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Date: Fri, 29 Dec 1995 20:31:57 -0500
To: elpolvo
Subject: 177


Got in from Elk Creek where Jon and I cut trees from the old burn, loaded a ton or more into the back of the Chevy, some of those logs weigh 300 pounds and we are rolling and dragging and chaining and oomphing them up the slopes for three hours, rassling them into the bed, charcoal making us look like a backwoods minstrel show, Pebbles who had dragged the rib cage and neck of a slaughtered deer into the back yard last night had come along and the rangy meat in her gut was playing hell fuming the air with some pretty ghastly smells that brought us to our knees several times crying out in agony! I mean the air warmed up fifty degrees over what it was normally, you'd feel this rush of tropical air before the olfactories shriveled. You're struggling up the mountain to the truck she's there with a branch in her teeth right where either your next footstep goes down or you fall over, she wants you to grab her stick and toss it to fetch, this eight foot long tree between you guys and there's snow on the slope and your knees are shuddering and your breath coming fast.

Day before I came back with a load of wood I'd gotten alone, come into town and pull up at the Western Bar, there's Nate Williams across the street cutting and loading wood onto his welding generator truck, we greet one another. I'd been in that morning looking for a come-along in his store but he didn't have one, I go over and he likes the load of wood and there's sort of a glint of respect in his eye, we talk a little, he tells me his son flew into town and his Cessna 177 is over on the old railroad bed by the grain elevators, I say he landed there? sort of impressed because it's narrow and hasn't been used since '62 when the rails were taken up, and he says that he flew in the night before at the regular air strip and he and his wife and other son had laid out flashlights either side of the field and his wife had clambered up on the cab of the truck and waved the lantern as her son the pilot approached, hoping he'd realize that this was a human being waving the light and not to plow into her just thinking she was only a flashlight, and the next morning the pilot had flown over to the town and landed on the railroad bed and that's where the plane was now and he'd be taking off pretty soon. I said I wanted to be there and he said it'd be a half hour anyway, so I went into the bar and got a shot of VO and beer chaser, talked with the guys and Lottie and Bob the new owners who'd bought it from Dave who's had it for years. It was Dave that Marilyn and I ran into at the bar up at Gibson Lake a few months ago with Gus the birds-of-prey photographer and we got along so well and laughed a lot. By the time I come out of the Western Bar a half hour's passed, I drive home, get my bike, pedal over to the roadbed two blocks north of Main and there she is, pretty plane in browns, gleaming, I walk around her, peer inside, sort of wait around, no one comes, bike back to Kenck's where Nate is still sawing and stacking wood just as three of his sons pull up in a blue pickup, the tallest one the pilot and FAA ground controller in Washington, his two brothers a full foot shorter than him but made of the same fast stuff, it was these two that wrecked the black Jag last summer, all of them are into speed, and the tall one says he's going to fly over to the airstrip and load the brother going back with him and their luggage on there, Nate and Sue his wife invite me to come in their truck, throw the bike in back, climb in, we go over, watch the brothers turn the plane around, the big one revving up and taxiing with the wind off the Sawtooths, he's up and then vertical, rolls over and heads south, I mean he goes vertical just like that and banks hard, we get into the pickup, the other two brothers into their blue truck and head out toward the air strip, maybe a mile from the rodeo grounds. Nate says how someone'd shot out the beacon years before, I'm still whacked out that there is an airport in town and that I never saw it or the beacon tower, and we pull off the highway and there's the 177 and they're loading luggage in and we pull up and Sue gets out to go hug her boys, Nate tells me how the county built this years before, it's a mile long dirt strip, private, markered with white pyramids about a foot and some high either side, every hundred feet, there's a big "Augusta" in yellow painted rock on the side by the sock, there's a pilot register in yellow on a lone metal stand over by the four-by-four outhouse/terminal/commodore lounge/restaurant I'm taking all this in stoked by the boilermaker and the ecstasy of being with fliers and realizing that this is Augusta International Airport!!! Nate is telling me how he flies but has no license, doesn't go into controlled areas, he builds these pusher planes out of kits in his welding shop there at Kenck's and wonders if I'm good with my hands, maybe I'd want to work with him building these one-seaters, shop's pretty cold and all, but if I wanted...and I'm saying Yeh I want to work in a cold shop building these planes, that's what I was born for!!!!! then Sue's getting back into the cab and the ground controller son is firing up, I'm out with the camera to get this takeoff into the sunset, he lifts off in about 200 feet, does that same vertical climb, rolls over as pretty as anything and heads straight toward us in a dive, I coulda touched the wheel of the plane if I'd wanted, man I am so frenzied by the rush of the wind and the sound of the engine and the daring of the pilot, I'm in heaven once again, I can't get away from it in this town! He climbs and rolls over and dives back the other way heading right at us, Sue is saying how her other son the passenger is probably tossing his cookies right now, hates to fly, he's built more for fast cars, they zoom over and fly off into the west, we watch till the sky swallows them up and drive back into town, they drop me off at our house where Marilyn has just gotten back and she meets us and she says how she saw the 177 landing that afternoon on the railroad bed and she's excited too because this just doesn't happen in places she's lived and when she hears there's a landing strip out of town she's fired up too and the next morning on our way to Helena to talk to the attorney about the kids and our going for full custody I pull over there and we laugh and tell stories about how we're gonna build a hanger here one day for our plane and just run wild with the thrill of this exciting place in our town that we never knew about, I mean you wouldn't be any more excited and bowled over if you'd been a Pawnee seeing his first horse galloping across the plains five hunnerd years ago.

