The Liberty Gazette
October 7, 2008
October 7, 2008
The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely
Mike: Recently I was to spend some time wandering around in the Lone Star Flight Museum in Galveston. I discovered an old friend in the museum’s hall of fame, Gordon Baxter. Mr. Baxter was a well-known disc jockey in the Beaumont and Port Arthur area. But he was also a long time contributor to Flying Magazine. For 20 years or more His column, Bax Seat, filled the magazine’s last page with stories of grass-roots flying. I was reading his articles long before I ever climbed into an airplane. While I never heard Mr. Baxter on the radio, I got to know a lot about his view of the Texas landscape through the windscreen of his Mooney Ranger. Now that I’m here, I’m able to experience much of what he wrote about. Now I want to read again the things he wrote.
Pictures are great, however words allow me to experience places in this world I may know nothing about, and give a good sense for a place or region. When I travel to some place I’ve never been before, I do a little armchair flying, learning as much as possible so my experiences are much more rewarding.
When I began flying I read both, Night Flight and Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, and later Ernest K. Gann’s The High and The Mighty, Islands in the Sky and Gentlemen of Adventure. Many writers use aircraft in their works but these authors let the airplanes they flew breathe life into their stories. They were able to capture the romance, adventure and suspense of flying like few others have. They were aviators first, writers later. And how about real life stories of aviators who overcame enormous obstacles to achieve incredible accomplishments, such as Max Conrad, who set long distance flying records after recovering from an accident that nearly cost him his life, as recorded in the book, Into the Wind. One of Max’s feats was to fly a small single engine airplane solo, non-stop from Casablanca to Los Angeles, staying aloft for an incredible 58 hours and 38 minutes.
Linda: Richard Kirkland’s War Pilot is a great collection of personal stories that will keep you on the edge of your seat at every page. As for Gordon Baxter, it seems he inspired a whole generation of small airport pilots through his aviation writing. And speaking of fun flying stories, I love Bob Jamison’s book, Airplanes, Alligators and Hi-Fin Blues. I can just imagine Bob, Dayton’s own Sky King, using his airplane to help the sheriff round up bad guys. Reminds me of my nephew Brian who just last week herded a chainsaw thief through Humble – only Brian chased him down on a riding mower – right into the police department parking lot. How’s this crook going to explain this to his buddies?
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com