun afternoon to watch all that activity, and it brought back many fond memories for me.

My dad always loved the idea of flying, of being up in the air. As a kid he made paper and wood airplanes, and learned as much as he could about flying. When the time came, he joined the Navy and learned to fly for himself. He was a Navy pilot for 10 years.

One thing led to another and he left the Navy, went back to school and became a doctor, and eventually bought his own airplane, a Beechcraft Debonair which we named Tocamasa (letters from the first names of our little family of four). As a family we flew a lot – I'd flown many thousands of miles in Tocamasa before I ever boarded a commercial flight for the first time in college.

I love flying too, but not as much as my dad did, not enough to actually learn to fly myself. Dad did let me take the controls a few times while we were in Tocamasa, but that's not the hard part of flying a plane (taking off and landing are the parts that take skills and know-how).

One of Dad's buddies at Minter Field near Shafter had an open cockpit bi-plane and Dad arranged for me to get a ride in it one time. Dad told his friend that I loved wild rides (i.e. roller coasters, etc.) so while we were in the air the pilot friend did every wild thing he could do legally (determined by the fact that we weren't wearing parachutes) and I had an absolute ball! This was some years ago but, in my mind, it was so fun that I remember it like it was yesterday.

A few years after that, Dad took me out to the glider port here in Tehachapi for another fun surprise – he bought me a ride in a glider, a whole new part of the up-in-the-air ballgame for me.

I loved it. Again, the memories make me smile and take me back to the experience like it was just yesterday, sitting in a cockpit floating above the ground. For a brief second up there I remember thinking, oh wow, I'm up here with no engine and I'm depending completely on the sometimes fickle wind and the skills of someone I don't know ... but any trepidation I felt melted away at the views and the wonderful feeling of soaring (and confidence in the pilot – I wish I could remember his name). It's another world up there in a glider, and one I would gladly go into again.

Well, I would except nowadays my physical health is not up to getting into that tight little seat, so I have to enjoy other people's enjoyment. And enjoy I do, as Julee and Leila and I did that afternoon.

The afternoon brought back so many memories for me personally, but it was such a treat to do something a little out of the ordinary, and to see so much activity right in our own backyard, so to speak. I must remember to go out there more often, both for lunch and to watch the planes.

If you're ever looking for something a little different to do some day, why don't you take a little ride out to the Mountain Valley glider port off Highline, have a little lunch at the Raven's Nest and watch the runways and the skies. Or better yet, take a ride yourself – guaranteed to make some wonderful memories.

Memories are all I have of my dad now, and I have some great ones, both up in the air and down on the ground. I hope you have as many happy memories of your father as I do of mine.

Happy Father's Day to all you dads out there, and I hope you and yours are always busy making new memories with each other.

© 2024 Mel Makaw. Mel, local writer/photographer and author of On the Bright Side, a Collection of Columns (available locally at Tehachapi Arts Center and Healthy Hippie Trading Co.), welcomes your comments at [email protected]/.