Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Pavlov Would be Proud

Do you remember those hot, summer days when you were a kid? The days here in Texas seemed endless because, in fact, the sun never set until after your bedtime, and you weren't really sure it went down then either. It felt like you were living on Hell's back porch because the temperature got up to "Dante's Inferno staged inside the sun's corona" hot without even trying hard.

But, no matter how hot it was or how tired you were, there was always one thing that would make you come running. It was a sound that you could hear blocks away, and you'd go crazy trying to figure out which way it was coming and how many stops it would make before it got to your street. You'd also have to play "beat the clock" with your mom or dad if you had already spent your allowance to get a buck or two before it passed your house; and your parents, being the sick and twisted creatures that they were, would hold out until the last possible second when it was directly in front of your house headed for the neighbor's place. You'd run out the front door waving whatever cash you had scrounged, begged, borrowed or liberated from whatever source was handy hoping that the ice cream truck driver saw you before he made the turn and dropped out of sight up the next street.

The ice cream truck doesn't bring me running anymore as I much prefer a pint of Ben & Jerry's to offerings of your garden variety mobile ice cream vendor who in all probability was a child molester cruising for his next victim, but there is still one sound that brings me running outside like that pre-teen kid I used to be looking for another sugar fix. I heard it again yesterday while I was trying to multi task between real work, Netflix, cooking lunch and taking care of the Queen. I can't help myself. It's downright freakishly Pavlovian.

The sound that gets me every time is the sound of an airplane flying over head. But not just any airplane mind you. It has to be the sound of a big, fat radial engine to get me to come running out into the Texas heat like a 6' 4" radar dish turning every which way to find the source of the noise. I'm not talking about a little 7 or 9 cylinder radial that pulls some of the old biplanes around either. Don't get me wrong. Those are nice, too; but, if you want to see me slobbering like Snoopy waiting on a Scooby snack, it has to be one of the monster Pratt & Whitney radials that they used to hang off the front end of planes back in World War II.

Yesterday was a feast for the eyes and ears alike. As I mentioned, I was knee deep in several crucial tasks all at once when I heard the unmistakable sounds of big, beefy radials growling fairly low above my house. I tried to use a little will power, be a responsible adult and not go running outside with my tongue hanging out yelling "Airpane!!! Boss! De plane, de plane." I'm sure the neighbors find it amusing. The queen just rolls her eyes and sighs. But, I digress.

I ran out the office door into the backyard and looked towards the sound at which point I was briefly rewarded with having my retinas seared because the sound happened to be where the sun was in the sky at that point. Once I remembered to squint and raise a hand, I had the pleasure of seeing not one but four WWII vintage warbirds flying formation headed for points unknown. At least two of those glorious birds were North American AT-6's. One of the birds might have been a P-51 or a P-39 (neither of which has a radial engine, but both still make a lovely noise). I didn't get a good enough look before I lost sight of them behind the trees to say for sure. The last of the four was a smallish, twin engine that I had never seen before, but it didn't matter one bit because of the sounds made by those beautiful, throaty radial engines.

I am not entirely sure fortune smiled on me when the queen and I chose to live nearby to a modestly sized airport. One of these days, I know what's going to happen. I'll be in the middle of a conference call when one or more of those birds decides to make a pass over the house. It'll be interesting to see if the 12 year old boy hiding inside my older, wiser self wins the fight.

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