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November 11, 2010     The Ponchatoula Times
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November 11, 2010
 

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• !&:: Fine Food & Entertalnment00 Jr,, "t{2' :},D: D" Erin Pierce, Times columnist and owner of Pierce Aviation • Flyino00 ment -- can make us go crazy in a variety of ways• I didn't stop to contemplate all of this as I ran screaming through the streets of Gover- nor's Harbor with the specific intent of murdering whoever had separated me from my lit- tle boy. "HAVE YOU SEEN A LIT- TLE BOY?" I queried everyone I saw. With each passing min- ute I could feel the odds of my finding Patrick innocently play- ing with some local kid fading away to nothingness. I rounded the corner by the church and came face to face with the police officer from the day before. He jumped up from the bench where he was seated, and dropped the small paper cup he had been drinking from as he pulled his baton and or- dered me to stop. I obeyed. 'WV-hat is going on?" He de- manded. "I lost my son." I responded a little too loudly. He lowered the baton and seemed to think about that for a moment, "Relax. I am sure he is fine. Take a deep breath." He ordered, "I tink I know where he be." We walked along the harbor toward the Customs building in silence. I was well aware that the first thing you tell a hysteri- cal person is that evex cthing is fine, yet I clung to the hope that his comments regarding Pat- rick's whereabouts were more than lip service• We walked up the stairs of the Customs build- ing, but instead of turning right at the top to go into customs, we turned left and went through a storefront door with a sign that said, "Breakfast" It was a small deli with a .: narrow countertop and sev- eral upright glass coolers full of sandwiches and sodas. The : woman behind the counter had • . long blonde hair, blue eyes, and an athletic build. She reminded ; me of my wife Erika -- in short, she was absolutely gorgeous. She barely noticed our arrival because she was helping Pat- rick cut pineapples with an ex- • . tremely long knife. "PATRICK!" I yelled as I ran around the counter and squeezed the holy hell out of ,- him. "Are you alright?" I asked. ' " "Hi ., Daddy!" He cried as he . 'e" i': squeezed me back, "I was just .=- helping Alicia cut up pineap- ° ples. They are very good. Would you like some?" I exploded on him. "WHY DID YOU WANDER OFF? Here we are, illegally in an- other country, broken down on a beach you've never seen be- '. fore, and you decide to go for a walk without me. How the heck did you get here, anyway? I was beginning to think something bad had happened to you. I AM :: VERY UPSET. YOU HAD NO BUSINESS LEAVING THE ; AIRCRAFT WITHOUT ME" , I very rarely raise my voice at ,. Patrick, so he began to look as if ,: " he would begin to cry. I held him ! "8 ,,  close to me again, "It's OK. You , just scared the hell out of me. "' Don't leave me again. Not even for a second!" I squeezed him so tightly he couldn't breathe. "It was all my fault•" Alicia said as she put down the knife, "I saw Patrick sitting on the beach by himself and thought it was a little odd for a white kid his age to be out there that early in the morning. When I asked him where his family was he started telling me about robots, transformers, and Iron Man, then added that he was a pilot and flew that airplane here from New Orleans, but the landing gear broke and he had to land it in the water, so now he had to wait there until someone brought him a new costume. I think I figured out the rest of it, but I'm not too sure about the costume bit." She added with a smile. "Customs." I said between clenched teeth. "We haven't cleared Customs yet." "OH!" Alicia exclaimed as she laughed. Her laughter was mu- sical and infectious -- almost as good as Erika's. I wound up laughing, too. "Well, the strangest parts were all true." I responded "They usually are!" Alicia replied as she peeled off some more laughter. The police officer then of- fered to escort us next door to clear port customs• He promised Alicia that he would bring us back for breakfast if we didn't go to jail from there. I couldn't tell if he was serious, and I was beyond caring. I had found my son. Nothing could worry me. The customs office next door was dank and dingy. The air conditioner vent was creating a large pool of water on the floor that a young customs of- ficer was making a half-hearted attempt to clean up, and the portly port officer was busy playing a crossword puzzle. The police officer walked up to her and began explaining the situa- tion. She glanced over the edge of her horn-rimmed eyeglasses, but she did not look happy to see us. I dropped to one knee to dis- cuss this with Patrick. "Patrick, this is serious. Do you see that big woman behind me? Well, she is not happy that we're here, and I need her to like us. You need to be very adorable right now. Can you handle that?" "Daddy, I am going to make that lady want to take me home and feed me chocolate." Patrick responded with a grin. Patrick put all his best moves on this woman. As soon as we were within earshot, he began telling me that he thought she was pretty. He followed that up with a request to take her with us, and then told her directly that when he was older he was going to look