The thunderstorm had barely rumbled on to the east and rain stopped falling when I led the motley crew out to my plane. Well, via the community hangar - My housemate's freshly-ten-years-old boy was super-excited to show his father the Focke-Wulf in the community hangar, and I was happy to distract them while the isolated cell put a bit more distance between the airport and us.
While the boy went directly to the airplane in camo and iron crosses, my housemate stopped in his tracks to stare at the beautiful black, red, and yellow Citabria gleaming under the lights. He's had a ride in one before, and for all the disparaging remarks he makes about hanging from the straps when inverted while 40-year-old dust falls out of the floorboards and up your nose, there was nothing of that in his face as he looked at the lady sitting pretty on her tailwheel and daring him to fly. His daughter, too, was far more distracted by the Citabria, and they walked around, examining it and giving her a beautiful fabric reality to her dad's stories of flight. My Calmer Half, who was uninclined to fly that day, was more interested in the Cherokee undergoing maintenance, but let himself be the interested audience dragged along for the boy's excited exclamations and explanations.
As we headed out to the airplane, the boy was highly excited, the girl was interested in a "well, this is better than fighting with my brother for which game on the wii" sort of way, and my housemate had ceased to pay any attention to us at all, as his eyes and hands were on my full-scale non-remote-control rag and tube airplane.
After a thorough preflight, I decreed I'd take my housemate up first, with the coolest air and the least amount of fuel. The rest of the gang trooped back to the FBO, and a man who makes a 1911 look like a small gun in his paws tried to figure out how to fold into the airplane. Once he managed to get buckled in, I slid in next to him, and pulled the checklist off the top of the instrument panel. He adjusted his left knee so it wasn't blocking the mixture, and started to laugh when he saw that I'd condensed all my checklists onto a single laminated sheet. The windsock was hanging limp, the asos reporting calm winds - but a faint breeze was coming from the south, and I never take a tailwind. Besides, with the full asphalt runway in front of us, even at almost gross weight, we managed to climb high enough to safely rock the wings as we passed everyone standing outside the FBO.
After I'd rocked the wings, I belatedly remembered the good advice to never make seemingly-drastic moves with new passengers on board, and looked over, worried, at my housemate. He grinned back like a boy who's just managed to pull off a dirt bike stunt, and I figured he wasn't going to be too upset. We headed southeast, toward the speedway. When I turned control over, the grin disappeared into a frown of concentration. In a long-ago epoch of B.C. [Before Children], he used to catch rides quite often in airplanes - and after a couple decades away, he was having difficulty holding it straight and level. After turning the controls back over and watching two cars doing laps on the speedway, the grin came back.
The battling duo decided on the next passenger, and the girl won. After fueling, we took off - and with her, I remembered to ask if she wanted the wings rocked. She was completely emphatic at not wanting to take the controls at any point, and I was quite worried that she didn't like it - until we headed west and I started pointing out things she knew, like I-40 and the Cumberland River. "Cool!" She was excited and taking cell phone pictures, especially when she spotted her high school. We circled for a bit, then headed back, and I reminded myself that she hadn't wanted to take the controls of the truck after turning 16, either. I'll have to talk to her father about how to win her over to wanting to take the wheel, as I know she likes racing around on the farm in the four-wheeler (and coming back splattered in mud.)
The boy was last, and if least in weight and age, definitely not in excitement. He'd been looking forward to this for the last two weeks, and was split between playing with his birthday present binoculars and taking the controls. We went north over the Cumberland's winding river, and he got to look down at plenty of people floating, fishing, and skiing along its channels. By the time we flew, the sun had come out enough to grow thermals, and he spotted a bird that was all black but for light tan chevrons near the tips of its wings, riding the thermal along with us.
Coming back, I tied down as the others came out to meet us, and then piled into the air conditioning while I paid for fuel. The line guy who'd pumped my fuel as I'd explained to the kids that his job was a great one for finding ways to trade time for flying was behind the counter. He gave me a big grin, and recklessly plunged in. "So, if I pay for gas, can I go flying with you sometime?"
You never accomplish anything if you don't try - and it's better to ask than to wish you had! How could I turn him down, especially after I'd pointed out to the teenagers that this is how you get rides? So I grinned, and we roughly coordinated schedules. Next weekend, weather permitting, I'll swing through the airport and see if he's up for a ride.
Once home, the girl was more interested in getting the lawn mowed in exchange for pizza for dinner, and hanging out with her boyfriend (who seems torn between his love for a WWII M1, and his young love for the girl - and happy that her father encourages the former and tolerates the latter). The boy was totally engrossed in playing a World War II aces games on the wii (to occasional cries of "You just shot down your own bomber, son!"). And their father, inbetween working on the recalcitrant boat motor (worthy of a saga like Adaptive Curmudgeon's on his tractor), was the one muttering "I like the lines of that Taylorcraft. You know, she's a sweet little airplane. Damnit, you did a bad, bad thing. You've got the flying bug back in my head again!"
Calmer Half retreated to the cool of the basement, where the old black lab had also decided that being underfoot for testing a boat motor wasn't nearly as interesting as stretching out under an air conditioning vent and trying to summon treats by her pathetic looks alone. My husband may seem relatively calm and deceptively mild, but his eyes sparkled with wit as he waited like a jaguar in a tree until both Housemate and I were in range, and proposed selling the plane under an installment plan of free rent for a few years - and waited to see which of us threatened him first.
A good day.