“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…

**READ GREG’S ENTIRE COLUMN, SNIPE HUNT“**

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.)

Greg

©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!

“Aviator’s Birthplace” Greg’s October, 2015 Flying Carpet column

Visiting memories in “Mad City”

DowntownMadisonWI-aloft_3151-EditeSmw1200Even after takeoff from Centerville, Iowa, I waffled about whether to land at Madison, Wisconsin’s Dane County Regional Airport-Truax Field where I learned to fly, or nearby Middleton-Morey Airport outside the Class C.

“Middleton will be quieter and simpler,” said Jean, settling the matter. We crossed Iowa’s Cedar River and the broad Mississippi, then the northwest corner of Illinois. Ninety minutes after takeoff, Madison’s signature four lakes appeared on the horizon. This would be stop two on our zigzag birthday-and-reunion journey from Flagstaff, Arizona, to Chicago.

“Madison Approach, can you approve aerial photography over downtown?” I radioed, with a lump in my throat. For 35 years I’d waited to revisit “Mad City,” my aviation birthplace.

“Approved,” came the reply. “Watch for a Cherokee also on the ‘city tour,’ and remain west of the Capitol building.”

Downtown Madison, including the state capitol and University of Wisconsin campus, floats magically on a 1/2-mile-wide isthmus between Lakes Monona and Mendota. Handing Jean the camera with far more instructions than she needed, I circled offshore over Lake Mendota–Is there a prettier city, anywhere?

Upon landing, I learned from the Middleton Airport attendant that Frickelton Aviation’s building at Truax Field where I trained had long been torn down, erasing any regret at not touching tires there. Moments later, our host Brett Kelly arrived. Brett and his wife Kathy are longtime friends.

6-GregBrownFT1015_3241eSmw1200“I know you’re eager to revisit UW, Greg,” offered Brett. “Let’s stop there before going home.” Ghosts of classmates past soon joined us wandering campus, and sipping beer on the Wisconsin Union terrace overlooking Lake Mendota, where I once rented sailboats. Between classes, I drove my old ’39 Chevy across town to Truax Field – there to soar over these very lakes on flying lessons with the UW Flying Club (See “Flying Carpet: Forty Years Aloft,” November 2012 Flight Training).

My Badger stint occurred at the height of the turbulent Viet Nam antiwar movement. My friends and I were no activists, but demonstrations sometimes intercepted us on our way to class. Once, protesters deflated city-bus tires to block State Street; another time police shot tear gas into our dorm, forcing everyone into the street. (My buddy Fred, an army veteran, showed us how to soak handkerchiefs for tear-gas protection.) Every day I walked by the empty shell of Sterling Hall, blown up by antiwar activists a year earlier (See “Flying Carpet: Flying the Mists of Time,” March 2013 Flight Training).

There were more benign protests, too, as when feminists stormed the men-only swimming pool in the UW Armory. Guys swam nude there, so the intruders stripped their clothes and jumped in too. (No, I wasn’t there.)…

**READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE COLUMN, Aviator’s Birthplace.”**

Top Photo: “Downtown Madison, with Wisconsin State Capitol at left, and the University of Wisconsin campus at lower right.”

Lower photo: “UW Wisconsin Union and Terrace from the air.” 

SEE MORE PHOTOS!

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

Greg

©2015 Gregory N.Brown


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