her up. He was completely over the top, but what comes across as insincere to' adults can be adorable in children. Her attitude changed so fast that it gave me whiplash. She was suddenly charming and agreeable. She told us that she didn't have the authority to clear an aircraft through cus- toms, so she pretended it was a ship instead. She filled out all the forms for us in a couple of minutes, then joined us for breakfast next door. All five of us ate breakfast together (Patrick, the police of- ricer, the customs lady, Alicia the sandwich shop owner, and I). Alicia called a friend with a 55 gallon drum and a truck to go pick up the fuel I needed, and the police officer informed me that he had made good on his promise to inform Mr. Letok (our employer's agent) of our difficulties. The return message was for us to get to the fueling dock of the Staniel Cay Yacht Club before noon. There a fel- low named Jackson would take possession of the aircraft and arrange to get us back home. We ate johnny cake and drank mango juice for about 30 minutes before a large ferry from Nassau pulled up at the dock across the street and the customs lady had to leave. The store was soon filled with tour- ists, so we said our goodbyes and headed back to the aircraft. Alicia's buddy with the truck arrived witfi 55 gallons of Av- gas from the airport. He pulled close to the beach and used an old hand pump and a garden hose to transfer the fuel. The whole process only took about 20 minutes, and I was very sur- prised to learn that Mr. Letok had already paid for the gas. I wondered how he could have known about it. We did a very thorough pre- flight, then a few locals helped me push the aircraft back into the harbor and turn it around. Patrick and I boarded through the main cabin door in the rear. In a few minutes we had the engines running smoothly and taxied to the Southeast side of the harbor so we could make a take-off run into the wind. It had been a while since I had done a water take-off in a Widgeon, and I forgot how sen- sitive they were to bleing pushed over onto the step. Water start- ed to spray as the old girl began to porpoise a bit, but I was able to keep it from getting out of hand. Soon we were flying low over the Caribbean Sea toward Staniel Cay. This should have been an easy 30 minute flight, but about ten minutes into it I began to feel a strange vibration in the airframe. The right engine manifold pressure was sudden- ly about two inches lower, and I could see faint wisps of smoke coming from the #2 exhaust. In retrospect, what I did next was probably wrong. I allowed my respect for the equipment to interfere with my judgment. I opted to shut the right engine down instead of running it with an unknoWn problem. I didn't tell Patrick what I was doing; I just reached up for the right throttle and pulled it. Next, I pulled the right prop back to "feather" before finally pulling the right mixture to idle/cut off. The cabin got quieter as the right propeller stopped wind milling. When Patrick asked what was going on, I did what any good daddy should do, I lied. "I'm just trying to save fuel, buddy!" I cheerfully responded• "It is quieter with that engine off, anyway, isn't it?" We cruised the rest of the way on the left engine• It only took us a few minutes longer, so I was pretty pleased with my- self until I began to scout out our landing spot. I crossed the bay upwind and decided that I would rather land with a slight right crosswind and have more space to slow when it occurred to me that I was a real idiot• You see, one can't taxi a multi engine seaplane with an engine shut down. The asymmetrical thrust will just make you go in circles. I had no way to get to the dock without the right en- gine, so I had to start it again. I pushed the mixture back up, and the prop forward to let it windmill into a start, but nothing happened (no accumu- lators on a Widgeon). Next I hit the starter, but that old start- er wasn't up to spinning the propeller fast enough to start while it was feathered like that. Crap! OK, so what could I do? If I landed with only one engine running, the ship would start spinning as soon as I slowed, and I wasn't too keen on shut- ting the other one down while there was a chance I could need it. I opted to land quartering up- wind and turn into the channel as I came off the step, then shut the left engine down. Although it is a sin to leave the flaps down after landing in a Wid- geon (because water will hose them down quite hard and they block the main exit door when extended), I opted to do so be- cause they would help the wind propel the aircraft backward to- ward the dock from the spot I was hoping to reach by means of momentum• If it worked, I'd exit through the forward hatch, then climb over the top of the aircraft to fend off the dock from the tail... I wasn't sure how well I could reach the dock from there, but figured that it would be the least of my wor- ries. I'd rather run into the dock backwards than into a volcanic coral head, and that seemed to be my other option. At least at the dock I had a reasonable chance of getting help. The plan worked perfectly. I got off the step and turned the aircraft about 20 degrees, ex- actly where I needed to. Next, I managed to climb over the aircraft without falling off or damaging anything. Finally, I was able to get one of the