Summer of 1980- I parked in my usual spot in front of the design studio then climbed out of my sparkling metallic sports car. Horns honked as I unlocked and entered the front door of the paint department where I spent my days working, mixing custom colors for several of Central Oregon’s painting contractors. My sky blue 1969 Chevy Camaro drew a lot of attention in the busy roadside parking lot. Bob, my boss said it wasn’t the car that the passing motorists were honking at. They do honk often when I’m out watering flowers or washing the storefront windows, I thought. I did enjoy all the attention.
Later that afternoon, Wayne, one of the carpet layers opened the back showroom door and entered from the warehouse. He was of average height, fit and attractive with dark coffee brown hair and a thick mustache. A little flighty, but cute, I thought. Although he appeared to be much older than me, I was still interested in whatever he had to say
“I’m going flying with my buddy this week-end. Do you want to come?” Wayne asked. A little impressed at the thought of him knowing how to pilot a plane, I asked, “You fly?" “Ya, a little. Dennis is the pilot really. Do you want to go?” he quickly added, skirting the question. “Who’s Dennis?” I asked. “He’s the carpet layer with the beard and Kipper, the yellow lab.” “Oh,” I replied. I knew Kipper well from working in the warehouse—he always stole my role of tape to play fetch then returned it all chewed up and unusable, but I really couldn’t put a face on Dennis. “He’s a super nice responsible guy,” Wayne added.
Having never been in a plane in my life I was intrigued and really did want to go, but at the age of 18, I knew I needed to ask Daddy if he and Mom cared if I went. I thought for sure they would say no because it involved a plane flying high in the air, with a guy that I worked with but barely knew, and one they had never met. But it was worth the try.
“Let me think about it and I’ll let you know tomorrow,” I said before Wayne whirled and scurried out the door.
That evening after work, I told Daddy about the invitation and asked if he cared if I went. He said it was up to me. The following morning, I told Wayne yes, then we made plans for me to pick him up at his place since he lived near the airport.
On Saturday morning at 8:00 a.m. I arrived at Wayne’s house and rang the doorbell then waited for him to answer. It took him a long time to open the door. When he finally did, he stood in front of me wearing nothing but his underwear. “Oh, hi,” Wayne said rubbing his sleep filled puffy red eyes. “I over slept. I’ll be dressed in a minute...come on in,” “Uhh...that’s ok, I’ll wait in the car,” I said, shocked by the nearly naked stranger standing before me. What have I gotten myself into? I thought as I walked back to my car.
Thirty minutes later, we met Dennis and his girlfriend Debra at the tiny country airport in Bend. I recognized Dennis from seeing him a time or two in the warehouse, but I hadn’t ever spoken to him. He was tall and thin, too thin actually, with a rich deep voice and nice eyes. He needed a haircut and his beard was long, thin and straggly looking. I didn’t pay too much attention to him other then the fact that he thoroughly checked out the plane before we climbed in. That gave me some relief from the tension I was feeling. Debra was petite and soft spoken. She and I climbed into the backseat of the little Cessna 172. Wayne climbed in upfront by Dennis, and then after a final check of things; Dennis began to taxi the plane down the airstrip. The engine roared and the aircraft became weightless as we bounced down the narrow paved strip. I braced myself against the seat and inhaled a deep breath. Wayne turned and looked over his left shoulder at me with a grin on his face. “It’s just a Camaro with wings,” he said in an encouraging voice, just as we lifted off. I appreciated his concern and stared out the small side window watching the cows shrink into tiny black dots in a pasture of green. Then we headed south towards the National Forest, over the barbwire fence, narrowly missing a flock of blackbirds, leaving my stomach behind.
It was a sunny morning and the flight was calm. I enjoyed it much, especially flying over the forest where we deer hunt. I think I recognized some of the distant buttes but I was unsure having never seen them from the air before. Dennis and Wayne talked upfront but I couldn’t hear what they were saying due to the howl of the engine. Debra and I made small talk. She was 26 and a nurse, kind of plain looking without make-up and she wore wire-rimmed glasses. Her long straight basic brown hair was clean and shiny. She looked very whole wheat in a thin calico printed cotton shirt and khaki shorts. Glancing down at her flip-flops, I noticed her legs were covered with long brown peach fuzz. Wow, she doesn’t shave her legs... ever. That was a first for me. I had never seen a woman that didn’t shave her legs. I discovered later that she and Dennis were both vegetarians—another first for me. She was different, but nice and I enjoyed her company.
After landing in Sunriver for lunch we circled over the snowcapped Cascade Mountains then safely returned to the Bend airport. I later learned that Wayne had never flown a plane before in his life. Dad told me that evening that he and Mom didn’t want me to go and they thought for sure I would say no. Wayne turned out to be kind of a flake and his employment was terminated sometime thereafter and I never saw him again, which was all right with me.
By June of the following year, Dennis was single and we had become good friends. With my suggestion during a phone conversation he cut his hair and shaved off his nine-year-old beard to expose a beautiful face and smile. In September I put in for my vacation to go deer hunting for a week. I knew Dennis had hunted small game when he was young and loved camping and the outdoors so I asked him if he wanted to go with my family and me. He excitedly said yes. He didn’t own a rifle larger than a .22 caliber, so he bought a 30-06 bolt-action from our boss, purchased a deer tag and joined us at deer camp. One evening, Mom and I went out hunting while Daddy and Dennis stayed in camp. We returned a short time later with a buck in the back of the truck. I backed up to the game pole and Mom and I proceeded to hang the carcass and skin it. I think Dennis was surprised by our success and skill. I guess however it didn’t scare him away because he proposed to me two weeks later and we married the following February. Kipper attended our wedding. I didn’t fly again with Dennis until nineteen years later. * *
We soar over the same Forest as we did that morning in 1980. Only this time our daughter sits beside me in the back seat of the Cessna. This morning we flew from the very same airport in Bend as we did that day so long ago when Dennis and I first met. It seems like just yesterday, but this time it is for a much different reason then a casual lunch with new friends. This time I definitely recognize the area as we glide barely over the treetops directly above our deer camp.
You can read the rest of the story in my book "A Sacred Place". Available in my book store.