Recently I woke up, turned on the news, and there was a feature story about the little town of Clewiston, Florida. A national news anchor, stood in the middle of the little airport, covering a story about a man practicing jumping out of an airplane as a precursor to jumping without a chute.
Seeing the little airport on the news was so déjà vu for me because I recalled learning to drive on that very same airport. There was very little traffic on it back then, so I would drive around changing gears, backing up, parking and teaching myself how to drive. When I thought I knew how, I drove up to the hangar and asked the A&E mechanic to get in the car with me and check me out.
Back in those days, my husband owned a little airplane, and we would frequently take trips over the Everglades, flying low and scaring the alligators out of their holes. Seeing that little airport reminded me of the  many times we would fly in and out of it.
Clewiston is a lovely little town located at the edge of the Everglades and the Lake Okeechobee Dam. One of the few cities, as I understand it, designed originally by an architect. Home of the United States Sugar Corporation, and a great little tourist town located half way between Fort Meyers and West Palm beach, I lived there for 5 years. I enjoyed living there, but never wanted to return to live there.
Despite the beauty of the Royal Palm lined streets, I longed for a return to my home of origin in the hills of North Georgia—the red clay rolling terrain at the foot hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
I recall one incident when my husband decided to take off on Christmas Eve, flying into the swamp of the Everglades to deer hunt. It was one of those unusually cold rainy days. He came home before the trip, and in a hurry walked in the door and pitched a 45 pistol across the room toward a couch. I was not home. The gun struck the edge of a table and fired into the wall. Because I fussed about having guns around, he tried to conceal the shot by sticking a white candle on the bullet entry in the living room wall, then covered it with spray paint. On the bullet exit in the bedroom, he hung a picture. Of course the first thing I noticed when I walked in was the fresh paint, then walked into the bedroom and lifted the picture. But he was long gone to the Everglades by then.
When he landed to kill a deer, he crashed the plane, and was lost in the Everglades all during Christmas. Searchers found the wrecked plane, but not him. He had decided to walk out and after  3 days emerged on a highway about 10 miles west of Clewiston. The weather was so rainy and foggy he did not know the direction he was going, but survived and came out alive. I asked him why he did not remove the compass from the plane for direction, and he said that never occurred to him. I was so glad to see him I laughed about the gun accident firing in the living room.
Years later, he crashed a helicopter off the coast of Japan. The plane rolled when he hit the water and he had about 2 minutes to pull his crew out before it sank. When rescued by Japanese fishermen off the coast of Yokohama, the locals on shore presented him with a bottle of Old Ocean Whiskey. He and his crew were unhurt, but the plane was scrap when pulled out of the ocean.
Just some of my memories of Clewiston and life married to a pilot. Perhaps some of you out there were married to pilots during the war and have stories to share. I’d love to hear them.
Let Freedom Ring!

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