locals with a pole to fend me off the dock. We tied the nose cleat to the dock, and allowed the wind to carry the aircraft around the other side--where it would be safe from colliding with any of the nice yachts parked there. Since no one on the dock 1st Annual Angel of the Delta Festival set for Sunday Special to The Times MADISONVILLE - On Sunday, November 14 from 11 am - 5 pm, the Madisonville Riverfront will play host to the first "Angel of the Delta" festival. The Angel of the Delta Festival is named in honor of the late Margaret Gaffney Haughery who dedicated her entire life to feed, clothe and house orphans in New Orleans. Margaret, an orphan turned entrepreneur, left over half a million dollars in 1882, to or- phans and poor of every race and nationality. This festival is the brainchild of musician/ folk singer Danny O'Flaherty and Marylee Orr, Director of L.E.A.N. (Louisiana Envi- ronmental Action Network) and LMRK(Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper), who are working in conjunction with the Town of Madisonville and St. Tammany Parish, to aid the families and children of the fishermen still struggling from the Gulf Oil Di- saster. This free festival will include music, dancers, food vendors and boat demonstrations by a variety of vessels, all represen- tative of the diversity of nation- alities aided by Margaret. Do- nation boxes will be available to patrons for monetary donations and non-perishable food items, All donations will be distrib- uted to the fishermen's families through the United Commercial Fishermen's Association. Music will fill the air with the sounds of Irish music by Danny O'Flaherty, Julian Mur- ray, and the Crescent City Celtic Band; German music from Julie Council & the German Jubilee Band; Tropical Folk from Dan- ny Taddai, and; Jazz with Sil- ver and Gold (Gypsy Elise and Ryan Way) will also be heard throughout the day. You will also be treated to some spectacular dance by the Muggivan School of Irish Dance and the McTeggert Irish Danc- ers. In addition, after the fes- tival, Danny O'Flaherty and Joni Muggivan will host a ceili and concert in the Madisonville Town Hall building• Tickets for the ceili and concert are $10 and all proceeds from the con- cert will also be distributed to the fishers' families. Take a stroll along the river and enjoy the nautical demon- strations that will be featured all day on the Tchefuncte River. THE PONCHATOULA TIMES, NOVEMBER 11, 2010, PAGE 3 seemed to know who or where Jackson was, we went into the bar of the c.lub to ask. The bar was relatively full, and the res taurant was packed. We eased around to an empty space on the opposite end of the bar. I sat down, and Patrick sat in my lap. "Do you know where I can find a guy named Jackson?" I inquired when the bartender finally made his way around to me. "Mr. Jackson? He Mr. Dapp's Pilot. Mr. Dapp is behind you. Ask eem." He responded as he opened a Killik for me. I turned around to meet the most famous person I have ever met. Mr. Dapp, indeed. No won- der he wanted to remain anony- mous. "I didn't hear you arrive. I just looked up and saw you there. I thought it would be louder." He said. "We had the engines off." I said. I told him most of the events since I left Bozeman as concisely as I could before offer- ing him my card. "Jackson told me that he didn't think we'd find someone to fly the aircraft down here un- til next summer." He continued, "When we saw you had arrived in Hammond he told me that you were either very good or very reckless." "I'd like to think I'm good." I laughed, "What happened to Mr. Letok?" "As you might have guessed, I am Mr. Letok." He answered. "Please pardon the deception, but I find it useful to conduct my own business under that name. i tried the Hollywood type 'personal assistant' thing a few years ago, and it is far too intrusive. I prefer to manage my own personal affairs." "I can appreciate that." I re- sponded. We talked for about an hour. Eventually our employer in- quired if we would like to use his Net Jets account to go back to Hammond. (Net Jets pro- vides private jets to people on demand for a fee) Naturally, I jumped on that opportunity: Our employer and his pilot, Jackson, brought us back to the Governor's Harbor airport in a very well-appointed Maule Super Rocket on amphibious floats. Onco there, they walked us through outbound customs without a hitch, then led us to the ramp of a waiting Citation XL (a nice corporate jet). "I really enjoyed meeting you two." He said as he handed me a check, "Is there anything else I can do for you?" I had been devoting some thought to this very issue on the ride over from Staniel Cay. '%(es sir. I know this is a cheesy re- quest, but I would really like to see you do Captain Jack Spar- row before we go." He did, and Patrick gasped in comprehension. It was very, very cool. Gator 's Den LIVE MUSIC EVERY SUNDAY 3pm till 7pm i: .... This Sunday ...... LA SUNSHINE Old Hwy. 51 South, Manchac, LA 70412 085) 386-7902 . ,Jazz Trio ,,..: i:i::,?,,:::i,, hlL 11::]0,2::1i ............ ;':ii!-:,(i!:,::'- ,,1o1 llonda,  HAPPY HOILDAYS FROM THE STAFF OF LIBERTY LOANS Stop in and register to win a SlO0 Wal-Mart gift card LOAN Elizabeth Forrest, Summer Sampey & Ricky Fussell With each loan made in November no payment till Jan. 2011 *excludes payday loans 158 W. Pine St. Ponchatoula 386-8889