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08 May 2012

So a Priest, a farmer, and a Sheriff walk into this...

Sitting here and hearing a sound that sounded out of place...  

That sounds like an aircraft engine-- on the ground on the street below, I think to myself.  I grab the television remote and press the mute button.

Yep.  That is what it sounds like-- but a very small aircraft engine.  Maybe it set down in the storm-- but that is one curvy road it is on.  Nah!  Can't be.  Whatever it is, it is heading the other way.

So, I lose interest in the sound, and realize I wasn't watching the television anyway; but (and better yet) I am reminded of a story:

Cessna 172 (from Wikimedia Commons)

I was living in small town Texas, where cows outnumbered people, and my "city-boy" Mazda 626 successfully did duty as a cutting horse on my way home from work, to block the attempted passage to freedom (or something) of a neighbor's loose bull.

One night, I was driving home on a long, mostly straight country road--  Farm to Market road something or other-- in that same cutting-Mazda.  It was just after 9/11.  We were all supposed to be alert for anything out of the ordinary back then, and since I am anyway, and alive because of it, I am sensing nothing unusual.

It is dusk, and I'm tooling along at sixty miles per hour because that was the speed limit.  Coming up out of a low spot in the road which I know has a fifteen degree curve right at the top of the little rise, I am always alert to the possibility that any traffic coming toward me may not be familiar with that curve, and am watching for headlights to appear.

Instead, I see a flash of red and then a brief glimpse of solid green light and come off the throttle and ease into my breaks.   I am down to a trot on my trusty Mazda as I take in the possibilities, and decide that despite the absurdity, I am rather certain that when I get to the crest of the hill, I am going to find a Cessna airplane on the road before me.

I get to the top of the crest and there is a Cessna aircraft on the road before me.  Not surprisingly, I am not surprised.

A woman in her sixties, wearing a print dress with lacy trim which was undoubtedly sold in a catalog also containing lawn art, model windmills, duck-shaped mailboxes and wooden heart-shaped things to hang on a wall with attached twine-- a woman dressed like that (in case you forgot where this sentence was going) was standing in the road, giving me the universal hand signal to slow down.  I lip-read a little because of some hearing loss.

I spent most of my youth in water.  I love swimming, but have these tiny little ear canals, and the water can get in, but it can't get out.  My physician told me they were small enough to be considered "deformed."  I had ear infections all the time, and so he had plenty of opportunities to consider the tininess of my ear canals.  Still, he never forgot his favorite joke when I went to visit him.  He would put that little dark green plastic funnel thing with the light in my deformed ear canal and then wave his fingers past my other ear so as to pretend he could see straight through.  It cracked him up every time.

Well the lady on the side of the road wasn't doing any of that, she was using one hand to make like she was pushing some invisible dog down that was continuously jumping up on her leg.

I don't know why acting like one is pushing an invisible and overly affectionate dog down is the universal sign for "Slow down" but it is.  Try it-- you'll see.  Anyway, I mentioned I can lip read, sometimes.  Well, I am fairly certain her words were "Slow ya' ass down" and that rather strengthened my interpretation of the hand signal.

I was near a stop anyway, and besides, there was a plane blocking the road in front of me, so I really didn't need any direction as to what to do.  I don't recall any section about right-of-way in the Texas Driver's Handbook mentioning aircraft; but when you have been driving for more that a few decades, some things just start to be intuitive.  In my my mind it went something like, Big vehicle with wings blocking the road with spinning blade bigger than my car-- best to give it room.  Besides that and having a little experience with airplanes (I have even ridden in them), I found it a bit ironic that the woman with the plane on the road was signaling me with suggestions as to what I ought to do with my car.

"Ma'am?  That being a plane... well, pardon me, but isn't it supposed have a bit more altitude?  Have you tried going faster?"

Okay, I did not really say that.  But the plane was turning itself around, and I watched an elderly man, wearing cowboy boots, jeans, and a nice cowboy hat (felt) holding a package, trot off toward a pick up truck blocking the road opposite the plane from me.  There was a car waiting there.  He must have been very experienced because he seemed to have stopped without needing any specific instructions.

The old cowboy backed the truck to the woman, she got in, and they hurried down a dusty drive right there through the pasture beside the road.  The plane was lurching as the engine revved-up and then was airborne before it got to the car facing me.

I was doing my best to catch up so as to read the tail number as it flew almost directly away from me, but by the time I got my Mazda 626 into a full gallop and along side, the plane had slipped too far from the road, and turning sharply, so I never saw any digits or letters.