Whew. I'm suddenly staved in from the woodcutting, gonna sign off now. All is well, we have the kid thing in hand, we're going for primary household, it's taken me all this time to get to this point of where I have the power personally to do it along with the drive, love and focus. The mother loves the kids but her lifestyle just isn't right for them at this age, she doesn't want them to go to public school, can't afford private so she's going to homeschool them again, that's how they got so far behind in learning and have needed tutoring to catch up, Zach in first grade, Cristina in third, she doesn't have a house, she's really deeply into ethereal New Age, eats funny stuff, had the kids on a lettuce-only diet last Easter for two weeks, they came back freaked out physically and mentally, took months to calm them down and get them back to where they could be just kids again, I mean Zachary is so lean anyway that with two weeks of no food he was nearly dead. We'd promised them their mother would return them after their vacation this time and she called to say they wouldn't be coming back and there was nothing to discuss and she's expecting child support January 1. Sure. We talked with the kids yesterday and they are devastated. When we spoke to them about how we wouldn't accept this she jumps on the line and yells at me that I ought to be asking them about how their Christmas was and asking them about the little birds they touched and the school they are getting spiritual exercises in, which is a little unrealistic given the situation. I really do not think she has any idea of how we feel or what she has done in terms of the impact on the kids. She doesn't empathize, can't project like that, never has, cannot, it's like where that little corner of the heart is, there is an unformatted floppy disk.

This skews our travel plans somewhat, we aren't sure what we're gonna do, although Cort Harrington the family lawyer says it'll be three weeks before anything gets going. Meanwhile I've got to find where she is living so I can have her served, need to find a PI to find out what's going on over there, what's she up to? Is she going to take the kids and leave? She has to know that something like this suit is coming her way, she can't prove that she is the home best for the kids since she asked us to raise them in writing, signed an agreement leaving them in our care till August of '96, they've been with us a year, are thriving in school and in personal development.

I'm still in shock, I see that from this letter. But that's good, it revitalizes a guy, wakes him up.

What are you up to other than slaving over our LFM? What are you doing at work? How is Kathleen? Will you ask her to write us? Can I help in the WWW thing? What's my name?

Sincerely, El Piloto Gus

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