Friends Reunited

14 May 2019

We awoke with the brightening clouds and spitting rain. But, no matter. We were excited for the next item on our agenda for this spring outing- a visit to McNary Air Field in Salem, OR. Here there is a foundation of interested folks who are restoring a 75 year old B-17 aircraft. After World War II, when bombers were no longer needed, the Army scrapped most of them. But there were some planes that escaped the destruction. This particular plane was purchased by a man who brought it to Oregon to sit on top of his gas station where it sat for several decades. (See The Lacey Lady) Unfortunately over the years, parts and pieces went missing, and the pigeons found it a most agreeable home. So, during that time there was a lot of deterioration. Four years ago the plane was removed from the top of the gas station and moved to McNary Field where there is a dedicated group putting all the puzzle pieces back together, hoping that one day the plane may be air worthy again.

The adjacent museum was small, but nicely arranged with interesting articles relating to the planes and the 8th Air Corps. The plane lay about the hangar in barely recognizable pieces. But there was lots of energy and enthusiasm around the project and faith that one day she would actually return to the air. I took lots of pictures and realized in the middle of my tour that I was having technical difficulties and I was not getting any pictures. It’s just for situations like this that I carry two (or more) cameras. Unfortunately, the pictures I did take I can’t download until we return home, so my description of the aluminium obstacle course strewn across the hangar floor will have to suffice for now. I did, however, see The Lacey Lady in her “disassembled” glory during her transformation back to life.

By noon we were back in Portland to visit with dear friends who lived close when both our families were deeply engrossed in the day to day drama of kids growing up. It is always a joy to reunite with these special friends. Somehow all the time that has passed since we last met melts away like ice in a forgotten drink on a hot summer day and we can pick up our friendship right where we left it. Even after such a length of time, our friendship is as fresh and vibrant as it was when we were living close and seeing each other every day.

We got a tour of their new condo, where they have successfully downsized, and are enjoying life in a lovely part of NE Portland. We had lunch at a sweet little cafe in their new neighborhood and then made plans to meet them later that evening at their new cabin out near the foothills of Mount Hood.

They served us a delicious dinner which was absolutely shared eucharist; and we talked, told storied, reconnected, laughed and joked into the evening. Their cabin is a grace-filled, quiet retreat from the hustle and bustel of city life. We were renewed and refreshed by our longstanding friendship as well as by the beauty and serenity of the place.

15 May 2019

I dreamed through the night of seeing eagles nesting near the water and my dad asking if I had seen the chicks in the nest. The dream was very clear and vivid. When I awoke, I was greeted by a brilliant blue jay hopping and flitting right outside our bedroom window!

Breakfast was another delightful eucharist and we carried on our discussions and stories from the night before. What a grace it is to have friends who accept you and whom you can talk with about so many interesting topics.

As we finished the breakfast dishes our friends invited us to walk with them down to the the boardwalk they had made on their property that crosses a small stream. Even though the day was overcast and threatening rain, the walk was lovely and the stream a beautiful sight. I simply love the sounds of a babbling brook. It sounds to me like Mother Nature laughing and inviting us to share in her joy. That certainly wasn’t difficult.

Our friends shared the stories of clearing the property and planting trees, as well as how they made some of their decisions with the space, the grading, the materials and all the hard work involved in making their dream become a reality. We rejoice with them in the beauty and peace they have brought to this special place. And we are so grateful for their gracious hospitality as they shared the beauty of this place with us.

As the clock reached noon, we left our friends with hugs of love and gratitude and made our way to Madras, OR where the Erickson Foundation also houses a B-17 in the process of being repainted and restored.

The drive to Madras took us south through the Mount Hood forest and the rises and falls of mountain roads. At one point we passed 4161 feet of elevation and could still see snow along the roadside.

Madras airfield was not difficult to find and as we entered the museum I never even had to inquire if the B-17 I was in search of was located on this site. There she sat – dissected – but entirely recognizable as men and women worked diligently around her.  The woman who took our entry fee was so excited that I was excited and she struck up a lively conversation about the plane and what a thrill it was for her to work there every day. I told her I had seen 27 of the remaining planes and seeing Ye Old Pub was the only reason we came all the way from Seattle. Her disbelief was visible. She questioned me and offered, “Oh, if I could, I would give you a piece of the plane. Wouldn’t you just love that?” Well . . . indeed I would, but I also knew that was a near impossibility. I laughed and started to walk into the museum to inspect the plane more closely. She disappeared and then reappeared as I reached the nose of the plane. “Here!” She offered. “It’s a nut from the plane. Just think, a nut from 1944 that’s been in this plane all these years!” She handed me a greasy nut just smaller than a dime. “Oh, maybe I should wipe the grease off,” she exclaimed. “No, please don’t,” I said. “It’s part of the authenticity. Leave it just as it is.” I thanked her multiple times and she was overjoyed to think she has given me something I would cherish that came from this plane. The men and women working on the plane all stopped to smile and wave before going back to their work. It was pretty funny, really. But now I own an authentic piece of a B-17plane. A single nut. For a B-17 nut. What could be more appropriate?

As we left I thanked her again and my driver wanted to have her recommendation for where to stop for an early dinner. Without hesitation, she suggested we go to Rio’s Mexican. Providing, of course, we liked Mexican food. Since we certainly do, we made our way to Rio’s and had an excellent dinner. It was a small place with only about eight tables, and one man working the door, the cash register, the tables and the kitchen! He seemed to have no trouble doing it all. And, it truly was excellent.

Nourished for the rest of the drive, we travelled on across the great Columbia River to Yakima for the night. Along the way we listened to “Dreams From My Father” read by the author, Barack Obama. It’s a lovely, lyrical book with lots of things to think about: family, responsibility, relationships, expectations, as well as many other topics. We’ve really enjoyed it.

We stopped at 6:00 for a comfort stop in Moro, OR and quickly made a reservation for a room in Yakima. Back on the road as the light began to wane and we made it through the hills and vales of northern Oregon and southern Washington before stopping in Yakima exactly at 8:00 p.m.

The desk clerk was not prepared for our arrival, but quickly found us on the computer. He told us we got the last room available for the night and he had to turn away a man who was standing at the counter when our computer reservation came through.

While I felt sorry for the gentleman who had to look elsewhere for a room, how could that be anything but grace for us ? We had a lovely visit with friends; enjoyed their mountain retreat; got to see another B-17; receive a nut from the overhaul of the plane; enjoy terrific Mexican food; as well as the beautiful sights of the landscape as we traveled; and get the very last room available. It all sounds like grace to me.