"Sound Beats Print ... Pictures Beat Sound"

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Charlie "Blaze"

Lama toeing in, High Uintas Utah. (Submitted by Laura Cullen) Via USA Doodlebuggers

I nearly cried when I saw this picture.
It could be the best shot of a Lama ever taken. Which brings up the "Best Long Line Pilot" I ever saw.
"Charlie "Blaze"
I, and all my co-workers put our lives in the hands and feet of these pilots. So, we were pretty good judges about how good these guys were. It was an interesting group of men. Mostly small in height, but never short on balls. We flew when the Vietnam pilots were all getting 10 or so years into their careers. That's mostly who we rode with. I did a little flyin' with a fellow that became a helicopter pilot from Korea, and one who put himself through helicopter school .... Charlie "Blaze".

We were drillin' in the Flat Tops of western Colorado. And like the name says, we were on pretty flat ground. Which was a treat. Plus it was a beautiful open meadows with little Aspen stands. So long about 2 or 3 in the afternoon I'm drillin' this hole, and I go down about 12 feet of easy footage .... and Boom I'm into this beautiful blue granite. Running on top of that granite, was the water table for one of these meadows. So I come out of the hole, and put on my :
Mission #3115 Down Hole Rock Hammer. [I always loved to say that phrase] It was a beast.
I change out the bit and go back in the hole, tag bottom, and start drillin' again.

Then granite starts making these great cuttings. Big Flakes of granite are coming up the hole mixed in with water ..... all being hurled in the air by a Gardener Denver Air Screw runnin' straight into a Chrysler 360 with this itsy-bitsy muffler.

Modern Man

Any way ..... It's was really a mini Spindle Top Moment. Now, that morning I had a dead battery on my drill. We screwed with more batteries. They just didn't like being in the out doors "bun-geed" down under that hot engine. As I'm watching this fountain of noise, water, and granite. A long comes B.J. Walker, our party manager and O.B. Olberlander the Field Coordinator. We chit chat away from the rig, and after a while we call Charlie on the radio and tell him to come pick these two birds up . B.J. knows there's a deposit to be had from my dead battery so he tells O.B. to get my dead one. So Mr. Oberlander gets two of my shop towels [paper], gets the dead cat out of my support basket, and moves off into the meadow to await the helicopter ride.

Pretty soon we hear the beautiful sound from that piece of French Engineering the Lama. By this time I'm back near the drill, and the two visitors are about 50 yds. away with the meadow rolling out behind them. Then that helicopter popped-up .... made this big sweeping turn in the meadow, and set down in the grass right next to B.J. He comes out of his crouch and runs around the front of the ship and jumps in the front seat. O.B. is trying to manage two paper shop towels and my dead battery. Charlie is watching O.B. in his prop wash fumble with this battery, and he tells B.J. to close his door......
Then he picked up that helicopter, and started pushing that battery around in the grass with the skid. Pushing it toward O.B. After a few moments of this and O.B. getting frazzled, Charlie cuts it...... and the ship settles back down in the grass. O.B. is just outside Charlie's bubble mouthing profanities ..... The shop towels are long gone, and everyone else is laughing their asses off. So O.B. finally grabs the battery and begins to run around the nose of the ship. When he gets to the very tip of the nose, Charlie picked the ship up again, and started to rotate around to match O.B.'s speed. O.B. peels off about 55 degrees on a circle him and Charlie are making, and stops again .... mouthing profanities ... Charlie sets the ship down. Charlie assures him through the plexi-glass .... he's through screwing around. O.B. runs another 55 degrees on that circle.

At this point I can see B.J.'s side of the ship, and he's eggin' Charlie on to make a full 360. Sure enough, O.B. Grabs that battery, and they both did a full 360 out in that beautiful meadow.
O.B. never lost his position on the nose of that Lama.
Then O.B. stops, gets on his knees, and pleads with the plexi-glass to please let him in. I'm still laughing as I type this.

This story is the God's Truth.

More drilling stories :
How I Became A " Flying Squirrel "

Scroll down
Another Doodle Bug Story
Life, Near Death, and Other "Feats of Strength"

Very nice, Bob. Very evocative.

David aka aussiejourno

Thank-you Dave. Charlie was one hell of a pilot.

I thought lamas were like camelly type things that chewed peanuts in the Andes.

(which sounds quite painful, now I come to think of it...)

Hope the URL doesn't get hosed. Here's a nice picture of a Lama at Airliners.net:


They have lots more, of course. Just enter "Lama helicopter" into the little search box on the left. The one on the right takes you to advertisements.

My husband and boys hike and camp the high Uintas regularly. They have never brought back any pictures quite like this one though! Very nice!

I spent a year working with Charlie in the Badlands of North Dakota in the early 80s. I have stories of Charlie’s feats of flying people refuse to believe - and some I will never tell on-line. I dreamt about him last night so decided to Google him. Thanks for the picture, it brings back lots of memories. If you want more I can email some.

Rick T

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