Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Ever had a fish sing in your ear while you are stone cold sober? Yeah, and it wouldn’t have happened to me if my passengers, Lord bless them, had listened to instructions.

Soooo, there I was, flying an elderly couple from Flattown to Little Lake, somewhere in the Midwest. I’d flown them before, and the gent was a little hard of hearing. This time, they were moving the last of their things to the summer lake house. The stack of stuff almost defied my abilities to load the plane, a six seat (and much cargo) Piper. But I managed. However. One of the last things into the cabin was a Billy Big Mouth Bass. For those of you from more civilized and refined parts of the world, or too young to have met one of these marvels, Billy Bass is a (pretty good looking) fake fish mounted like a largemouth bass trophy. When you move it (or push a button) it sings pre-recorded music like Al Green’s “Take me to the River” or other tunes.

Anyway, Billy T. Bass had to go in the cabin because the two cargo areas had been stuffed to the gills already, if you’ll pardon the pun. I told the owners to make certain it had been turned off, just like all their other electronic stuff. They assured me that Billy had gone to sleep and would remain so. Plane loaded, passenger briefing given, and off we went. Flattown has a nice airport, as does Little Lake. The weather cooperated, with cool air, not too bouncy, pretty skies and light winds. Just your basic late spring morning in the Midwest, soaring over green fields and brown, watching the sun reflecting off farm ponds and wondering how the world could be so good that you even get paid to fly on days like this.

A word about Little Lake. It has two airports. One is the larger field for bigger charter planes, crop sprayers, air ambulances, and most tourists and visitors. The other, shoehorned into a gap in the trees, is for locals and the few of us skilled (or crazy) enough to squeeze in there. It’s not especially short, but it has trees and houses on both ends, squirrely cross-winds, and is still shorter than the runways at the other airport. But, it was much closer to the elderly couple’s house, and their son didn’t have to worry about parking at a distance and hauling boxes back and forth, or making his parents walk. I’d been in there before, so I knew what was coming.

Anyway, I called in and set up my approach. Downwind looked good, flaps down, gear down, prop forward, seat belts on. I turned crosswind and a voice called “Little Lake Field, this is Baron 3-4-5 Tango on an extended final for runway Three Five, Little Lake Field. Any traffic in the area please advise.”

Aw nuts. I was turning base to final, so I had right-of way since the twin-engine is still a few miles out, but this means I’ll need to get off the runway faster than usual. Did I mention there are 50 foot trees at the end of the runway? OK, more flaps, adjust power, triple check the landing gear and we would land as close to the end of the runway as possible, so I could get out of the Baron’s way.

The landing was firm. Not “were we shot down?” hard, but the Piper did not balloon or float. We touched down, and I heard  “thump,” followed by “Don’t worry, Be happy” and something whistling in my ear. I almost jumped through the plane’s roof, I was so startled to be serenaded by Bobby McFarren. Except I still had to get off the runway, which I managed to do, heart racing, surprise turning to anger.

Yes, the dear couple had not turned off their fish. I bit my tongue and didn’t say anything, although I am certain the Baron pilot must have wondered why, when Piper 6-9-Alpha radioed “Clear of Runway Three Six, Little Lake” they heard singing.