I've been riding a wave the past year, and I feel like I've reached the crest. I want to go home, which is a broader sentiment than I feel those five words communicate. I heard the siren's song in the distant hum of a small prop plane floating above as I walk Dusty this morning. It's a sound I've heard my whole life, but these days it's a rare pleasure steeped in nostalgia rather than a daily soundtrack. Growing up on the shores of Alaskan lakes, not a day went by that wasn't punctuated by the shrill buzz of a plane taking off, or the soft whirr as one landed. We had our own small plane, a Cessna 180, which was parked at the dock at the bottom of the hill behind our house. As the oldest child, I was the one put in charge of certain float plane duties. I was the one who pumped the floats to make sure any water that had leaked in, either from rain or lake water seeping in during take-off or landing, didn't add extra weight to our flight. Stopping a float plane at a dock involves cutting the prop close enough to the dock that you drift in, but far enough that you slow down enough to not slam into it. It also involves jumping off the floats as soon as you can hop to the dock in order to catch the plane's struts and stop the forward motion. I loved these duties. I felt strong and important and capable, even if they were duties that were relatively simple.
In the winter, planes kept outdoors needed to be covered to ensure that ice and snow did as little damage as possible. Snow also needed to be kept off the wings, otherwise the weight would snap them. In more recent years our plane has been kept indoors in a hangar, but I vividly remember going with my Dad in our Toyota Landcruiser to the airfield to sweep snow off the wings. One year there was so much snow that the pile the plows had made was taller than the planes. I spent more time scaling the mountain of snow than helping, that time. Planes also needed a cover on the engine, in order to keep the engine warm enough to start. I always thought those looked like giant sleeping bags for planes. I remember helping Dad lash the covers down, bringing the elastic straps with plastic balls on the ends to fit in their little nooses.
Tacoma doesn't have a lot of small plane traffic. The planes I hear most often these days are C-17s on final approach to the nearby Air Force/Army base airstrip. Every once in a while, though, I'll hear the familiar buzz of a small plane and intensely miss sitting in the kitchen watching planes land on the frozen lake.
photos from my Dad