Requiem for an Aircraft, Farewell to a Pilot – by Dave Norton

Requiem for an Aircraft, Farewell to a Pilot, by Dave Norton. Updated and reprinted from the original 2001 HTML article.

B29 front view panel

The day was stiflingly warm, the sky that crystalline umbrella overhead that pilots call “Severe Clear”.

The sun of a summer solstice reflected off the concrete ramp of Chino Airport. It blasted first degree burns on the normally shaded tender skin just above my eyelids, and that of the thousands of others there for the Chino Warbirds Airshow. Brother Dan and I could feel that this was a special day, somehow, and that we were in the presence of History. We didn’t realize that this would be the greatest gathering of flying WWII combat aircraft we would ever see.

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A Life in the Days of a Biker

We’re honored to host Dave Norton’s major new article, A Life in the Days of a Biker. (Click the link to read this article.) Dave’s autobiographical chronicle isn’t just about dirt bikes, motorcycling and hair-raising adventure (but it’s all of that). It’s also about an era.

If you ride, or ever rode bikes, this story brings alive the shop talk, competitive riding, and classic manufacturing brands you haven’t heard of in decades. Even if you never got into motorcycles, you’ll remember the can-do attitudes, the foolhardy stunts of youth, and the wonder that we survived any of it. This story spans the stubborn risk-taking of youth to the more cautious perspective of a retired engineer. It also tracks development of Dave’s celebrated Norton Shrike, as … well, you’ll see! Generously illustrated with current and vintage photos, drawings and scans. 55 page PDF requires Adobe Reader. Download or page-load time is about 8-10 seconds (depending on internet connection). Highly recommended for a really good read.

Dave Norton is a frequent contributor to, with articles in our Writing and Outdoors departments, including B-29 and Backpacker’s Journal, and galleries of remarkable photo images in PHOTOS.

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The Curse of the Norton Boys

contributed by Dave Norton

The following is an email sent to brother Charlie after Thanksgiving Day, 2000:

Hi Charlie!

After talking with you on last night, I realized that you, Dan, and I are victims of an insidious curse, inflicted at an early age by our mother: the Curse of the Norton Boys.

We have the misfortune of having been taught by Mom that, when visiting other people’s homes, the following rules apply:

If you’re there for dinner, you ask how you can help.

If you’re family, you begin setting the table until asked to stop.

After dinner, you take your plate to the kitchen.

You then help clear the table unless asked to stop.

If family, you clear the table and rinse and stack the dishes by the sink, unless asked twice to stop.

If a big dinner, you watch for full trash cans, and ask where to dump them.

If you sleep over, when you first get up, you make your bed.

If you sleep on the couch, when you first get up you fold the blankets, stack them neatly, and set them aside.

If you have children, you control them.

In short, you respect the time, energy, and space of your hosts and do what you can to make your visit a pleasant experience for them.

If you are fortunate enough NOT to have been infected by the Curse, then these different rules apply:

Sit on a couch and watch as preparations are made, with feet on a table if available.

At table, you ask for what you want and let others get it for you.

After dinner, you sit at the table while it is cleared and dessert is brought to you.

After dessert, you return to the couch and turn on the TV while others clean up the mess.

It is not necessary to actually watch the TV, just enjoy the ambiance of the inane chatter and commercials in the background.

If you sleep over, leave your bed as it is when you get up, either for someone else to make, or to stay unmade all day.

If you have children, turn on the TV with a Winnie the Pooh tape as soon as you arrive, so the children can watch for 2 minutes and wander off to explore the house while the TV stays on.

Anytime during the day that you notice your hosts have soothing classical music on the stereo, or NPR news, start a new tape and turn up the volume to the extent that the radio is no longer distracting.

At the end of the day, as the hosts hint that it is bedtime, put the children’s favorite 3-hour movie on the VCR.

Encourage your children to take a piece of fresh fruit, take one bite, and leave it somewhere around the house.

Encourage them also to open a can or bottle of soda, take a drink, and place the can in a position where it can’t be readily seen but is easily tipped over, onto carpeting if possible.

Repeat the fruit/soda process 3 times a day.

Encourage them to make several tours of the house during the day, turning on lights and closing doors to unoccupied rooms.

Throughout the day, feed your children nutritious foods of the sort found at supermarket checkout counters, packed in bright cellophane packaging, consisting primarily of sugar and cholesterol. These packages are left randomly about the house, with at least 3 open at a time.

Encourage them to fill up on such items immediately prior to dinner.

During dinner, excuse the children from table as soon as they have taken 3 bites of the Jello or applesauce served just for them.

During dessert, insist that the Children not be allowed to eat dessert since they haven’t eaten dinner, then serve each one a full-sized slice of home-made Lemon Meringue Pie, from which they will take one bite and stir the rest.

When your child misbehaves, correct them in the following manner:

Billy don’t do that. I’ll count to three. One, two, Billy don’t do that. I’ll count to three… Repeat this process several times daily to reinforce the pattern.

There are an infinite number of variations on these rules, such as making sure your automobile drips oil, then parking on the cleanest whitest most conspicuous part of the driveway, but you get the picture. The guiding principles are:

1. You deserve to be served.

2. Your hosts are here to serve you.

3. Your children are a joy to your hosts, who will think their antics are darling.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Brother Dave

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Retirement in Oregon – by Dave Norton

Life in Oregon - photo by Dave Norton. Click photo for larger image.

You asked how we like retirement. The Retired Life is, entirely unlike most other things, just what it’s cracked up to be. I worked all my life for this: to not have to work all my life. Retirement is wonderful. It’s worth it.

We moved up here for many reasons: we wanted seasons; we got seasons. We tired of the sky being the same color all the time; we got skies with drama. We got tired of the cycle of six years of drought and one year of deluge; we got frequent gentle rains. We wanted out of the rat race; we got life at our own pace (which is a hectic one for Ellie, less so for me, both by our own choice). While we longed for a sense of neighborhood, we found ourselves surrounded by a community of welcoming, caring and gracious friends. While we wanted space, in a very rural setting, we found our own little piece of heaven.

We wanted a return to the land – we spend most of our day outside, working the soil, planting, fencing, pruning, preparing pastures for the goats, planning the way we want our home to be when we’re old.

Here in the early light of morning, as the world wakens to a new day on my run along the creek up to the first bridge, we discover in the deer and wild turkeys the only other traffic on our road. In the cool twilight as the sun drops below the mountains to the west and the crystal quiet of evening settles in, with the murmur of the creek just at the edge of consciousness, we know we are where we belong: we are home.

We lost some things we loved, as well: the closeness of old friends and family, the daily support and affirmation of co-workers, the comfort of structure, the endless variety of automotive enthusiast activities of Southern California. These things we miss. We are making new friends, and encouraging the old ones and family to drop in for a visit, to share for a time an interval of quiet in their lives as well.

We wish for you, in your own time and in your own setting, the peace and the quiet contentment we find here. Life is good.

Ripples - photo by Dave Norton. Click photo for larger image.

text and photos copyright Dave Norton, April 2008

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To Drill Two Holes

“Ellie needed two holes drilled in a piece of wood she needed for her loom. No big deal.” An engineer analyzes a show-stopper that should have been simple task.

By Dave Norton. Read this html post in Writing.

(This post is a WordPress place marker pointing to Dave’s original 2007 html article).


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