A Bird’s Eye View!

One sunny morning in late July, the phone began to ring just as I walked in the front door.  I had been outside starting sprinklers and bracing for another day of work trying to keep my plants alive in the 109° plus temperatures we were having.  The inferno-like weather was really beginning to wear on me, so I was quite delighted to see the caller-ID indicating that this was my friend Ruthie calling.  Her husband Randell had earned his pilot’s license this summer and they had recently purchased an older, 4-seat Cessna, which they took up for a fly almost every week.  Ruthie was calling to ask, if they stopped at the local airport, would I like to come out and take a ride with them?  “Well of course, YES!! Absolutely!”, said I.

This is a postcard of “The Flying V” Airport, Restaurant and Ballroom, issued back in the 1970’s. It was quite an upscale landmark smack dab in the middle of rural Nebraska. Farmer’s and rancher’s from all over the state drove by car, arrived by bus and plane, to dance to music of the 40’s and 50’s, and of course polka dancing was popular as well!
It had been more than 30 years since I was up in a small aircraft.  When I was in high school, I worked as a waitress during the summers at a rural airport called, “The Flying V“, located just a couple of miles outside of the small town of 600 population that I grew up in.  The Flying V was an airport, restaurant and ballroom.  In its time, it was a place of elegance and importance.  The owner, Kenny Volzke and his wife Stella, managed to draw in big-name performers to the ballroom like Guy Lombardo, Tommy Dorsey, and many polka bands well-known  throughout the Midwest.  I remember Myron Floren and the Lawrence Welk Orchestra playing at The Flying V three different times, though Mr. Welk himself never appeared.  Old Lawrence required an additional $10,000 fee to make a personal appearance with his orchestra.  I never cared much for Lawrence Welk after that.

This is one of the silly shots I took while waiting on my friends to arrive. Little did I know my camera was very low on battery power! Thankfully, I had enough to get several nice aerial photographs despite my blunder!

The airport at The Flying V was busy every weekend.  The restaurant put out a huge buffet on Saturdays and Sundays.   One Sunday, after the lunch buffet crowd had cleared out, Mr. Volzke sat with the wait staff and kitchen help to have lunch with us.  He announced that he was flying that afternoon but his wife Stella didn’t care much about going up.  Most everyone at our table had flown, and when he asked me if I had ever flown in a small plane, I admitted I had not.  Hearing this, he asked if I would like a ride.  Oh, I wanted to alright, but I was scared to death!  What if my Dad found out?  Why, he’d kill me for sure!  So what did I do?  I went flying of course!  Mr. Volzke took me up for a short ride over the little town just a few miles north, and then turned back to the south to the I-80 interstate.  What I remember most of that trip was how magnificent the rich Nebraska farm ground looked from above.

Being overly excited about this new opportunity to take to the skies this July morning, I arrived at the local airport much too early.  Our house is just a mile from the airport, as the crow flies, so it took only a couple of minutes for me to drive there. Ruthie and Randell were flying in from a neighboring city airport where they keep their plane.  I supposed they were still another 10 minutes away.

Our trusty pilot going over the takeoff checklist.

While I waited, I walked around, taking some pictures and thinking what a small and nondescript airport and runway our city had.   I had snapped only a few photos when I noticed the battery power was very low.  Dang it!  I meant to replace that battery the day before, but had obviously forgotten.  I felt foolish for wasting battery power taking pictures to kill time while I dawdled around.  I only hoped I had enough juice left to get some aerial shots from Randell and Ruthie’s plane.

Within just a few minutes, my friends arrived.  We discussed the weather and how their flight was and then Randell began to give me a few instructions as we loaded up in the plane. Though I argued against it, Ruthie insisted she ride in the back so I would have the better view.  Sitting in the front suddenly felt strange to me.  I didn’t remember feeling like this at all when I flew with Mr. Volzke back in Nebraska years ago.

A nearby lake looks much larger than I thought it to be! Our city gets its water from this lake.

As Randell began making preparations for take-off, Ruthie handed me a plastic bag “in case you need it”, and then pointed out the “Oh $hit” handle – in case I needed that as well.  We did checks on our headsets. Randell went over his takeoff checklist, and soon we were taxiing to the end of the runway.  I was beginning to relax a bit now.  Maybe having all those controls in front of me in the front seat had scared me just a bit.  Soon, the engine roared and we were speeding down the runway, and then… take-off!

It was evident the high temps were taking a toll on area pasture ground and crops. I noticed many terraced fields, adding texture to the landscape.

The first few seconds after take-off were smooth as silk, but I soon realized my right hand was glued to the “Oh $hit” handle and my anxiety meter was pegged out.  My stomach was fluttery and my chest felt… strange.  The last time I had experienced such a feeling was when I tried some amusement park rides several years back and realized, quite quickly, they were no longer fun.  I looked back at Ruthie who, recognizing my plight, calmly said, “Randell, I think we should go back”, and then to me said, “You don’t look so good.  Do you want to go back?”  I replied, “Noooooo, I think I’ll be OK”, but I wasn’t so sure.  Randell glanced over at me and then back to his controls, assuring me that, once we got up a bit, the ride would smooth out and not be so bumpy.

I had no idea center pivot irrigation was prevalent in this area. Our pilot noted these were likely peanut crops. Small ravines and waterways, lakes and reservoirs were also numerous. The view from above was much more interesting than the terrain I was accustomed to seeing by car.

I trusted Randell, and his calm demeanor and confident voice comforted me.  Ruthie kept me occupied by talking via the headsets, and before I knew it, I was enjoying the aerial view, and the ride.  Randell pointed out a popular, local lake.  I soon began recognizing landmarks on my own, and marveled at the dark green crop circles created by center pivot irrigation.  I had no idea our part of the county had such a demand for irrigation!

