“Snipe Hunt,” Greg’s featured past column

This goose chase was for real…

GregBrownFT107-ScanFeSmw1200“Super Snipe?” Old Doc had to be kidding. Sure, some birds carry the name “snipe,” but like most former boy scouts I remembered only the pain of being duped into a ritual “snipe hunt” on my first troop campout. (Future Scouts avert your eyes to preserve your coming initiation.)

When Jean and I first married, her grandparents lived in tiny Juneau, Wisconsin. We flew there from Indiana by Cessna 172 to visit them as often as our newlyweds’ budget would allow. Our usual mission was to hang out with family, but once a year we’d bundle into Grandpa’s car after landing for a multigenerational road trip to “the Oshkosh fly-in.”

I soon joined another annual excursion thanks to Gramps and Granny’s next-door neighbors, “Doc” and Marge. Doc was a large-animal veterinarian who over the years had liberated numerous collectible cars from dusty corners of his patients’ barns. Among them were a sporty 1939 Ford business coupe, a pair of fin-tailed 1955 Plymouths, and a bulbous ’51 Pontiac Eight. Although hardly rare, all were low-mileage cars and notably rust-free given Wisconsin’s brutal winters.

GregBrownFT107_3799eSmw1200Doc also mentioned something about a “Humber Super Snipe,” but I figured he was pulling my leg. After all, “snipe hunt” is a slang equivalent to “wild goose chase,” and Doc was a master of straight-faced ribbing.

Doc’s own favorite ride was a good-enough-to-eat 1941 Lincoln Zephyr convertible – he’d share keys to his other autos, but reserved the Zephyr for himself.

I’d long been interested in old cars, ever since conducting unprintable adventures in those owned by friends and I during high school. Anyway, it turned out that every year Doc took all his roadworthy cars on a 100-mile pilgrimage from Juneau to the annual “Chicken Roast and Old Car Show” in the yet-smaller town of Iola. To my delight Doc invited me to drive one of his cars in the upcoming procession.

Accordingly Jean and I loaded friends into a flying club Cessna and soared over Indiana cornfields, Chicago suburbs, and Wisconsin meadows to Juneau’s Dodge County Airport…


Top photo: Doc’s cars line up for the Iola run: the Pontiac Eight, the Super Snipe, a ’55 Plymouth, and around the corner, the Lincoln Zephyr.

Lower photo: Doc’s 1963 Humber Super Snipe. (Paul Luebke photo.)

(This column first appeared in AOPA Flight Training magazine.)


©2016 Gregory N.Brown

If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!

“Checkride!” Greg’s April, 2016 Flying Carpet column

On weddings and flight tests…

GregBrownFT416_0401eSmw1200Flight tests are a bit like weddings. Everyone wants theirs to go perfectly, but sometimes problems or distractions, when successfully resolved, add richness to the experience.

Although each of these life events usually goes smoothly, you’ll occasionally hear horror stories. Jean and I once attended a wedding reception where the restaurant caught fire, forcing the bridal party and guests onto the lawn with firefighters.

As with weddings, you can never know whether pilot checkrides are “good,” or “bad,” until afterward. The obvious measure is whether you pass or fail. Common wisdom says that sooner or later every pilot fails a flight test – fortunately that’s not the blot on one’s record pilots often worry about. But it’s not always that simple. Sometimes a failed test teaches valuable lessons. My own worst flight test was not the one I failed, but one I passed.

On my instrument practical years ago, I confused my position on an instrument approach, turned, and started down at the wrong fix. The examiner’s questioning helped me figure it out, but afterward I pondered if and when I’d have caught the error on my own. Although I learned the relevant lesson, it seemed at the time I should have failed so there was little joy in taking the new rating home. The experience haunted me until I got more instrument flying under my belt.

Colorado pilot Tom Fuller is well qualified to contemplate good checkrides versus bad. A 10-year Air Force veteran, Tom earned his private three years ago and is working toward a pro-pilot career.

GregBrownFT416_0169eSmw1200“I passed the oral portion of my initial Flight Instructor Practical Test last month, but did horribly on the flight portion. This came down to being at an unfamiliar airport, having little recent time in the Cessna 182RG I tested in, general checkride jitters, and fatigue. Any one of those I’d have probably been able to deal with, but all three was too much. Live and learn. So I rescheduled the flight portion for two weeks out, and committed to flying the RG as much as possible until then, which ended up approaching 20 hours…”


Top photo: CFI Tom Fuller at Telluride Airport, Colorado. (KTEX)

Lower photo: Tom’s checkride airplane at Denver’s Centennial Airport. (KAPA)

(This column first appeared in AOPA Flight Training magazine.)


©2016 Gregory N.Brown

If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!

kids climb George Washington…


Kids climb George Washington’s statue, on the steps of the South Carolina Capitol.

Another from my occasional series of “Well, I’ll Be!” terrestrial photos, posted for the twofold purpose of brightening your day, and further deferring my already-long-postponed tax-prep chores.

(From the journey described in my November, 2009 Flying Carpet column, “Far from Home.”)

©2013 Gregory N. Brown

Greg’s featured past column: “Cowboy Pilot”

“So, do I have to fly out of Flagstaff to hang with the ‘airport slugs?’ Or, are us’ns outta Williams Airport not fit for polite company?”

It was the first “official” pilot query from Bruce Bloomquist, who just earned his private pilot certificate and took delivery of a shiny new-to-him airplane in the same week. [Congratulations, Bruce!]

