The Liberty Gazette
October 13, 2009
October 13, 2009
The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely
Mike: It was 1979 when David Rogers bought the property in Crosby where his airstrip now sits. Ten years later, with thoughts of retirement, he flew his Beech 18 to the Experimental Aircraft Association’s “AirVenture” at Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Having worked hard all his life, it was time to kick back. But opportunity kept knocking, and David built the Texas Sports Ranch on his property to support competition gymnastics. Meanwhile, he owned and flew a Rockwell Turbo Commander he leased to Med Express in Show Low, Arizona. In 1992 he bought a Learjet 24 because he’d always wanted to fly a jet. Placing it with a charter operator for air ambulance, David flew patients in it for MD Anderson. Eight years later, while hosting a national gym meet, David was approached by well known air show performer, Bobby Younkin, whose daughter was in the meet. They’d met at Oshkosh. Younkin asked, “Aren’t you David Rogers? I’m looking for a Lear.” Bobby bought the Learjet and used it in an air show routine.
David spent years developing the Ranch into what it is today. It has hosted church and cheerleading camps as well as leadership and team building retreats. He finally retired last year, and now in his mid-seventies is ready to slow down – a little. The airstrip and all the buildings are for sale and would be great for a church retreat. The main building has 400 beds, dormitory-style, two full gymnastic arenas, a large indoor soccer court, full athletic camp style kitchen, four football/soccer fields, Jr. Olympic pool, irrigation system, guard shack, the hangar with an apartment, and of course, the 5600’ by 60’ airstrip.
Linda: Getting to know David has been a pleasure. He invited us to join him and other area pilots at a regular Saturday morning breakfast, kind of like the one Bob Jamison talks about in his book, “Airplanes, Alligators, and Hi-fin Blues.” I love that book. There’s a story in it about David Rogers. In the very first chapter Bob describes a flight down to Belize in which he smuggled a 9-foot python back into its original country and David thought for sure he was going get thrown in jail.
Then there’s the classic story about Santa in the Stearman, and the one about Bob’s first airplane, an Aeronca Champ. Transitioning from the Champ to a Stearman was “like jumping off a donkey and landing in the seat of a P-51.” Barely past his 20th birthday, he says, “I flew home in my newly acquired Aeronca Champion with a brand new pilot’s license in one pocket and a BBA degree in the other. Before that day I never had even owned a car and couldn’t yet vote. But I was proud of that old airplane and flew it all over Texas and parts of Louisiana plus reconnaissance of many a fishing hole. But only a few months later a freak storm came by my cow pasture landing zone and flipped it over breaking it in two. As luck would have it, a local farmer, Charles Haidusek, bought a war weary Stearman military trainer complete with a 245 Lycoming engine, dual wings, two open cockpits and sold it to me. Fortunately for me and the airplane, a local crop duster pilot (and WWII Navy fighter pilot) offered to ‘teach’ me to fly. That he did.”
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.