Why drive by when you can fly by?
At 6:15 Friday morning, my coffee was brewing into my cup and I was scrambling eggs for Alex the Bird and Penny the Tiny Dog. I heard a helicopter in the area and assumed it was the same spray pilot I’d seen earlier in the week working an orchard across the canyon. But when I went to the door to take a look, the helicopter I saw was not outfitted with spray gear.
It was a Schweizer 300 and I knew my friend Woody was at the controls.
I tried calling him on the phone. He answered but I couldn’t hear his voice and didn’t know if he could hear me. I talked anyway: “Land on the gravel driveway of the house next door and I’ll make you breakfast.”
He circled. I didn’t know if he’d heard me. So I came out and started pointing at the intended landing zone. One way or the other, he got the message. Moments later, he was setting down at the top of the driveway, only a few feet from the edge of the canyon. Penny ran over to greet him, even before he’d shut the engine.
I waited until the blades had stopped spinning before greeting him myself. After assuring him that the helicopter was fine parked there — my neighbor was away and not expected back for a long while — I led him back to my RV, the “mobile mansion,” with a promise of coffee and breakfast. I gave him my untouched cup, just brewed, and he found room at the table. I started a second cup brewing, made Alex and Penny their eggs, and tidied up the table. Then I got out the bacon and some eggs and made us breakfast while we chatted.
Woody is working with me — well, sort of for me — on my cherry drying contracts. A client with a 90-acre orchard came online on Wednesday and I still have another 40 or so acres under contract throughout the area. If my big client called for a dry, it would take me more than 2 hours to finish his orchard, thus leaving the others to wait. That would not be acceptable to them so it was certainly unacceptable to me. So I put out my feelers and found Woody’s company, based in Arizona and willing to make the trip to Washington for just the 8 days of work I could offer. They managed to get a short contract before starting with me and, if they’re lucky, they’ll get another contract when I release them.
Woody and I took a quick look at the orchards he might be called to dry from the air on Monday. On Tuesday, when he and his companions joined me at a Pot Luck BBQ I hosted for a Meetup group in Walla Walla Point Park, I gave him GoogleMaps-generated location information for each orchard. But this morning, when he woke to cloudy skies, he thought it would be a good idea to scout them again from the air in case he got called today. He was scouting the orchard across the canyon from me when he decided to fly by.
And that’s how he ended up at my dining table, sharing bacon and eggs with fresh-brewed coffee with me at 7 AM.
We chatted through two cups of coffee, then headed out in my truck. I had to go to the property I’m buying in Malaga to fetch a large wooden pallet I’d left there for my bee hives. I decided that the pallet, covered with a rug, would make an excellent “deck” for my poor man’s hot tub. He wanted to see the property, so he came along for the ride. I think he was impressed. (Everyone who has seen the property has been impressed — with one notable exception that’s yet another indication of his poor judgement.)
Back at the mobile mansion, Woody helped me pull some nasty staples out of the wood and position the pallet beside the tub. He told me that he’d seen another hot tub like it at a skydiving place he used to spend a lot of time at. (I knew the idea wasn’t original.)
We talked about going down to the Rocky Reach Dam later in the day with another friend. Something else to kill time. (We’d spent much of the previous day on my boat in the Columbia River.) I had some errands to take care of in Wenatchee — I wanted to experiment with a hive split — so he headed out. I walked him down to his helicopter and posed Penny in his seat for a photo before he climbed on board.
Penny and I moved back as he started up. I videoed his departure, amused that he did the same drop-off maneuver that I usually did when departing my landing zone 100 feet farther up the hill.
It was nice to have a friend drop in by helicopter — especially so unplanned. (I love spontaneity and surprises!) But I’ll be honest: it wasn’t the first time.
And I don’t think it will be the last.