Lists and Bob Hoover
October 20, 2012
It seems to me as I get older I find myself spending more
and more time thinking about the things that I've wanted to do
all my life and haven't gotten around to doing yet. My 'Bucket
List', to use the popular vernacular, has been on my mind for
the past several years, and I've been thinking that I'd better
get busy on some accomplishments if I want to get them done.
I'm reminded of the seventy something retired airline
captain who bought a Baron from me years ago. "I've always
wanted a Baron" he said, "and one morning I woke up
and thought, If not now, when?" Really a good question, I
thought at the time and it's an even better question for me now.
I recently thought of that when I bought a Harley Springer that
looks very much like the one I had at 18.
funnel shaped, and as you get closer to the bottom it hits you
at some point that you really do have only a finite time to
accomplish the things that you've set for yourself. Young and at
the top we can't even see the other side of the funnel, so of
course we somehow think there is no end to all this time and
that forever should be plenty of time to do everything.
have to say that I've been blessed with a life that has given me
lots of opportunities to check off many things that I wanted to
do and I'm in the enviable position of nearing the bottom of the
list as I get closer to the bottom of the funnel. Many of my
wanna do's were ordinary things that you'd expect to see on the
life list of any red-blooded American man/boy. I've done the
parachute jump and the backpacking in Europe and I've run the
marathons. But I've also checked off such odd things as driving
a coal train and firing a bazooka and even being a hobo for a
day and catching a 100 mile boxcar ride on a freight train.
Last year I learned to paraglide and for about 15
minutes of one flight, I shared a thermal with an eagle while
doing it. This year I went zip lining and found it to be every
bit as much fun as I thought it would be.
had eluded me. Watching the unlimited's run has been something
that I had wanted to do since I first heard the moan of a Merlin
powered P51 on takeoff at the Reading Air Show in 1966 and
watched as someone who flew like an angel put it through its
Maybe it was the distance or perhaps because
the race was held in a busy time of the year for me, but I just
hadn't gotten myself out there for the race. After the tragic
accident last year and the doubts that surfaced that the race
would continue, I thought I'd missed it forever. When it was
announced that the race would go on this year I decided that
being there would be a priority.
My son Denny, an
engineer in Texas by profession and with no background in
aviation, met me in Reno Thursday of last week and on Friday and
Saturday we basked in the sights and the sounds that are the
Reno Air Races. The Merlins howled and the Pratt and Whitneys
roared and I got a bad case of goose bumps, watching the
Mustangs and the Bearcats and the Sea Furys go by at almost 500
miles an hour. It was as I had imagined, but bigger and better
organized than I thought it would be. The weather was perfect
with the temperature hitting 90 each day, but with the low
humidity and a breeze making it comfortable.
real surprise for me was the Sport category, which ran the
Lancairs, the Thunder Mustangs and others of that size and
class. I apparently haven't been paying attention for the past
few years, because I had no idea that they were getting the kind
speed that I saw from these airplanes, the fastest turning in
times that rivaled the big unlimiteds.
inserted between the heats kept the crowd entertained and the
F-22 and the F-18 strutted their remarkable stuff and hammered
on the little that's left of my hearing. The list of guests
showcased at the show read like a Who's Who of aviation, but a
personal high for me was seeing the great Bob Hoover one more
time as he was driven down the crowd line in a golf cart.
is 90 now, bent and frail, but still wearing his straw hat and
still with the look of the fighter pilot in his eye. I shook his
hand as he passed and told him I loved him, one of the few times
in my life I've said that to a member of the same sex that
wasn't a close blood relative.
It was Bob Hoover You
see, flying the P-51 at the Reading Show in 1966. He was half
the age he is now and at the top of his game, and I was a just
another kid, standing in line to ask him the same dumb questions
he had answered a thousand times at a hundred shows before.
I had come to the show to see him and the Mustang
because both he and the Mustang had been icons to me for a long
time. I had read about him and I knew about his combat records,
his mastery of the Mustang and his successful post war career in
aviation and I knew that it was said by people who knew, that he
had a touch like no other on the control stick. Now I stood
before him feeling dumb and of no consequence and I knew he had
the power to wither my passion for the air by telling me to get
lost. But I had come this far and I needed to meet him and to
lay my heart on the tarmac at his feet and ask him my silly
questions, and so I did.
it was my turn to talk with him, Bob shook my hand and looked me
in the eye and answered my questions as if we were peers. He
spoke to me, not down as I feared, but as if I was perhaps
flying a Bearcat in the same show and we were just two airshow
performers swapping specs on our airplanes.
forgot that kindness and from what I know in following his
career down through the years since, I believe it's just the way
Bob has lived his life. He is a gentleman, and though modern
life has watered down the meaning of the word, Bob Hoover is
without question a hero, in the true, original meaning of the