Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Train Towns


    My permanent home is Livingston, Montana a small town of around 6000 full time residents. Livingston's history is allied with the railroad generally and the now defunct Northern Pacific Railroad in particular. It was once a bustling railroad stop on the way to Yellowstone National Park and became known as the 'Gateway to Yellowstone'. Now with the Northern Pacific gone the tracks no longer head south to Gardiner the 'Gateway' town but veer to to west toward Bozeman and beyond. The locomotives now move the box cars and coal tenders labeled with the logo of the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe instead of the luxurious Pullman cars of yesteryear.
    My present location of Smithville, Texas is also a railroad town owing a good deal of it's existence to the Missouri, Kansas and Texas line also known as the 'Katy' line. As with the Northern Pacific in Livingston the Katy was eventually absorbed by a larger railroad in this case the present day Union Pacific Railroad which still domiciles crews here and maintains a small operations center.
    For whatever reason I am particularly fascinated by these huge diesel electric locomotives that go rumbling behind the homestead here on tracks that are less 100 yards away blaring theirs horn and belching black smoke while trailing freight cars and mineral tenders to destinations east and west. Here's a sample of the sights and sound that intrigue me so much courtesy of the Union Pacific Railroad.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Live Oaks of Smithville, Texas

     The name live oak comes from the fact that evergreen oaks remain green and "live" throughout winter, when other oaks are dormant, leafless and "dead"-looking. The name is used mainly in North America, where evergreen oaks are widespread in warmer areas, along the Atlantic coast from southeast Virginia and North Carolina to Florida, west along the Gulf Coast to Texas and across the southwest to California and southwest Oregon. In particular, the campus of Rice University is home to thousands of live oaks
A large live oak, called the "Big Tree," is said to a 1000 years old and is found found in Goose Island State Park in Rockport, Texas.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pre-Fantasy Camp Experience at Progressive Field

       I'm here in Berea looking in on my brother Jim and also to attend a pre-fantasy camp get together sponsored by the Cleveland Indians. Jim is doing fine and as is the case with us all is slowing down a bit. I arrived on Thursday and will return to Texas on Monday. Yesterday I spent the morning at Progressive Field getting fitted for uniforms and also getting a chance for a little live batting practice in the four indoor batting cages that the Indians use. I also got a chance to meet some of the other participants in the January camp many of whom have attended five times or more in the past. I was surprised to see that I won't be the oldest guy there as there are several  who predate me. We were also instructed to prepare ourselves physically for a week of running, throwing, catching, and batting all of which we will do in the two daily games. My only concern at this point is whether this sixty seven year old body will stand up to the rigors of this protracted dose of physical exercise. I'll keep you posted.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Texas Retreat

   After a 1760 mile cross country trip from Livingston, Montana to Smithville, Texas we have arrived safe and sound at the Donnell Homestead. The journey covered five days and four nights with nearly thirty hours driving pulling a seven ton fifth wheel. We enjoyed perfect weather everyday of the trip along with gorgeous fall colors in their last hurrah. Unfortunately, in the process we had to transit several large cities mostly during rush hour among those were Denver, Salina KS, Wichita KS, Oklahoma City OK, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Waco TX. Now it's time to unwind and enjoy the peace and quiet of a small Texas town.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Monday Morning Rainbow

  When I went to let the puppies in this morning I was greeted by this visual treat.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fall on the Yellowstone

The Yellowstone River which flows beneath our home about a quarter of a mile away is the longest river in the US, just under 700 miles, that is not damned at any point. It flows north out of Yellowstone National Park which is about sixty miles south of our home in Livingston, Montana. The fall of the year is an especially beautiful time in this region and this year it was exceptional with warm sunny days and cool nights. Those ingredients spell great fishing for trout as the river is low and very clear with temperatures cooling. Late afternoon insect hatches produce rising trout and is a great time to wade out into the river to test your fly casting and fishing skills. This video was shot along the road that leads to our home.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Bogart of Yellow Dog

Nearly four years ago we lost a fuzzy member of our family, a Golden Retriever named Daisy. That heart break was soon healed when a new addition came on the scene in the form of a Golden called Bogart or as we like to call him Bogie. He's a gentle soul who, believe it or not, smiles and  never seems to have a bad day. 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Flight Simulator's Computer Generated Images

