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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hey! The People Look Like Ants From Up Here!

When you fly as often as I do, roughly with each new dusty loop of Haley’s Comet, you can imagine how pleasantly surprised I was to find the amazing progress made concerning these new-fangled aeroplanes!

Headphones? Carbonated drinks? And you no longer have to fire up the propellers manually?

Chocks away, ol’ girl!

I don't get in airplanes often, but I spent quite a bit of my childhood in them.

My father was a crop duster when I was small. You remember crop dusters, don’t you? Those crazy young men, flying under power lines, spraying the sugar beets with insecticides?

That was my dad up there.

I spent many afternoons in two-seater airplanes. From the top of the sky, the white clouds below us were scoops of ice cream, the dark clouds where barely visible men waited to throw lightning bolts at unsuspecting two-seaters, hoping to knock out electrical systems.

Up on the Red River Valley, the storms, with no trees to slow them down, no hills to divert them, come upon you quickly.

“Tell me when you see one, Pearl!” my dad would shout over the roar of the Cessna; and I’d stare at the thunderheads, eyes open wide, because you just knew that those men with the thunderbolts moved so fast that something as slow as a blink was all they needed. As Dad explained, I wouldn’t see the men – they were too fast – but I would see the lightning.

“So what are you gonna yell when you see danger, Pearl? What are you gonna say?”

“I’m gonna yell DANGER! THREE O’CLOCK!”

“That’s right,” he’d yell, nodding. “Just like on the clock. You tell me where it is.”

My father was always poised to slip a life lesson into the day.

“There can never be enough lerts in the world, Pearl,” he’d say, thoughtfully. “Ya gotta be a lert.”

And I was the designated lert. I had a role to play, dagnabit; and at five, I took that responsibility seriously, knew that the fate of the two-seater lie in all four of our capable hands: with my father at the yoke and my eyes trained intently on the clouds on the horizon, through our devotion to our duties we landed, rubber-side down, every time.

Of course, it is years later, many years later, and it has become clear to me that my father used those clouds to give me something to do outside of worry, to give me something on which to focus.

We were never hit, of course; and I’m sure my imagination has exaggerated, as is its wont, any danger we were in; but to this day, I keep an eye peeled for the men in the clouds.

Because if you’re not looking for it, you won’t see what’s in front of you.

And because the world needs more lerts.


Simply Suthern said...

OH my! What amazing memories those are. That sounded like fun. Hopefully you won't have to be the lert on this plane as I think thats included in the ticket price but I think you will still be looking for the men in the clouds.

Loved it.

Sweet Cheeks said...

Men in the clouds?


Is that where rain really comes from?


Have fun with those Ohi-odians today.



What the hell are they?


Pat said...

Your dad was a pretty cool dude...raised you to be a fabulous lert. I like the whole men-throwing-lightning-bolts from the clouds. I see where you get your fertile imagination.

My guess is Ohians live in Ohio.

tashabud said...

Pearl, that's an interesting story of your childhood. I got on a 2-sitter once. I got sick and asked to be brought down to earth immediately. I was working at a huge plant nursery and the owner took me up on a ride. Never again.


Firegirl said...

I love every word of this post. (:-D

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Your dad taught you a good lesson.
Those crop dusters FREAK me out every summer when they swoop through--they are crazy!

Willoughby said...

Great memories! We didn't have a plane, so most of my childhood memories involve family road trips in a station wagon. There wasn't quite as much need to be a lert!

I flew from Detroit to Dallas in a thunderstorm. Scary stuff! Those men were throwing the lighting far too close to the plane for me.

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

OMG, you are 'that woman' I see on every flight I take yelling "WOOOOOOOOO", wearing a dress and kicking off her shoes before putting her feet up and over the seat in front of her. Of course...the YOGA. It's all starting to make sense now. That is why they don't sit me near the emergency door or have my man the outer door of the space station. 20 minutes into the flight everything would be going WOOOOOSH as either I bail out or you do.

I grew up in the shadow of the Red River also. Quite the little floodplane we had there. A flood is my least favorite meterological event EVER.

Oh, and between you and me...what the hell is happening to the quality of the writing and story telling I am seeing during 'Cal Week'? Y'all are kickin' it old school classics illustrated. That was a sweet read.

Ricky Shambles said...

Fantastic story. And thanks for the follow. Backatcha.

As one, Ohioans live in Ohio. And the species to that genus would roll Cincinnatians, Clevlanders, Toledoans (or Armpit-of-America-ins) and Colum...bians? Columbusites? Never lived in that one. But those are the major isles of non-bovine urbanity in the state. No one actually lives in Youngstown.

