November 6, 2007
November 6, 2007
The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: For Mike’s big Five-O I planned a surprise weekend in Kissimmee, Florida where I arranged for him to fly a P-51 Mustang. Thunderstorms postponed our plans but I gave him the gift certificate in a card and explained that we’ll go when the weather is better. Lacking a back-up plan he suggested we just go for a ride and see where we end up. Might as well take our bags we packed, just in case we don't come back till Sunday, he said. So off we went.
Can't leave Liberty without stopping by the airport. Everyone there was packing up too, heading for Reklaw. That's Reklaw, Texas, population 327. It's Walker, spelled backwards. For real.
What’s in Reklaw? Every year Dave and Marsha Mason host a weekend fly-in/campout at their Flying M Ranch. Dave and his first wife, Judy (now deceased), invited a few friends for the weekend 23 years ago. The following year those friends brought friends. This year the grass strip, now 4,000' x 250', hosted between 500-600 airplanes and probably close to 2,000 people.
They came from all over, from all walks of life to spend time strolling the parking area, socializing at the breakfasts, lunches and dinners served in the large hangar, and to stand by the runway watching takeoffs, landings and fly-bys. Mike wanted to look at more of the parked aircraft but I couldn't tear myself away from the action at the runway. Morning dew covering tents squatting underneath airplanes’ wings provided great photos and we came home with over six hours of video and many pictures.
Mike: When the Masons handed out awards for oldest, youngest, newest pilots, oldest and newest airplanes, and farthest flyer, it was evident this is a real family event. Newlyweds on their honeymoon, an 85-year old man and several 16 and 17 year olds who flew in, moms, dads, and children all gathered and shared their passion for flight.
One guy brought his Antonov AN-2, a large Russian bi-plane with nine passenger seats used as an airliner until 1991. It was sold to a museum in Tennessee where it sat for four years before he bought it. We climbed in to look around, noticing the signatures of the Golden Knights parachute team and Soviet defector Viktor Belenko. When the pilot offered a ride I jumped in the co-pilot seat and up we went. After a low pass I swapped seats with Linda so she could have a turn.
Linda’s birthday is the day after mine. This was a great celebration and she thanked a few folks for attending “her birthday party.” As the band played Saturday night the crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to her surprise.
About seven other pilots from the Liberty area flew up and we met lots of new friends. I’m looking forward to flying the P-51, but all in all we had a fun weekend.
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.