Sunday Bag o’ Mules

bag of mulesFrom a post I wrote in 2007: “My father did an interesting thing a few years back. He had assumed, like most Missourians, that the mule was the state animal. Not so, it turned out — Rebuplicans in the state government had resisted repeated attempts to enshrine the mule as state animal, fearing that people would confuse the mule with the jackass, symbol of the Democratic Party. My dad took it on as a project, mobilizing his American Legion Post, crisscrossing the state to speak at public meetings and press the flesh with politicians, and in 1995, then-Governor Mel Carnahan signed the bill naming the Missouri Mule state animal. My dad did that. How about that?”

Today I learned that Lois, Dad’s second wife, shared his research and records with a local Cape Girardeau author who just published a book about the long campaign to elevate the Missouri mule to official state animal status, and thus a book about my father. The book is also about Lois’ family, prominent Cape Girardeau players from way back (the Missouri state flag was designed in Lois’ childhood home).

I learned of the book on Facebook, where one of my Cape Girardeau area sisters linked to it and expressed surprise that she had known nothing of it before reading about it in the newspaper. Another sister chimed in with mega-dittos (and thus a tip of the hat to another prominent Cape Girardeau native, Rush Limbaugh). Donna and I are close to Lois, and we didn’t know about it either. I sense a disturbance in the family force. More to come, I’m sure.

Donna and I participated in a charity road rally yesterday. We were told to pick Tucson landmarks associated with certain themes, photograph ourselves in front of them, and email the photos in as we took them. The choice of landmarks was up to us, which I liked. One of the themes was “religion” (which was appropriate since the charity was organized by Catholic Community Services), so we picked the Tucson Bicycle Church, a structure made out of bicycle parts and put up to memorialize riders killed by local motorists. Here are some of our submissions:

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Theme: Architecture

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Theme: Arizona History

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Theme: Religion

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Theme: Arizona Wildlife


After the rally participants met at the local Sheraton for lunch and speeches. The photo winners were announced (alas, we didn’t make the cut, but they did show one of our photos on the big screen) and a silent auction was held to raise money (we bid $75 for a $200 gift certificate for new eyeglasses, and won). As we were leaving I noticed a guy eyeballing my T-shirt, on which Donna had embroidered my name and a lovely F-15 Eagle. Sure enough, he came over to ask me about it, but his question threw me for a loop: “Are you a driver or a WSO?”

I had to think about it for a second. I mean, I know what I am — a pilot, a “driver” — but I couldn’t figure out why he was asking me that. The F-15 Eagle embroidered on my shirt is clearly a single-seater. There ain’t but one person in it, and that’s the pilot. After a second I gathered my wits and answered “I’m a driver,” upon which he stuck out his hand and said “I drove Vipers.” We shook hands and he walked away.

Sometimes people confuse the F-15 Eagle fighter with the F-15E Strike Eagle fighter/bomber, but no USAF pilot I know, and certainly no F-16 pilot, would misidentify the single-seater as the two-seater. They are different planes with different missions:

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So was this guy a wannabe, an imposter? Very likely so. If he’d really flown Vipers (F-16s) he’d never have mistaken an Eagle for a Mudhen. I haven’t run into a wannabe in years. I remember a guy telling me how, as an enlisted Marine, he’d snuck onto an empty C-130, started it up, and flown it around the airfield while tower controllers pleaded with him to land. As fucking if. It’s astounding, the fantastical bullshit wannabes come up with … and equally astounding they’re brazen enough to expect real pilots to believe them. At least yesterday’s wannabe was more subtle than most.

I shared this story (and the side-by-side photos) on Facebook and am afraid I came across as someone bragging about having flown fighters, an egotistical and off-putting thing to do.  I know this because one of my friends left this comment:

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Touché. I deserved that.

© 2013, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.

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