We’ve never met the guy.
He comes by air, flying very low in a red-and-white plane with a tiny motor that drones in a particular and promising way. Skye can hear him miles away, and when she does, she starts yelling. “He’s coming! He’s coming!” We know to instantly drop shovel or trowel, book or mixing bowl, and head out to a place where there’s open space.
We want him to see us waving. If he sees us, he’ll wave back, wiggling the little plane’s wings, and sometimes he’ll do more.
The first time, Skye and I were on our back deck. We waved our arms as a small airplane passed overhead. He must have seen us because he doubled back. He came flying at the farm from the north, where there's a pasture about 20 acres in size, bordered by trees. When the pilot passed the treeline he dipped low to the ground and rushed toward us. He couldn’t have been more than 25 feet off the ground. Just before he crashed into our house, and into us, he yanked the plane into a climb and sailed above the roof.
Raven was not so happy about that. He thought only a suicidal person would fly so crazily, endangering our lives and our home.
A few days later the pilot returned. It was almost as if he’d received Raven’s message, telepathically. Over the pasture he climbed to a thousand feet, then dove for the ground, bringing the plane level at the last minute. Raven was okay with this, since the pilot wasn’t aiming at our house. If the crazy guy wanted to kill himself, fine. But Raven wished we didn’t have to watch him do it.
When he visits now, he will circle us. We can see his face he’s so close, and we can see him waving. Most visits he does something to the controls where he wags the wings, one then the other dipping in a lovely salute. Sometimes he rises high and dives. It’s usually almost sunset when he comes, as if we’re on his route back to the Vidalia, Georgia airport and he can take a minute to say hello before he rushes on.
From Facebook posts it’s apparent that the pilot’s fly-bys bring a lot of joy to people. He is clear that he wants to bring people joy. Especially children. In one post he says, "It's all about enjoying the limited time we have." He calls it a spiritual experience.
He calls himself a backwoods pilot. That’s probably what brought him over our farm in the first place -- we live in the woods very close to the confluence of two rivers, the Ohoopee with the Altamaha. The scenery must be amazing from up there.
And he is a daredevil. In one FB video he is skimming up a small blackwater river, probably the Ohoopee, his tires throwing up spray.
I’ve written a lot about the loneliness in most people’s lives and the particular loneliness of rural living. So I thought it would be important for me to acknowledge how much boundless & roaring happiness that our visitor, pilot and stranger, brings us.
Thanks for that, sir. Thanks for brightening our quiet days. Thanks for pushing the limits.
Last Sunday late evening we heard the plane coming. I ran for a pile of wood chips that the electric company dumped near the butterfly garden and climbed to the peak. Skye balanced on the railing of the back deck. We waved both our arms like clocks gone wild. The pilot was coming from the south, the direction of the confluence, going northwest toward Lyons. He was looking for us. Over the pecan orchard he tipped his wings, back and forth, then back and forth again.
He gunned the little engine and circled to the far side of the north pasture. Then he dove close to the ground and aimed his machine right at me. I was still atop the wood chips. He came skimming over the pasture. (I hope Raven doesn't read this because it was a little dangerous.) A couple hundred feet away he pulled some lever & the plane rose. As he passed overhead, close, he looked down, smiling.
I admit that I'm embarrassed to talk this way about a total stranger. We don't know him. We don't know his politics. We wouldn't be able to recognize him on the street. But we love the man. Our hearts fill with a gigantic happiness when we hear the drone of his engine, and his dives and twirls are cherished gifts to us, in the quiet, beautiful, and lonely rural.