No. 542



I shall always be grateful to the good people of Altus, Okla., who really made me feel at home when I spoke to their annual Chamber of Commerce Banquet on Nov. 3, 2005.
Each year at the annual banquet, this community honors area farmers who make such a vital contribution to their economy. I also learned that this is "cotton country," which is near and dear to my heart. This banquet was the 28th annual and the theme was "Farming, Flying and Community:" The Pillars of Southwest Oklahoma. The flying refers to the fact that the Altus Air Force Base is located there. More about this a bit later because, for me, this proved to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The chamber Executive Director Holley Urbanski picked me up in Lawton and drove me back to Altus, where she gave me a tour of the community. It was very impressive and I could see and tell they have a lot going for them. The banquet was one of the best organized I have ever attended. One of the highlights was the decorating of the tables and you would not believe how well they were done. I later learned the reason the tables were so beautiful is that they invite different companies to take one table to decorate as their own, and this created some friendly competition. Every company or group was trying to out-do the others. And they did!!
The master of ceremonies was Maurice King, and he did a fabulous job of entertaining the 300-plus attendees before I was ever introduced. All in all, it was a wonderful affair and I commend Board Chairman Riley "Nub" Smith and the other officers and directors, for making the farmers in the area feel so special. Also, I would like to thank publisher Gary Jackson, editor Mike Bush and NIE coordinator Sandy Graham, for running my column in the Altus Times. I sure enjoyed the time I spent with you.
Earlier I mentioned the once-in-a-lifetime experience, related to the Altus Air Force Base. At the banquet I was seated next to Col. Dewey Everhart II, who is the base commander, and we had a wonderful visit prior to my appearance on the program. I learned that for a number of years, he was also stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base, which is near my home. When we were making arrangements for my trip to Altus, Holley Urbanski told me that a number of area farmers and business people had been invited out to the base the following day to fly on the planes, and the invitation was extended to me, if I wanted to stay over.
I thought to myself, this is an opportunity I may never have again, so I decided to accept her offer. What followed the next day was something really special. We boarded busses for the base, were greeted by Col. Everhart and other officials and given a briefing and a box lunch. Then we loaded on the buses again for the trip out to the flight line. They have two primary aircraft at this base, the C5, which is the largest in the U.S. fleet, and the KC 135 Tankers, the planes that refuel in mid-air. I was one of 25 or so that was assigned to the KC 135 tanker. Didn't know how lucky I was at the time.
We all toured the C5 and you cannot believe how big this plane is. We later boarded the KC 135 Tanker and took off. I got to sit in the "jump seat" in the cockpit and put on the headphones to hear the tower and pilot talk back and forth. We got up to around 20,000 feet, doing 400-plus miles per hour, and actually refueled the C5 in flight. They let us go, two at a time, back to the rear of the plane, lie on a mat and watch the airman control the refueling line to the plane below.
I could not believe what I was seeing, as I looked out the small hole in the rear of the plane and could see the pilot of the C5 below us. Awesome! A once-in-a-lifetime experience, to be sure.
(EDITORÕS NOTE: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To support literacy, buy his book ÒLearning, Earning & Giving Back.Ó)