As I’ve often reported in these pages, I am blessed with the best friends money can buy. No seriously, I have great friends…better friends than I deserve. I could list each of them, and the kind and generous things they’ve done for me over the years, but it would take a blogpost the size of a certain Tolstoy novel. So I’ll tell you about the most recent.
I’ve mentioned my friend Mike Nehring before. I met him in Pensacola nearly ten years ago when he was just starting out in this crazy field of helicopter flying. We hit it off right away and have been friends ever since. We’re a lot alike. We are both sons of pilots, and so we both have inherited some innate talent for this line of work. He is an extremely knowledgeable and gifted pilot whose skills are right up there with the best of us. It was Mike who turned me on to this cherry-drying stuff in Washington State, which was new to me even though I’ve been involved in aviation forever.
Mike has worked his way into a fine job with a company in Olympia, Washington which is just south of Seattle. He’s doing what we call “Utility” work: Hauling external-loads (stuff strung under the helicopter on a steel cable); fighting fires; and stringing powerlines. Yes, it’s riskier than most “normal” flying, and the pay is obviously better.
Instead of driving from Florida to Washington this year, I’d decided to fly up, leaving Pensacola on Thursday, May 8th, connecting through Dallas, TX and Seattle, WA and arriving into the town of Wenatchee, WA which is about an hour-and-a-half south of Brewster. One of my company guys would come and take me the rest of the way.
But without hesitation, Mikey said, “I’ll pick you up!” It was out of his way, but he was driving over to Spokane anyway where on Friday he’d be catching a flight back to Minnesota to visit family. If he picked me up on Thursday afternoon, he could overnight with me in Brewster and then head to Spokane the next morning. Perfect!
Then we saw that I’d have a four-hour layover in Seattle, close to where he lived. The logical thing was for him to pick me up there and for me to "miss" the little commuter flight to Wenatchee (hey, twist my arm!). At least, that was the plan. Then God got involved.
There were tornadic thunderstorms through the center of Texas all day long causing delayed flights and misconnections like you wouldn't believe. My inbound flight to DFW got diverted into Shreveport, LA for a while to wait it out and get fuel. Of course I missed my flight to SEA even though it left late. My new flight's departure time from DFW kept getting pushed back later and later. The bottom line was that I would not be arriving into Seattle until sometime around 9:30 pm. Which meant Mikey and I wouldn’t get into Brewster until around 2:00 am. I called and gave him the bad news. “You might as well take off and head for Spokane,” I said. “No need to wait around for me and ruin your trip.”
“I’ve already switched my flight to Saturday,” Mike said.
I was flabbergasted...shocked...touched. Why would he do something so unselfish without letting me know first...you know, without giving me the opportunity to tell him no. But he's like that. He likes doing things for other people, and I'm fortunate to be one of those other people.
As it turned out, Mike did pick me up in Seattle, and between one thing and another we finally got to Brewster around 3:00 am. On the way over he talked; I slept most of the way.
I pity people who angrily claim to not need any friends. Because it’s not true. We all need friends, and of equal importance we all need to be friends to others. In my life I’ve known some terrific people whose friendships have been invaluable to me...people who’ve done things for me which I’ll never be able to repay, if you could even put a monetary value on their actions, which most often you can't.
I say that I have the best friends in the world. I should probably tell them that more often.