Wandering in the Wilderness
I have seen South Texas as few men have been privileged to see it. I have seen South Texas from the cockpit of a string of beat-up old crop-duster airplanes. It was a life worth living. I'm not sure if it's a story worth telling.
But I'm going to tell you that story anyway. Not all of it. Just some of it. And if my story rambles and wanders, I ask that you be patient. For as this story unfolded many years ago, I had not the slightest idea that one day I would want to write about it. If I had known that I would one day be scouring my memory for little lost and forgotten events and people, I would have taken better notes. But I didn't know that, and I didn't do that, so I'll just have to do the best I can.
But before I try to tell you the story of those years as a crop-duster pilot on the Texas/Mexico border, I must first try to give you some indication as to why a normal man, raised in the traditions of middle America, would cast his life into such a bizarre activity. Why would a man of above average intelligence (just a little bit above average), elect to squander the best years of his life along such rock-strewn, dead-end trails?
I was a pretty normal fellow up until the mid-sixties. But great changes occurred in America during those years. I won't bother you with the details. Many of you were there, just like I was. The things that changed in America made me rancid inside. Those things enraged my mind, poisoned my soul.
I expose this ugly side of my personality with a sense of duty. I feel that it would be dishonorable for me to allow you to read these stories without revealing to you the bitter sentiments of the man who wrote them.
But I was not alone. There were others who saw the darkness flowing out across America. There were other men who saw the evil in the land, and many stood and vainly fought against the onslaught. But for my part, I lacked the intellectual acumen and moral courage to stand and fight. I ran away. I ran away to South Texas, and adopted a harsh life in a harsh land where new age decadence had not yet sunk its poisonous fangs.
So let the record show. I ran away. I did not stand and fight for what I knew was right.
But I had a good excuse. You see, I wasn't all that smart. Although my ability to distinguish right from wrong was highly developed, I simply was not all that smart. So when I found myself on a college campus in "The Age of Aquarius", I might as well have been the first man on mars.
I was a pristine innocent to the arguments of nihilism. I could not comprehend such a philosophical position, and was astonished to learn that it was the central doctrine of higher education. I could no more argue these teachings than debate the mathematics involved in executing a lunar landing.
I was further taken aback to discover that those of us who had been sent to S. E. Asia to fight a war on America's behalf, were, upon our return, expected to provide moral justification for that war to the society that had sent us.
Although my instincts were good, my intellectual foundations were nonexistent. I found I had no answers to defend my beliefs against squadrons of leftists who had spent their lives on a college campus, carefully crafting their arguments and patiently awaiting the arrival of some rustic like me.
So after two years of frustration and anger, I cut and ran. I resolved to return to a world I understood, to work through my rage and ignorance, and to return to fight again another day.
And the world I ran to served me well. And though the anger will never be completely flushed away, those years as a tramp crop-duster pilot in South Texas helped me understand what it is that I believe in.
But this book is not about philosophy. This book is about flying. It is the story of reckless years spent without plan or caution. It is a tale of misguided judgment, bad decisions, and taunting fate.
But let the record show: When the battle was at hand, when the enemy was at the gates, when the walls were first breached, I ran away.