I would not want to be in a small plane flying over North Dakota today. It’s much too windy. But that’s what I was doing 14 years ago on this day.
On that October day, I had an exciting and most welcome phone call that brought about a never to be forgotten day. I wrote about the adventure I had with my nephew, Tom, in my Grand Forks Herald “In the Spirit,” column. Allow me to run it by you one more time for old time’s sake.
Come back in time with me and think about a beautifully still fall day as the wind whistles outside. It was a Sunday and it began like this:
Our phone rang at 7:45 Sunday morning.
It was my nephew, Tom Hall, calling from Fargo.
“What are your plans for today? he asked.
“Church and Bible class,” I said. “That’s about it. Why?”
“I was thinking of renting a plane and flying up to see Grandma,” Tom said.
In other words, Tom was asking if I’d like to fly along.
Tom, (27 that year) is a design engineer at CNH Global N.V., a company formed from the merger of Case Corp. and New Holland.
He’s also an ace pilot, who took my husband, Jim and me and our friend, Gary Euren, up to circle our Grand Cities during the Flood of 1997.
Tom’s mentioned flying to Minot to see Grandma before, but so far, we hadn’t been able to coordinate our schedules.
On what was to be a gorgeous day, what could be better than being with Tom in the heavens over North Dakota, seeing God’s glorious earth below and surprising my mother?
By noon, I was headed to Fargo, where I found Tom and a Piper Warrior waiting at Vic’s Aircraft Sales.
“The weather looks good for now and later in the evening,” Tom said.
He ran his finger over the propeller. No nicks. He checked the fuel tanks and bounced the plane to check the shocks. He did a few more things before jumping onto the right wing.
“I’d say ladies first,” he said, “But I have to sit on the left.”
Buckled in, Tom went through his checklist, primed the fuel pump, started the engine and told the Fargo tower the Warrior was departing for Minot.
I sat on a cushion, and still I couldn’t see over the dashboard. As we ascended, I lived the words to a song: “And He will raise you up on eagle’s wings . . . . . . and hold you in the palm of His hand.”
“We’re going up to 4,500 feet,” Tom said. “Not bad, huh?”
Oh no, it was awesome.
Except for an occasional bounce, I hardly could tell we were moving.
“The bumps are caused by uneven heating in the ground by the sun,” Tom said. “On a cloudy day, typically, the ground temperature is a little more consistent, so it may be smoother flying on a cloudy day.”
This was the most crystal clear afternoon in some time.
Below I saw a fall patchwork quilt of beautiful squares: greens, golds, rusts, black. Above were strips of cottony clouds that I imagined would make perfect batting for that quilt.
Tom had maps and pointed out two TV towers. We were 2,000 feet above them.
As we passed over Page, N.D., I learned we were 47 degrees north of the equator and 97 degrees west of Greenwich, England.
Tom pointed out Lake Ashtabula north of Valley City, N.D., and dipped the plane’s nose so I could l see railroad tracks and swans in front of us.
“It’s interesting to see the change in the terrain after you get out of the valley,” Tom said. “There’s more grass and pasture land. The valley is square and more orderly, like it’s been arranged. The valley looks like it has a mother.”
What a beautiful concept. What an insightful young man.
Some fields looked paisley, others mosaic and still others pinstriped and tie-dyed. We saw lines in the fields that looked like ripples in a living room carpet, and you could see different planting and harvesting directions.
About the same time, we saw the outline of the Turtle Mountains to the north, Tom spotted Fallkirk Mine near Washburn, N.D., to the south.
“That’s amazing,” he said. “I’ve never seen that before.”
We spotted Lake Sakakawea, then Minot, and soon we were down to earth.
My mother was thrilled to see us. Tom’s parents, David and Margaret Hall, came from Newburg, N.D., with a pie made from apples from Mom’s tree. We ate, talked fast and 90 minutes later, boarded the Warrior for an equally wonderful flight back.
In was dark as we neared Fargo. In one fell sweep of our eyes, we saw the lights of Cooperstown, Fargo, Grand Forks, Hillsboro, Jamestown, Mayville-Portand, Valley City and Wahpeton, N.D.
In both his Minot and Fargo landings, Tom set the Warrior down like it was a western meadowlark lighting on a wild Prairie Rose bush.
No sooner were we out of the plane than Tom’s eyes lifted back to the sky.
“Look at the Big Dipper,” he exclaimed
“Being in the heavens,” Tom says, “puts things into perspective. The size and the vastness of the earth God created makes you realize how small a part of it you are. You realize there’s a lot more to life than just the little details”
His aunt couldn’t agree more.
All these years later, thoughts of that memorable day bring about a peacefulness within as the wind of today rips the leaves from the trees.