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Sherry's Little Cactus Cafe, Bouse, Arizona - Two

An Indian Hills Airpark Great Breakfast Flight Outing

By Ron Kilber

Sunday, November 12, 2000

When I firewall the throttle of my Cessna 150 and start rolling down Runway 22 (2AZ1), Den "J-3 Cub" Peck and Ernie "Luscombe" Wright are already circling the field waiting for me to join them overhead. After hooking up, we fly 275 compass to Bouse, Arizona, about 28 miles as the crow flies in the direction of the Colorado River. It's a cold morning, rare this time of the year in the Sonoran Desert.

Group photo
Ernie "Luscombe" Wright, Den "J-3 Cub" Peck and Ron "C-150" Kilber

A half-hour ago, flying was the last thing on my mind. I was out for a morning walk when I encountered neighbor Den working on his J-3, solder iron in hand. He asked if I wanted to fly to Bouse for some oatmeal. Preferring to walk, I hesitated at first. Then I thought better of it when I reasoned I could walk just the same from the Bouse Airport to the restaurant. It's better to find excuses to fly then not to fly.

It's fun flying lazy formation, made easier by the early calm air. More fun is watching Den land first while I'm downwind for Runway 30. Even more fun is when I land. Last, Ernie arrives, and ten minutes later we're in Sherry's Little Cactus Cafe -- breakfast hungry.

I was last at Sherry's Little Cactus Cafe in September with Bill "Earthstar Gull" Goodman and Neal "C-150" Fivecoat. I won't belabor another description of this place, except to say that there's a good crowd here today because more snowbirds have arrived for the winter. Oh, the water glasses are still upside down on the table and today's special is ham-steak and eggs for $4.95. Such a deal!

While we enjoy our tasty breakfasts, Ernie recounts a comical-now, not-so-comical-then experience when he owned a 1946 J-3 Cub. It happened during the winter of 1948 while flying recon alone to find a place to go ice skating with his wife Vera. That's when Ernie experienced what every pilot dreads -- running out of gas. Too low to glide very far, he chose a frozen lake for his dead-stick landing. Only problem, power lines were in the way.

Miraculously, Ernie set his Cub down on the lake -- uninjured -- but with more than he had bargained for. His plane was on fire!

When he struck the power line, it pulled the fuel cap off enough to leave it dangling by its cork still inside the tank. That's what started the fire, with flames coming out of the fuel tank.

Luckily, the fire went out when Ernie put the gas cap back on.

Den is roaring with laughter as Ernie narrates like it's slap-stick comedy.

Wire was wrapped around the propeller, and half of the J-3's tail was missing. Overhead fabric damage was extensive, as was evidence that the wire grooved one wing spar.

More laughs from Den; me too.

Ernie remembers his landing well, including how the power pole with the transformer atop snapped. An outraged bystander demanded Ernie to know who was going to pay for the damage, not to his airplane but the power lines -- proof that a--holes existed in abundance then as they do now.

I'm amused, too, as Ernie recounts. While Den listens, he looks towards me from time to time grin-faced, indicating he's as interested in my reaction as he is with Ernie's story.

The day was not lost, as was not Ernie's airplane. With the help of a friend, he was able to locate a spare tail. Duct tape fixed the fabric damage. And some gas enabled Ernie to fly off the lake three or four hours later, although his take-off was a close call -- he almost didn't make it. Ernie lived more dangerously then than now.

As if there wasn't enough adventure for the day, an incredibly loud noise scared Ernie enough to force him to land in a field while on the way home. Some of the duct tape came loose and was slapping the fuselage.

A quick fix put him back in the air -- and home. If we've ever left the tail of our seat belt out the door while flying, it probably sounded like that.

We all laugh more when I say that Ernie and Vera probably didn't go ice skating that day.

The FAA didn't find out about Ernie's faux pas. Of course, paying for the power-line damage may have had something to do with that. It's a good thing because, most certainly, he would've been in big trouble. The FAA is famous for sixty-day suspensions and permanent revocation of pilot licenses when we run out of gas -- if we survive, of course.

Back at the Bouse Field, Den is first off. Ernie is next. While both circle, I join up to fly formation home.

As we cross over the Outback Airport, the windsock tells us it's blowing hard from the north.

Once I'm on final, I go around, preferring to tackle my landing without flaps and hotter. The higher speed effectively reduces my crosswind component to a more manageable challenge, and the landing is a cake-walk.

Everyone arrives safety to their hangar.

What a fun day!


Copyright (C) 2000 Ron Kilber Non-commercial reproduction permitted in its entirety with this copyright notice intact.

7:47PM 11/15/00

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