Category Archives: Essays

Memories of Sky King!

                                                       MEMORIES OF SKY KING!

    Sky King and I met on a black and white television in the 50’s in Tularosa, N.M. I met him in person later, in a compelling memory, which still brings a lump to my throat. I was one of four parachute jumpers crammed in a plane that day, but for a second, on that Las Cruces airfield, I was special. Heck, I still feel special when I think of it.

    A kid growing up on the other side of the tracks in Tularosa needed heroes. Now that I’m older and wiser, I realize that dad was the greatest hero of that time, because I always had a roof over my head and I never went hungry. But that’s another story. My 50’s TV heroes were Roy Rogers, the Lone Ranger, Zorro, and Sky King.

    I knew that when I heard, “Out of the clear blue of the western sky…comes Sky King!” I knew that for the next half hour all would be right with the world. Oh, there would be a ranch in trouble, or some such, and owl hoots might kidnap Penny. But even trouble seemed so much simpler in those days. On that 19-inch television, there was no problem to big for Sky King to handle. In the end, Sky King, played by actor Kirby Grant, would take to the air in the Songbird, and save the day. My mother got so frustrated with me saying, “Alan, don’t talk to the TV,” when I rooted for Sky King to get the bad guys!

    I met Sky King again in the early 70’s. But the story is still about that little boy and that crime fighter from that earlier time. I was in college and felt the “call of the sky” myself. A jump master friend had persuaded most of us to skydive. I am still proud I was one of the few friends who didn’t break something trying Bob’s sport. Anyway, I had jumped once, but the pilot had been nervous flying jumpers, so I came away edgy from that experience. But I decided to jump at least twice: once to prove I could do “it” and a second time to prove I could do it even after I knew what “it” was.

    Well, I’m glad I did. Organizers had advertised the event as the Sky King Air Show. Bob and I worked at the local radio station KGRT, so we finagled permission to join the air show as participants. Four of us would jump during the show. I was still on static line so the plane would drop me from about 2,000 feet and then the others would go up to a more impressive altitude and free fall before they opened their chutes.
We had elbows in backs; boots against thighs, the crowd clapped, whistled, and cheered in the stands and the propeller blasted the air. I was still nervous from my previous jump, but what happened next is one of those memories that never fail to give you a lump in your throat. Sky King had taken the microphone earlier in his trademark cowboy hat and was announcing the various events: planes flying upside down, belching red or yellow smoke, or wing walkers. And now, these young skydivers rolling up the runway for take off. I stare out of the plane (the door removed for jumping) to where Sky King holds the mike. I can’t hear him for all the noise, but I can see what he does next.

    My childhood hero, the familiar of all the Saturday mornings, Sky King, raises his hand and, as if by magic, I’m five again. They have just cut back from a Nabisco commercial and there he stands. I can see he has a few more years on him now and he is in color. He’s a thinner, with some wrinkles. But it’s Sky King. And he’s raising his hand…he’s raising his hand and smiling—and he’s signaling me? My friend and I turn to each other with grins wide enough to cause definite wind resistance if we hadn’t been inside the cockpit. The rest of the flight has faded into history, because we were too busy
dealing with those first distance down the runway when: Sky King gave us the thumbs up! Out of the clear blue of the western sky…comes Sky King!

Thoughts on becoming a Father

I became a father during one of the coldest winters on record in the Permian Basin. I was working for Dowell as a Service Supervisor and we were cementing several wells between Midland and Andrews. They were deep wells and so the cement jobs were in stages. Barbara had had a tough pregnancy suffering from toxemia, I believe it’s called without looking it up again. You think one would remember that but I’ve never been good with the names of diseases or the medications that fight them.
Around Thanksgiving, Barbara was hospitalized and unbeknownst to us the hospital was doing the worst thing they could for her: giving her a saline drip when it turns out she had too much salt in her system as it was. She was fighting to keep from having our son way early. She held out, but then later, the last few days of that year of 1983 the doctor said that would have to induce or possibly lose Barbara and the baby.
So, it was back in the hospital. This time in Midland/Odessa instead of Monahans. Cold. So cold. Barbara’s parents were both there and my sister and mother. My mom was on crutches. She was always having trouble with her knees and I believe that was before she had them both replaced.
There was another young woman in the emergency pediatrics at the same time as Barbara and she had her twins too early and they did not survive. But I remember hearing them crying.
I did not stay in delivery with Barbara. It wasn’t as common in those days. Barbara’s mom did. Then, she was a registered nurse and there wasn’t much she hadn’t seen.
We were on a different floor waiting around like you always see in the movies and when word came that labor was over and I was a father, I raced down to the room where they have the babies to see my son. Jim, Barbara’s father, in the confusion, thought that I was making a run for it from the hospital and that became a family joke.
The oilfield waited for no man, so as soon as I knew all was stabilized, I had to return to the cement job. There were several wells we were servicing and I would supervise running the first stage of the cement job and then run visit my new family at the hospital. Then back to the rig, drop the plug, and perform the second stage of the cement job.
Our son couldn’t wait to see the world, but Barbara held in there so that he was only six weeks early. He was so tiny. Looking back now, I don’t know how we thought we could be responsible for something so little and helpless. Two kids in their early 20’s without enough sense to worry too much.
Microwaves were fairly new. They were huge also. We bought a refurbished one (they were expensive also) to heat formula in. And heavy. It was all I could do to carry it into the house by myself.
Cabbage Patch kids were the craze that holiday, so it was almost impossible for us to find preemie diapers for our real kid.
And there was more excitement to follow. Changing his diaper one day, I noticed something unusual. Didn’t want to acknowledge it, but something was wrong. Back to the doctor: double hernias. Our tiny preemie would have to endure his first surgery that winter: double hernia repair.
So….that’s what I remember about first becoming a father. I always thought that being a parent made one a better teacher. I saw it when several teachers I knew had their own children, because being a parent wises one up…. or should. It changes you, when a person becomes a parent one realizes that you are not IN CONTROL of life. Parenting humbles or should humble one. It introduces you to someone who, for a few years, you are totally responsible for. After that, well, my grandfather said one never gets rid of that responsibility. It’s a lifetime commitment. That’s what being a father is. A lifetime commitment…. but worth the price.