It's amazing what your desktop computer is capable of considering how small it really is. Here's a sample of Flight Simulator 2004's capabilities regarding it's CGI ability with an add-on aircraft from the aircraft software company PMDG. In this case it's a 737-600 in the Shamu livery of Southwest Airlines landing out of a GPS approach to Livingston, Montana's Mission Field. Oh yes, if it looks a little rough there was a 30 knot crosswind at the airport with me hand flying it. The outside view comes through add-on software called Active Camera.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The C-123K Provider

During my flying career there were some thin years in between flying jobs until I struck the mother lode in the form of a scheduled airline position. Filling in one of those employment gaps was the Air Force Reserve at Greater Pittsburgh International Airport where I was given the opportunity to fly the Fairchild C-123K Provider affectionately known as 'Thunder Pig'. This Vietnam era transport was powered by two Pratt-Whitney R-2800 reciprocating engines and also two General Electric J-85 turbo jets. The sound of a radial engine as it starts is magical (at least to me) accompanied by the perfumed exhaust of high octane aviation fuel and the soft beating of props in flat pitch. To expedite the following video toggle forward to about the 2:20 mark and start from there.

Yellowdog on the Yellowstone

Our home here in Montana has a name, 'Yellow Dog'. The name has it's source in the fact that we have two Golden Retrievers named Bogart and Eunice. The nearly ten acres that comprise 'Yellow Dog' are the puppies play ground which they explore daily. Here's a short video tour of the Helwick compound in Livingston, Montana.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dinner on the Deck

Last night Lillian and I took advantage of a relatively calm evening to enjoy our evening meal on our backyard deck. We savored a tasty stew accompanied by a glass or two of wine, also in attendance were our puppies Eunice and Bogie.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

PC Flight Simulation

 With this post I will have featured each of my favorite topics at least once. About the time I retired from the airlines my daughter Sarah gave me as Christmas gift Microsoft's Century of Flight 2004. Little did she know what a monster she would create, to validate that statement just ask my wife. What was an innocent gift turned into a passion that eats up large chunks of time not to mention portions of my life during any given day.What I soon discovered was that there is a world wide community of pc simulator enthusiasts many of whom have never been at the controls of a real airplane but have learned the basic flying skills via their computers. The levels of complexity range from simple to operate aircraft to jetliners with glass cockpits with all the attendant procedures and systems to manage. For me it provides an outlet for the things I miss most about airline flying, the sights, sounds, and the hands on control of flying an airplane. Here's a Microsoft ad for their Flight Simulator X.


One of the reasons I moved from the Atlanta area to Montana was to afford myself the opportunity to fish the best trout water in the country. The gin clear waters along with unmatched scenic beauty provides the fisherman with an unmatched fishing experience.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Northrup T-38 Talon

Back in 1968-69 I had the distinct privilege of being an Air Force pilot trainee. That year of 53 weeks (one week over a year) included flying three different aircraft at various phases of training. The last aircraft was the T-38 which was a supersonic high performance two seat trainer which was later used in Vietnam as a fighter bomber aircraft. Needless to say flying this bird was a major rush especially when they let us take it out on solo flights. This short video gives you an idea of the simple beauty of this incredible aircraft.
  John G. Magee whose poem "High Flight" is read during the video was a Royal Canadian Air Force pilot during the Battle of Britain. An American, who turned down a Yale scholarship to enlist in the Canadian Air Force in order to get in the war, was only 19 years old when left to fly Spitfires in England. The poem was written during his service tour.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Great Moments in Baseball Movies

Tom Hanks is one of my favorite actors especially when he goes to his comedic abilities. In the film  "A League of Their Own" he plays the sometimes sober manager of the Rockford Peaches. This is the now famous 'No Crying in Baseball' scene,  a true classic.............enjoy!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Hogan Way

Ever since I saw Ben Hogan play in the 1964 PGA Championship at Columbus Country Club in Columbus, Ohio I have been intrigued by his golf swing and it's incredible efficiency. Here's a sample of  'The Hawk' and his memorizing swing action, Stevie Ray Vaughn provides the musical accompaniment.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Overland Golf Course, Big Timber, Montana

New Kid on the Blog

Hi Everyone,
  My name is Tom and I'm a 67 year old retired airline pilot living and playing in Livingston, Montana. Aside from enjoying all the free time retirement affords you my main interests are PC flight simulation, golf, baseball, and fly fishing hence the blog title of Flyballgame. Those will be the primary topics that will be covered therein and if you like anything about this let me know and even the stuff you don't particularly care for, so here it goes and wish me luck.