Writer’s Block: The Time I Met Beethoven and Other Adventures

Port Isabel-South Padre Press

Well, I don’t have a time machine (though sometimes I wish I did) so I didn’t really travel to the early 19th Century. And I didn’t actually meet the classical music genius, either, but I did one time meet a man who shares his name. I met a man named Ludwig.

Ludwig is a private pilot I was fortunate enough to meet during a flight to Kenedy County to photograph the wind farms about 40 miles due north of Harlingen. This was a few years ago, before the 400 foot tall turbines began to dot our skylines here in Cameron and Willacy counties. Back then, they were still a novelty — a shiny beacon of futuristic technology meeting with the hardscrabble country history of Texas on caliche back roads carved out of the thorn brush and salt prairie specifically for that purpose.

We had a nice tailwind on the trip north, which shortened the length of time it took us to get there in Ludwig’s small Cessna. Fluffy cotton ball clouds floated above us casting dappled shadows on the already muddled tapestry of greens and browns of agricultural fields, pastures and wild lands below us.

When we got to the wind farm, which lies not far from the Sarita checkpoint, the tall white turbines which —from the ground — look so much like the disembodied legs of svelte giants, appeared thin and fragile from above. We dipped and swooped and doubled back over the vast field of wind turbines over and over again as I looked through my lenses taking photos.

Finally, after we made several passes, we turned south to head back home. It was once we’d 180’ed that our tailwind suddenly became a headwind and we began to experience some turbulence. Between the turbulence and the disorientation that comes from viewing the world through a telephoto lens while you’re moving, my stomach decided to voice its protest. I admit, I lost my breakfast.

Ludwig was prescient. He handed me a bag even before I realized I was feeling queasy, but I was embarrassed nonetheless. It was that memory that was at the forefront of my mind when, sometime later, I was given the opportunity to fly aboard an AT-6 Texan — a single engine, two-seater plane used to train pilots during World War II.

What worried me was the flight plan, which called for us — four such planes — to complete a loop-the-loop and a barrel roll. And, as before, I was supposed to take photos the whole time. If my stomach protested while remaining right-side-up, what would happen once we were upside down? Needless to say, I stocked up on lots of Dramamine before takeoff.

Luckily, things went off without a hitch. Our talented pilots completed the maneuvers in the mid-century planes with grace and good humor.

I was reminded of those flights earlier this week when a World War II veteran stopped by our offices to subscribe to the PRESS. We got to talking, the way Texas folks usually do, and he spoke of his service flying fighter planes in the Pacific Theater. My experience with a plane of that era was incredibly limited, but it gave me a new insight into just how much skill and strength it must have taken to operate one, especially while under fire.

We ended our conversation with a laugh and well wishes as I thanked him for his service. I’m glad he shared his story with me. What about you? Do you have a story to share? Let us know online at www.portisabelsouthpadre.com.

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