I didn't have a cell phone in those days but was only three minutes from home, so I raced there and called 9-1-1 as soon as I got inside.

In less than a half hour, a Sheriff Deputy pulls up and comes to the door.  He asks me if I can show him where I saw the plane.  I'm still wearing my clericals:  Black suit, black shirt, white priest's collar, and want my dinner, but this could be important.

I can, and say so, and get in his cruiser.  I direct him to make a right at the end of my street onto the Farm to Market runway, and go a couple of miles.  At the top of the right hill, I say, "This is it.  Right here."

He pulls the cruiser to the shoulder and takes out a note pad and asks me if I could describe the plane.

I tell him it what model of Cessna it was.  He asks how I know, and I am explaining that it has a high wing, fixed tricycle gear, four-seater, white with dark blue or green trim-- couldn't get the tail number.

The Deputy looks at me funny.

I look at the Deputy funny.

"How do you know all that?" He asks.

"I saw it."

"How do you know all about that type of aircraft?"

I explain about my years working as an assassin for the CIA and how the flashy-thing only removed selected memories, but I still remember all my early pilot training which was required before I began flying the space shuttle on secret missions to shoot down the black helicopters that were causing all the alien troubles down in Roswell and their fluoridating our water in retribution and so poisoning our precious bodily fluids.

No, I didn't.  But wouldn't that have been fun?  And in my collar.  Lord knows I am kicking myself to this day for not saying that.  No.  I told him I was a Chaplain for the local Air Force Auxiliary, showed him the related ID, and he put that on his clipboard.  That seemed to satisfy the Deputy.  Some people can't handle the truth.

So, just a hundred yards further on from where we were parked, was a red brick, two story farmhouse.  All the lights were on, and the Deputy says, "Think they might have seen anything?"

I said, "The plane was on the other side of the hill from them, but they must have heard it."  We drive up the driveway and find a man rummaging through a tool box in the well lighted garage.  I like to use "lit" for when a fire has been struck, and "lighted" for a description of artificial brightness.  It seems odd to me to plant in the readers mind the possibility that I might have meant that the man may have been rummaging through a tool box inside a burning garage-- set afire by some arson who knew his craft.  One would think that the man would be frantically looking for a fire extinguisher, but he wasn't.  He seemed to be simply looking for a specific tool.  And since I make no mention of an arson, or a fire, I am hopeful the intent of my word choice created no confusion.

So, anyway,  I get out of the car with the Deputy.

The deputy says, "Howdy.  Say, did you see or hear anything unusual a little earlier this evening?

"You mean the plane?"

God as my witness:  The Deputy answered, "Soooo.  There was a plane."

The gentleman in the garage started, "Oh yeah, we--"

I interrupted, "Now wait just a minute!  You mean, after all the details I gave you, you thought I was making this up?"

Now, I didn't want to insult him more than I needed to because I did not want to walk the two and half miles back home that night; but I was ticked, and perhaps a little emboldened because there was an outside chance that if he did leave me, I could always catch the next plane.

The man in the garage laughed, and continued, "Yeah, there was a plane alright.  Landed right in front of the house, and we heard it.  When we went to look, it was going over that little hill there and down below."

His wife had come out to join us, and she added, "We figure it was drugs."

The Deputy said, "Yes Ma'am.  Out here away from the city, they make their pickups and deliveries and then drive them in to distribute.  Sometimes they just fly low and drop the stuff out.  I guess they had to do a pick-up of some kind."

It was an uncomfortable ride home... for the Deputy.  I enjoyed myself.  I gloated.  He knew I was gloating.  I had earned my gloat, and I was going to have it.

"So, while you may have had doubts, there was no call for you to express such surprise that I, a Priest, was telling the truth."

"Yes sir.  I'm sorry."

"And then it turns out you knew about such things being a way drugs are delivered out here."

"Yes, but until the lady said something about it, I hadn't thought of it."

"But you were quick to think that the Priest must be crazy?"

I was grinning and setting my spurs in, and he was apologizing the whole way.  His only way out was to get me home to my supper as quickly as possible.  He had that engine roaring, and I swear, we were nearly flying.



Anonymous said...

"Some people can't handle the truth." Love your sense of humor!! :)

Steeny Lou said...

"Somethings" – should be “some things”

And are you sure the garage wasn’t “well lit”?

And you know you're a good writer so I won't bother to say you did a good job on this one, brat who need a swift kick in the butt!

cregil said...

Made changes just for you, Steeny Lou!