Sober Occasion-Alva and I had taken Ralph Olson into our home as a foster son so his parents could return to Nigeria, Africa, where they were missionaries under Sudan Interior Mission.
He would stay with us for his last two years of high school (not available in Africa) and four years of college. He and our Steve were the same age, and truly became brothers during their six years together in high school and college.
After graduating from Azusa Pacific University, Ralph married Yolanda Sesma, another of our “foster children.” They became missionaries with Youth With a Mission and soon had two children, Roxanne and Jeremy. They were assigned to a YWAM base in Hawaii. After several years Ralph contracted leukemia, and returned to Southern California for treatment at the City of Hope hospital. But to our sorrow the treatment was not successful, and Ralph left us for heaven.
Alva went down to be with Yolanda and help with preparations for the memorial service. Verland Benning volunteered to fly me, our son Steve and Montie Taylor, an Elder at the Chapel, down to Pomona on the day of the service. We gathered at Columbia airport at the appointed time, and got into Verland’s Beechcraft Bonanza airplane. We took off and headed on a straight course or Bracket Field in Pomona-Verland, a seasoned pilot, myself, a former aeronautical engineer, in the front seat, Steve and Montie, neither of them light airplane savvy, in the back seat.
Hilarious Episode-Towards the end of the flight we cut across the southwest corner of the Mojave Desert, climbing a little to clear the San Gabriel mountains directly ahead. Verland told me to look at the rate of climb indicator. It showed a much faster climb rate than his 225 horsepower Continental could produce. We were in a strong thermal over the hot desert. Hmmmm! Pomona is a hot place on the far side of the San Gabriels.
We crossed ridge after ridge of this range and were about to clear the final one when BLAM!!!!!! we hit a strong, thermal updraft. Verland, anticipating any further thermals, pulled the throttle back to idle. This automatically triggered the deafening warning horn, signaling the pilot not to land without putting the landing gear down. Good job, Verland. When you hit sharp turbulence, reduce speed immediately-we don’t want to break the airplane! Verland nudged the throttle to shut off the horn, and I was about to congratulate him on his performance, but there was a loud disturbance from the back seat.
I turned around, and saw and heard that Steve and Montie were both loudly confessing their sins and begging God to forgive them before we hit the ground. They had not understood the dramatic events, figured that the airplane had suffered some major failure, and that we were all goners.
Verland and I cracked up-it was just too funny. We had a hard time turning our attention to the imminent landing.
The airplane was fine, Verland made his usual fine landing, and I think there is a fine moral in that back seat performance for each of us if we look for it!!!???