Susan said...

What an incredibly charming story. I have the most adorable little five year old in my mind; she's making memories with her dad. Movie, Pearl!!!

Joanna Jenkins said...

I think you should include "designated lert" on your resume. It's perfect. And so is this post Pearl. I could really picture your 5-year-old-self in the plane on the lookout with your dad. What a great memory.

Sweet Cheeks said...

Ricky gets the educational award for teaching us all that residents of the great state of Ohio are called Ohi-odelers.

I never would have figured that one out...


Brian Miller said...

what a cool post...would love to be up in a crop duster....

mapstew said...

I have just one thing to say.


The word 'ENVY' does not nearly describe my feelings right now! :¬)


Me said...

That was fabulous! Great story, and well told. :)

lisleman said...

a lert - that's good.
That flying didn't give the urge to fly on your own? You really know you're flying in a small plane.
thanks for sharing

injaynesworld said...

I love your father. How much less screwed up would I have been with a great dad like that. As for the flying... Nooooo thank you. Had God meant us to fly he would have stuck feathers up our asses. But I'm so glad you're doing it, so I can hear all about the Bombeck conference.

Pearl, you're a great writer. One of my very faves.

Tempo said...

That was a great story Pearl, loved every word

The Jules said...

Lovely post.

Reminds me of my own Dad, who is obviously terrified of flying but never admits it. He can't eat anything because his hands are clasped so tightly to the armrests they might as well have been welded there, and the only word he utters through the entire flight is "Fine!" through gritted teeth, repeated over and over.

dusty said...

That is a funny dialogue!

I took a couple minutes for me to place it, but I could sworn I had heard it or read it, hell maybe even spoke it.

I started laughing :) sounds like crazy times

Cause many blocks down the street I heard someone cussing, loud.

Marla said...

What a great story!

Pat said...

So, Mom was OK with Dad taking you up in a crop duster at age 5? Wow, she was pretty cool, too.

Hilary said...

What a wonderful post and I thank Joanna J for pointing it out to me. You brought me right up there in that plane with you... on lert duty. Thanks for that. :)

LadyFi said...

Wonderfully descriptive... And yes, be alert - the world needs more lerts! ;-)

slommler said...

Wonderfully written and a beautiful tribute to your dad and your childhood. Glad you were the lert. The world needs more of those for sure!
Congrata on your POTW

Daryl said...

Congrats on the POTW mention from Hilary

Land of shimp said...

What a nice story, and a good memory! Thanks for sharing it with us all.

You know, in thinking it over, most of the playful memories related by the people I have known about their parents, usually feature their fathers. Isn't that funny? It's not that women are any less playful, creative, or imaginative, far from it. But there is something about the memory of our dads being silly, or fanciful that is very touching. It always seems something solely done for our benefit, a gift.

Anyway, thank you for sharing your dad's gift with us. Congratulations on the post of the week mention over at Hilary's blog :-)

Zuzana said...

What a lovely childhood recollection.;) And an amazing story. What an interesting profession your dad had.;)
Thank you for taking the time to visit me, I always enjoy reading your comments.
Enjoy your vacation.;)
And congratulations on the POTW mention,

Hilary said...

Pearl, I just wanted to alert you to Land of Shimp's comment which she left on my POTW post. I'll paste it in below. :)

"As always fun, and diverse posts, Hilary. Beautiful imagery, or beautiful words, moving concepts or pictures (redundancy, it should be my middle name ;-) ).

But I've a story to tell you to go with your posts. As usually I clicked on your blog, and immediately started happily reading the gathered posts. Halfway through I had to stop, and take my dog for her morning walk, which can be a bit of a challenge. As you know, she's still learning about the world, and learning to behave in it.

My neighbor across the street has a Giant Schnauzer, and she takes this massive doggie running with her everyday. Some days I miss her running windows, other days I accidentally hit it. Puddles, of course, wants to run with the big dogs, and for five solid minutes after the sprinting Schnauzer crosses our path, I'm in for a battle of wills, with a terrier. Results are mixed.

I arrived home, sweaty, a tiny bit winded, and more than a bit cross because Puddles had not merely been willful, she'd gone berserk trying to chase after the running dog.

Then I came back here, and read more stories. Someone took me on crop dusting ride with her father, and I felt perfectly at peace.

Just letting you know, you had the cure for Sprinting Schnauzers today, in case you were wondering."