Monday, March 2, 2015

Roots from the air

I love to fly, as evidenced by the more than occasional image of such on my Facebook page, this blog and elsewhere. And when the light and conditions are right, I also enjoy snapping pictures from inside the cockpit.

Now, if I was a real aerial photographer, I would be flying with the doors off and maybe have a co-pilot so I could use my fancy digital Canon SLR and maybe a few different cool lenses. But instead, I enjoy documenting the trip or experience from altitudes ranging from a thousand or so feet MSL (that's flyboy speak for how high you are, barometrically, from sea level) on upwards to just under 10,000' MSL.

On a recent trip back to Lubbock to see my folks, my return flight the next day was mid-afternoon and I had a great tailwind plus some great light to work with. The near-thirty knot tailwind helped shave off about twenty to thirty minutes of actual flying time, and the near perfect light conditions helped me get some neat shots of the West Texas landscape between Lubbock and the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

This is about forty or so nautical miles due east of Lubbock. You can see the flat, manicured fields at the top of the photo and just how quickly the land can suddenly contrast with itself. The weather can also change just that quickly as well.

 I'm still undecided on wind energy for individuals as it seems extremely cost-prohibitive for most of us commoners. But for the large energy companies, something must be there because I'm seeing a lot more wind farms popping up between Fort Worth, the Red River and westward all the way out to Big Spring, the Permian Basin and off the Caprock east of Lubbock. Of course, there is no shortage of wind out there, either.

I did some oil patch work, briefly, one summer when I was in college at Texas Tech. You know what was fun about it? Nothing. Hard, dangerous, muscle-numbing work. In the picture below, if one didn't know better, you'd think you were seeing a new housing development what with all the nice little roads and plots you see. Instead, those are what we called pump jacks, and each one is pumping West Texas crude up from the ground.

Here's a bit closer look at the layout of this particular oil field. I saw at least a dozen of these just in the two hours it took me to fly from Lubbock to Fort Worth. Someone up in Washington needs to tell OPEC to kiss our Lone Star ass.

This is pretty rugged country. I've seen an awful lot of it from the back of a quarter horse--which in most areas, is the only way you can see much of it. Yet, it has its own unique and inherent beauty and truly epitomizes West Texas.

More contrasting landscapes. Lot of salt flats where the small creeks and rivers run.

I actually circled the plane around this particular landscape to get this shot. It's a good illustration of how nature works via heavy rainfall and rapid runoff. The result is controlled erosion and ever-deepening canyons on the low end with pretty fair grazing land on the high end.

Water always takes the path of least resistance, yet still maintains its erosive effect. In another million years, there will be a couple of oxbow lakes down below.

West Texas gets very little respect from Austin or Dallas/Fort Worth or Houston. But I guess city-bred folks have always looked at country-bred folks that way. It used to bother me, especially when I got back from the military and was going to college. Now over three decades later, I'm not bothered in the least. I know where my roots are.

Here's an author I'm really enjoying.

Meet Mark Dawson.

I found Mr. Dawson by way of a promotion that landed Sword of God onto my Kindle. As I got into the book, it was reading more and more like a certain novel from David Morrell, another author I thoroughly enjoy and whose (paper and ink) books are a permanent part of my library.

Mr. Dawson's character, John Milton, is interesting on a number of levels, not the least of which is that he is an ex-Special Air Services veteran. The British SAS are as good as they get and in Sword of God, how SAS troops think, act, react, plan and prepare are dealt with quite nicely. Mr. Dawson takes some literary license here and there with Milton's exploits and abilities, but fiction is meant to be enjoyed and the very word "fiction" itself grants us writers a tremendous amount of leeway in how much we might want to bend and stretch facts, or in some writers' cases, just flat make them up.

Fiction is meant to be enjoyed, to be true theater of the mind and for us to use our own wondrous imagination to picture the scenery and the characters and to place our own visions of how they look, how they sound, how they talk, how they move.

I judge fiction by how much it keeps me from doing the things I really need to do because I've got my nose buried in my book or Kindle instead of in my Macbook writing my own next book or column or blog post. Or, I judge it by how many times I have to tell my wife "Just another couple of minutes" as I read another couple of pages while she is tap-dancing at the door to the garage because she's ready to go eat.

I've been late for a few meals with my wife since discovering Mark Dawson's John Milton series. I'm looking forward to his Beatrix Rose series, but I need to get some of my own projects off the back burner first.

Check out Mr. Dawson's books. He's a prolific writer who is easy and thoroughly enjoyable to read.