At some point I managed to relax enough to pry my right hand loose of the “Oh $hit” handle and began taking photographs.  Randell was great at positioning the plane in just the right place to get me the angle I needed for my shots.  Being high as we were, the ride was smooth and glorious.  I thought of the vultures, Mississippi Kites and hawks, knowing this must be their view from above.  When we took a northerly direction, I knew the cabin that FD and his friend were building was nearby.  I spotted the reservoir first, and then saw the cabin at the end of a clearing off the water!  Randell maneuvered the plane gracefully, giving me an awesome position and various angles from which to shoot photographs of the cabin area.

My friends and their 1968 Cessna 182L Skylane. I was 7 years old when this plane was built!

After circling FD’s cabin site a couple of times, we headed back to the airport.  As we flew over our city, I spotted our house and buildings.  I managed some decent shots of our property, thanks again to Randell’s ability to position the plane well.   Before I knew it, the plane was descending and I was preparing myself for what I figured would be a bumpy landing… but it didn’t happen.  There were no bumps on the descent, and no brain-jolting landing on the runway.  It was, in fact, quite smooth.  My anxiety was gone now, and a permanent smile was glued on my face.  That “Oh $hit” handle was just an ornament that I no longer had a need for.  Instead, I was washed over with elation and excitement.

After the plane was parked, we all bailed out. Ruthie and Randell posed for a few more photos with their plane, and then my friends loaded back up and bid me farewell.  I photographed them taking off into the wild blue, becoming smaller and smaller, while climbing higher and higher, and finally circling back to the east.  Looking after them, I thought what a beautiful day it was to be a bird…

© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

Taking off…
Up, Up…
And Away!

24 thoughts on “A Bird’s Eye View!

  1. Thanks for the great blog . You did a fantastic job as always with the photos. I am very impressed.
    love ya r

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    1. Well, I had a competant pilot and an assuring co-pilot!! It was a fun post to write. I love all of the photos I managed to shoot that day… I wish I could have shown them all! It was a wonderful experience and something I shall never forget! I love you too!!

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      1. Hi,
        Just for fun I googled “Flying V” and stumbled across your post. I also grew up in the Utica area (lived, and still own a farm about 7 miles south), but went to Waco HS. Went to the Flying V many times, and even about 20 years ago asked Kenny if he would sell it, since he was slowing down. The price was way out of my range.
        Anyway, what is your name (and maiden name)? Couldn’t find it on the post or web site. My name is Verne Wiese, now living in the Dayton, Ohio area. (vwiese@gemair.com). My wife’s name is Lew Jane (Rice) Wiese. You may know her sister, Phyllis Rice Honnor, who taught at Utica Centennial for many years.
        We own a plane, and would love to take you for a ride if we were ever in your neighborhood!
        Verne

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        1. Oh my goodness!!! What a wonderful surprise to find your comment this morning! I now live in Oklahoma and make my way back to the Utica area once or twice a year to visit family. Phyllis was my physical education teacher for a couple of years during high school. I am familiar with the Wiese name… I had a classmate named Eugene Wiese, whom I haven’t seen in probably 20 years or more (at a class reunion). Verne, I will email you so that we may visit more and catch up on the Utica area! I am so happy that you contacted me! This just made my day!

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      2. That is so cool when you meet folks that are friends of friends or whatever! I’m excited for you littlesundog!

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  2. How neat! I have never been up in a small plane, but the first thing I thought of was that you would be able to get some great photos while you were up!

    The land looks like a fancy art quilt from the sky.

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    1. That would make an interesting quilt indeed! The best shots were of places that I was not able to get permission from the landowners to post. Still, it was a grand adventure and one I hope to have again someday! If you ever have the chance to fly in a small plane, I highly recommend it!

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    1. I have always wondered about the view of a bird, like the raptors and some of the migratory birds that fly so high. It is beautiful up there, and I agree with you! Nature’s art is all around… if only we take the time to see and ponder it!

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  3. Awesome, littlesundog! What a pretty little plane, too. I know that feeling of gripping anxiety, and the liberation of relaxing into it. I’m glad you got to fly.

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    1. That plane is sweet, and Randell and Ruthie are wonderful friends. I am glad I was able to focus on Randell’s calm demeanor and that Ruthie helped “talk” me out of focusing on my anxiety. Isn’t it great to have friends who can help us overcome fear or anxiousness?

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    1. Ha! If given the opportunity, it is definitely something I would suggest trying. I hope I get the chance to go up again sometime. Ruthie was just telling me about some farmers nearby, who had created “crop art” in their fields. I would love to capture a few photos of that. I’ve always been amazed at the ability to use farm equipment and crops to create something beautiful to be seen from up above.

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  4. What I wouldn’t give to have seen bands like Tommy Dorsey’s play! I love your photos, but even more than that the thought of sharing the view with the high-flying birds. My father-in-law had a Cessna for a number of years but I never got the chance to go up in it. I rather wish I had!

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    1. Well Sid, it’s never too late! Find a way to experience flying… I thought of my vulture friends, the kites and the hawks too, as we flew so high. I often see the vultures flying above our woodland area and wonder how it must feel to lift high on the thermals and air currents, soaring and then descending ever so gently. It must be an awesome feeling.

      Oh, I’m with you on the big band era. I rarely worked the Flying V during the Saturday evening dances, but Sunday afternoons sometime brought polka bands and sure did enjoy the lively music and dancing.

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  5. Interesting Lori, the last time I flew in a small plane was, ahem, 1980, in Burwell, Nebraska. I had a friend from the Univ. of Nebraska who was from Burwell, and his dad (who was a pharmacist) owned a bi-plane and we went up and he did barrel rolls, loops, etc. It was a blast!!

    So glad you did this, and the pics are great, as usual.

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