“You need not fly out of Flag to join the slugs, Bruce,” I replied. “My cowboy buddy Baldy, for example, flies out of Seligman. The only requirement is to be hungry on Sunday mornings.”

“Ha! I’ve already heard a story or two about the, um, infamous Baldy!” said Bruce. “I’m really looking forward to meeting him − and all the other flying locals.”

“Baldy is a total character, Bruce − and one of the coolest guys you’ll ever meet!” I offered to share my columns about Baldy. Then I realized that YOU might enjoy knowing Baldy too, so here is the true tale of a real cowboy pilot!

Read “Cowboy Pilot” here. One of my favorite columns, about one of my favorite people, it first appeared in AOPA Flight Training magazine back in May, 2005. If you like it, comment below and I’ll post an additional column about him.

Photo: Baldy Ivy and his ’41 “T-craft.” See additional photos here. Visit Baldy’s web site, PilotShareTheRide.com.

©2011 Gregory N. Brown

If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!

our best “airport car” ever!

Those recent auto-show posts got me reminiscing with friend Sally Lynch about a far different class of vehicles − the often-battered “airport cars,” pilots enjoy as free loaners.

Our own “best” airport car was in Baudette, Minnesota, on a “long journey North,” Jean and I made in the Flying Carpet one 4th of July weekend, from Arizona all the way to the Canadian border to attend a funeral. Read Greg’s past column, “Goodbye, Don,” here. I think you’ll get a kick out of it!

Photo: The Baudette, Minnesota, airport car. See (newly added) photos of our best-ever airport car here.

2/18/09 Here’s the info for your new ftp account:
If you upload a file named articlename.pdf to this folder, the link will be:

©2011 Gregory N. Brown

If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!

Greg’s featured past column: “Vulture’s Prey”

I was chatting with my acquaintance Bruce today about an airplane he’s considering buying in southern California, and somehow the conversation turned to his visit to the renowned skydiving center at Perris Valley, California.

“I landed there one time,” I said, describing the unusual indoor skydiving facility located on the field.

“Did you go there to skydive, Greg?” he asked.

“Oh no,” I said, “that’s a whole different story.” Here, for Bruce’s reading pleasure and yours, is “Vulture’s Prey,” first published in March, 2005.

Photo: Phil and Kelly prepare to leave Perris Valley Airport for the 450 mile drive to Flagstaff in the “new” Lobe band bus. See more photos here.

©2011 Gregory N. Brown

If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!

art meets life

Photo: Art Meets Life: Marilyn in Vancouver.

©2010 Gregory N. Brown

Flying Carpet book photos

I have just posted many additional color photos illustrating stories from my book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane.

See Flying Carpet book photos at my Facebook page. (You needn’t be a Facebook member to view the photos.) I will continue adding more in the future. Hope you enjoy them!

Photo: Prairie sunset near Eagle Butte, South Dakota, from “Coyote Hunting: Small Adventures Under a Big Sky.” Said my companion Larry’s Uncle Charles when he saw us photographing the incredible sight, “No need to burn up all that film, fellas. Same sunset we get here every night.”

©2010, 2020 Gregory N. Brown

If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!

“fishworms and cottage cheese”

Anyone who’s spent much time in the rural Midwest knows the ubiquitous old-time general-store signs offering “fishworms and cottage cheese.”

Having grown up in that area, I never thought much about those signs until meeting a guy named Tom David, who’d moved from California to marry a Wisconsinite.

“Are the fishworms in the cottage cheese?” he’d ask. “How do you feel about them even cohabiting the same refrigerator?”

Once alerted to the humor of it, I soon picked up Tom’s habit of calling any and all stuff incongruously grouped together, “fishworms and cottage cheese.”

Tom would have appreciated the pictured naturopathic health store sign we encountered several years ago in rural Pima, Arizona. As another friend, Russ, notes, “it brings new meaning to to the expression, ‘hanging out a shingle.'” Click on the image to see it full-size. ©2010 Gregory N. Brown

Well, I’ll be!

Years ago while living in Indiana we encountered a good deal of country humor, the likes of which we haven’t enjoyed in such quantity since.

Off Highway 32, for example, a pair of full-sized pink concrete hippopotami grazed a farmhouse lawn. The sign in front said, “Well, I’ll be!”

Ten or 15 miles down that road to the west, a small official looking green informational sign pointed down a side road. It took me probably a dozen times passing that little sign at 60mph before I finally sounded out the seemingly Indian name on it: Camp Nothingmuchere.

Then there was our favorite catfish place up by Lake Freeman reservoir at Monticello. All manner of old stuff hung from the ceiling over the bar including a plow, an ancient outboard motor, and a large bucket − occasionally activated to tip water upon some unsuspecting customer occupying the stool beneath it. Oh yeah, and then there was the place’s motto, painted on a billboard visible from the highway: “The Oakdale Inn – Best catfish by a dam site.” (The motto was well-deserved.)

My wife and I didn’t live in Indiana long enough to consider ourselves natives − no one does who isn’t born there − but some of that Hoosier humor must have rubbed off on me. So here is my first occasional installment of visual or verbal humor – some intentional and some not – as I find or rediscover it.

To kick off this new “Well I’ll Be!” category, I’m featuring a past column, “Festival Flying: Tales of the Emerald Chevy,” that definitely fills the bill. (I’ve also tagged some previous posts that fit this category.)

Photo: “Mr. Dwarf Car,” Ernie Adams, poses with his ’39 Chevy at the Route 66 Fun Run in Seligman, Arizona, 2005. Visit my “Well I’ll Be,” photo gallery-in-progress here.

©2010 Gregory N. Brown

If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!