November 1, 2018

I suppose a sign of getting older is going back to places where memories were created in our youth. I attended college in San Marcos, Texas, which is not far from Luckenbach, Texas. You might remember the song “Luckenbach, Texas,” which was sung by Willie Nelson, among others. Back in the 1970’s, my friends and I would go to Luckenbach and buy beer from the once famous Mayor of Luckenbach, Hondo Crouch. Some 40 years later, despite never liking beer, I went to Luckenbach to have a beer. The place had not changed much over the years, which makes it special.

While in Luckenbach, I purchased a book, “HONDO, My Father,” written by Becky Crouch Patterson. According to the book, I can share brief portions of it as a review and I will share a story I heard years ago but had forgotten until I read it in her book.

In 1964, Hondo was headed to Washington, D.C. to attend a folk festival at the Smithsonian Institution. As he walked out of his house, he grabbed a couple of rattlesnake skins that he was drying, stuffed them into a sack and put the sack on his back with his guitar before heading to the San Antonio airport to catch his flight. The story goes that the five-inch rattlesnakes’ tails stuck out of the bag and Hondo would shake them in the crowded airport terminal gate area. When people asked if the snakes were alive, he’d reply, “I am going up North, where they’ve just passed a gun law and I can’t protect myself amongst those Yankees, so I’m going to throw the snakes on the mean men.” During the flight it was reported that Hondo got on his hands and knees, looking around the cabin floor. When asked what he was doing, he said, “I’m looking for my snakes.” Hondo stated, “For about ten minutes it wasn’t funny at all and people were happy to get off that airplane.”

Changing subjects, I’d like to share one more blast from the aviation past. Recently I ran into a Texas pilot who has flown countless famous people around the world. I suggested that we write a book about some of the funny aviation stories we have experienced without using the names of those involved. His response was, “There are still a whole lot of people who would have to die first.” He then went on to share that he flew President Lyndon Baines Johnson several times. He volunteered, “He sure was a crusty old #@%*.” One time he went deer hunting with the President. He said they stood side by side out in a field, each with their deer rifles pointed at the very same whitetail buck. The pilot said that he waited and waited for the President to shoot but the President never pulled the trigger. As the deer was about to walk out of sight into the thick Texas brush, the pilot fired his gun and the deer hit the ground. Seconds later, the President shot the already dead deer. The pilot said he was shocked and the only thing he could think of to say was, “Great shot, Mr. President.”

Texas is rich with aviation stories that should be preserved. The Dee Howard Company in San Antonio customized countless large aircraft and installed an elevator in a Boeing 747. When I was President of Associated Air Center in Dallas, we installed a jacuzzi in a Boeing for an overseas customer. Countless special mission aircraft have been modified in Texas and thousands of corporate and military pilots were trained in Texas. I can recall many stories of Braniff Airways, Muse Air and Texas International, not to mention Southwest Airlines and American Airlines. I sure don’t want to forget to mention the time a good friend, who is a commercial airline pilot, called me upon landing at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport and said, “Jerry, I just landed at DFW from a trip in a DC-10 and we buzzed the beach in Honolulu. I’ve got to talk to the FAA. What should I say?”

For me, there’s something to be said to remember and honor those who came before us, especially when it’s funny!

Written by KING AEROSPACE Founder, Jerry Allan King-Echevarria.