A friend revisited
His name is Mark Cash and yes, he was related to the legendary singer Johnny! Mark was one of the very first persons that I taught to fly.
He was a young Air Policeman at Otis AFB, located on Cape Cod just south of Boston, Mass. It was 1964 when our paths first crossed. My real job was KC-97 copilot assigned to the standardization section. At the moment I had a little extra time on my hands so joined the on base Aero Club. They needed flight instructors and I had jumped through the required civilian hoops to get myself qualified to teach.
Being new at the instructing game, I formed the opinion that this young cop had little future in aviation. Yet I admired his tenacity and obvious love of aviation so I didn't pop his bubble by suggesting that his future lay somewhere other than flying airplanes. Oh but I was wrong!
The squadron I was in dissolved not long after and I transferred to Oklahoma. Mark went to Georgia. Somehow he kept track and proudly informed me of his reaching personal milestones in aviation, private license, commercial, instrument then flight instructor. Somewhere along the way he also earned his multi-engine rating. Evidently he, too, was born to fly.
We next crossed paths in 1968, when he and family were stationed on Guam and I paused there several days going to and coming back from Vietnam in my KC-135. Mark, Betty with their young son and daughter had me over to their base quarters to enjoy barbecued ribs, southern style, one evening. Mark had grown up in the Southeast U.S. and had the deep rich bass voice with strong southern drawl to prove it. Maybe because it had been six months since I'd had an Ann-cooked meal, or most likely the fact that Betty was a good southern cook, but it was an evening to remember.
Mark has since retired to Douglas, Wyo., evidently where his family came from before moving south. He served in law enforcement and security throughout his 30-year Air Force career, continued in law enforcement after retirement at least until being elected county commissioner. Age visited a stroke on him, and so his flying career of teaching and hauling prisoners is over, but he keeps busy in his Baptist church.
And that is what brought Mark to McCook to spend an evening with us. He'd called from Norman, Okla., where he'd stopped to visit a daughter on his way home to Wyoming from an intense Bible study in Dallas. That evening we went out and flew my old Aeronca Champ. And so for the moment my very last pilot student was also one of my first.
Mark had a couple stories I'll pass on. One night in Savannah a B-47 copilot and an air policeman had been drinking a wee bit too much and got picked up by the cops. They refused to admit to the civilian police that they were active duty Air Force, which would of course bring the wrath of their commanders down on their heads. The copilot listed his occupation as "mass destruction" and the air policeman fessed up to being a "hired gun." Well that ruse didn't work so the inebriated ones were turned over to Mark and his squad of air police to be escorted back to base.
In a somewhat related event, one of the boom operators at Hunter AFB was filling out the standard questionnaire in pursuit of a required security clearance. One of the questions asked "Have you or a member of your family ever been involved in an insurrection against the United States?" The boomer answered truthfully YES, a response that is normally disqualifying. Turned out that the boomer, a full-blooded Sioux Indian had a great uncle named Red Cloud. He eventually got his clearance so I guess all things can be forgiven.
Sen. Ben Nelson probably hasn't been real happy with several of my columns, especially those that have suggested that he should vote against the intentions of our current President. Now understand that Sen. Ben has voiced his dissent against Cap-and-Trade.
I notice that he had a meeting with President Obama where he expressed his objections to several provisions in the Health Care Bill. And yes, I understand that it must be tough for conservative Democrat (is that an oxymoron?) Ben to vote the desires of his conservative Republican voters who helped elect him.
Too often lately those desires don't fit the agenda of his liberal Democrat leadership. For Ben the stakes are high, he either votes the desires of his electorate or he won't be re-elected no matter how much arm twisting or how big the promise of huge earmarks by Sen. Harry Reid or President Obama. Talk about job pressure! I have faith though that our favorite senator will do the right thing. He'd better, his future depends upon it!
That is the way I saw it.