A splice of life...
Marilyn, I have something for you. My dad wanted you to have it. See you back at the house. Hmmm. Wonder what that could be.
There are two men who have framed my life. The first was my late husband, Carl. The second was Bud Murphy. The first inadvertently introduced me to the second. And now they are both gone. Carl in 2002, and Bud this year.
Within a year of getting married, Carl decided that we must be extravagant with the $40 per month he got from a five and a half year stint with the local Navy reserve unit. He hated the reserves so much that to spend the money on something we needed seem sinful. And we needed everything. So what to do? Take glider flying lessons.
His dad, an airline pilot, had taught Carl to fly when he was 15. Carl asked for the keys to the plane instead of the keys to the car because he was licensed to fly before he was licensed to drive. Dick also introduced him to glider (sailplane) flying. Yep, no engine. Carl in turn introduced me to glider flying.
I'd been looking for 'unconventional' work since conventional and I didn't seem a match. Little did I know that my 'introductory lesson' would lead to life changing definitions of who I was, what I did, what I could do, and what I might be.
I'm sure I'll write more about this incredible series of opportunities and follies, but for now I want to talk about Bud. Many of us, including a group I call my Flyboys, are the products of an amazing man who owned the Sky Sailing Glider Airport, in Fremont, California.
Somehow he tolerated the most bizarre behaviors of his employees, putting his complete trust in us that we wouldn't destroy his business, his airplanes, his gliders, and the myriad other pieces of equipment that made up this unique place. There is no doubt that we were hand-picked by fate and Bud, acting in employment partnership.
Back then, my first flight instructor, Don, with whom I am still in contact and who is one of my Flyboys, told me that they needed someone to 'run the desk.' That was the job of greeter, money-taker, appointment-maker, question-and-phone-answerer, plane securer, line boy (they didn't use the phrase line girls), airplane fueler, and garbage-picker-upper. I took it. I got some pay, and then traded work time for flight time.
These boy-man people were different. All had talent. They were cocky know-it-alls. They didn't need to know I was raised with three younger brothers and if I'd had a middle name, it would have been Survivor. I would not be intimidated, but respectful, humble, and eager to learn.
The trick, it seemed to me was to find a way to add value to whatever I did around there. What could I do that the guys didn't either want to do, or couldn't do. Obviously I felt I had to work harder, try to get smarter quickly, and not put up with loads of crap.
When asked by George (also one of my Flyboys) to type a paper for him, I told him I couldn't type. That went on for three days. He finally believed me. It wasn't important for him to know that I'd just come from a State of California Clerk-Typist II job with the California Youth Authority in Oakland.
One day it occurred to me that the 200 foot, 1/4 inch nylon lines used to connect the gliders to the Piper Super Cub tow planes, were not being fully utilized. When there were weak spots in the line ends we'd cut them off. When the lines got too short it was dangerous to use them and they got tossed in a pile. That was a lot of waste and they weren't cheap. Ah ha! I'll splice them together and make new/old lines!
Great idea. How do I do that? Carl showed me how. I already had a rigging knife which was a standard tool I used daily at the airfield. Now it would be my new best friend for splicing lines, prying open nearly melted parts of line, separating the strands and then beautifully merging two lines back into one.
That splice then became the strongest part of the whole line. And that's the reason I couldn't splice more than two together. The line would be too strong and there were flying circumstances when it was better to break the tow rope than to create loads that would yank the wings off the tow plane or glider.
I hauled the lines back home, worked on them and brought them back to the airport, almost good as new, just not shiny. I didn't make a big deal out of it. It needed to get done. I was the one to do the job.
After years of brave battles, Bud was dying. We all knew it. He asked for another reunion party. We had a good turnout for short notice. One of my Flyboys flew in with his wife from Maui. The stories told of those days were ever-fresh, rarely exaggerated. They were so extreme that exaggeration would not do them justice. How could there be so many stories that so many hadn't heard?
But Bud remembered the splicing. I had forgotten all about it. His son Rich, my age, gave me the splicing tool. They'd been clearing out boxes of stuff together in the garage. He told Rich I loved to splice. And I'd know what that tool was. And he knew I'd want it. I was blown away.
I've thought so much about the meaning of value-added since his passing. About impacts we have and impacts we leave. About the gifts he gave me, just a girl-woman, who showed up to run the desk. The symbol of splicing so many lives together, as he did, has not gone unnoticed by any of us. And it was wonderful to tell him thank you while he was still with us.
So many slices of lives, woven together by one continuous splice of a magnanimous life.
Thank you, Bud.
Like Bud, keep on living richly.