The following is an excerpt from what I call my unauthorized autobiograpy—thus named because it wasn’t written for publication, but rather for a private family history. The excerpt serves as a preface for a video link at the end that is a Fate is the Hunter reminder.
Time and Place
Time and place are elements of life that every human being experiences from the moment of conception through eternity. Being in the right place at the right time may result in great fortune and happiness. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time may be most unfortunate. It can be the difference between success and failure or it may determine life and death. It provides opportunities for heroes and exposes cowardice in others.
I believe that everyone can identify a place and time that changed the direction of his or her life. In fact, most of us can probably recall several such events created by place and time. For instance, I found myself hanging out at a place called the Quick Shop in Forest Park, Ga., and portraying the 15-year-old hoodlum that I aspired to be, when the Love of my Life drove up to the same place at the same time. My personal and emotional life changed forever.
What fortuitous force places one at a specific place and time to enable such momentous events? The less fortunate would probably say dumb luck. Some would call it fate. Others might say divine intention. In any case, such fortunate, fateful, divinities are usually preceded by a long list of other events that led you to that place and time.
On March 28, 1969, my professional time and place came to pass. On that sunny afternoon, in Griffin Ga., I found myself sitting in the cockpit of a Cessna 150 preparing to commit an act of aviation for the first time in my life. Jim Phillips, my first and only flight instructor, was crammed into the right seat of the little two seat trainer, explaining what we were going to do. He pointed out the basic instruments and flight controls and talked about the engine start procedures and engine controls. He gave me a checklist and went over the items we would accomplish for each phase of the flight. He talked me through an engine start and we taxied out to the runway with Jim demonstrating how to steer with your feet—an alien concept unless you have driven a bulldozer.
We went through the before takeoff checks and Jim told me to rest my hands and feet on the controls so that I could feel how he moved them during takeoff. As we moved onto the runway and accelerated, he held the nose wheel right on the white stripe down the center. I kept thinking we should move into the right lane.
We lifted off and I watched the cars and houses get smaller. I was surprised how small the control movements were and how the airplane responded. Jim demonstrated straight and level flight and then let me try it. It was pretty ugly. We did turns, climbs, and descents and when he said it was time to head back to the airport, I could not believe that almost an hour had passed. I also realized that I had no idea where the airport was or how to find it. Jim pointed us in the right direction and entered the landing pattern. I still did not see the airport until the runway appeared in the windshield. I followed through on the controls as he landed the airplane and the tires chirped as we touched down.
I was hooked. It had been the most intriguing hour I could have ever expected. I knew that pilot’s lives and careers were measured by flying hours and I had heard people speak in awe of senior pilots who had accumulated thousands of hours in the air. To me that was unimaginable, but when Jim took my brand new pilot logbook and entered 1.1 hours under total duration of flight, I was pretty proud of it. I was excited about my 1.1 hours of flying time.
It did not occur to me that being in that place at that time, was both a conclusion and a beginning. It concluded several years of unlikely and unpredictable events, all necessary to produce my 1.1 hours, and it began several more years of even more unlikely, but just as unpredictable events, that would find me in another place and time that any sane person would have bet their life’s savings against.
The following video reminds us that we are not fully in control of our fate. It may be slow to load, but it’s well worth waiting for.