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County Agent Guy

By Staff | Jun 8, 2020

My wife and I were recently noshing on burritos in the parking lot of a city park. We had the car’s windows rolled down, so it counted as a picnic. And since we were eating away from home, it also counted as a date.

Young families were scattered around the park, enjoying the obscenely pleasant spring weather. Honest-to-goodness picnics were taking place on some of the picnic tables. It appeared that much of the food was provided by Ronald McDonald.

Smatterings of small children were tearing around on the manicured grass and making use of the playground equipment. We noticed a toddler who had just learned how to run. She was scurrying hither and yon, her little legs churning like an eggbeater, her harried mother following in her wake. The child’s pink running outfit and the mom were both getting a vigorous workout.

“No wonder we don’t have any energy,” said my wife. “We used it all up when we were little!”

We were all Olympic athletes in training when we were kids. Almost every day, we set new personal records. Our homes should be crammed with medals and trophies commemorating those astonishing acts of preadolescent athleticism.

My academic career began at Oslo District #95, a one-room country school. On the last day of first grade, I was introduced to an activity called Field Day.

Field Day was not, as its name implied, a day that was spent pulling weeds in the corn fields that surrounded the schoolhouse. It instead involved competitive track and field events, with colorful ribbons awarded to the top performers. I instantly decided that I wanted a ribbon more than anything even though I hadn’t known what a ribbon was up until that moment.

I glanced at District #95’s playground equipment and tried to assess my odds. Few could zoom down the slide faster than me (my secret was to place a sheet of wax paper beneath my heinie during my preparatory run). And nobody could beat my double-leg pumping method on the swing set. I could swing so high that the swing’s chains would become parallel to the ground.

Sadly, none of the playground equipment that I had trained upon so strenuously would be used during Field Day. We were encouraged to compete in such activities as footraces and hurdles and the long jump. In other words, the sort of stuff that kids do even without the lure of pretty ribbons.

But there was a problem. District #95 was a one-room school, which mean that it encompassed grades one through eight. Our two eighth graders were both named Steve, so we referred to them as The Steves.

I looked up to The Steves. Literally. They towered over me and had deep voices that boomed like the hoots of giant owls. I think The Steves had to shave every day.

As much as I admired The Steves, there was no way I could compete with them athletically. They had legs like Clydesdales and their arms bulged with muscles the size of softballs. I, on the other hand, had broomstick legs; my arms were spindly twigs that hung from my shoulders.

An athletic competition with The Steves would be like a toad racing a cheetah.

But our teacher, Mrs. Engle, wisely set up the competitions by age groups. Scrawny little first graders thus wouldn’t have to run against the god-like titans from the eighth grade.

One of the events was the long jump. I learned that you had to run as fast as you could then hurl yourself forward, like an oversized frog, from a line that was drawn on the lawn. My long jumps invariably ended with crash landings; grass stains covered every inch of my body. I still have some of them.

I asked if I could launch my long jump from the seat of the swing, but the idea was swiftly vetoed.

The schoolhouse lawn was about 50 yards wide, so Field Day concluded with an all-school 50-yard dash. Even though I stood zero chance against The Steves, I bolted from the starting line with all the might my broomsticks could muster.

As I sprinted toward the finish line, I noticed that The Steves seemed to be having trouble running. They shot looks at the other older kids and they also began to slow down.

The three first graders finished first, second and third in the all-school 50-yard dash. I nearly burst with pride as we were awarded our ribbons.

I was extremely happy when I received the prize for third place. But I bet I would have won the race if I had started it with a zoom down the slide.

Jerry Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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County Agent Guy

By Staff | Jun 8, 2020

As a little girl growing up on a dairy farm at Kenyon, Minnesota, Tammi dreamed of becoming an astronaut.

“I would sleep outside without a tent so I could look up at the stars,” she said.

After high school, Tammi enrolled at University of Minnesota Duluth. She joined the Air Force ROTC and changed her life’s goal to becoming a pilot.

“Getting a pilot training slot depends on your GPA and how much you participate in ROTC activities,” Tammi said. “My GPA wasn’t the best, so I participated as much as I could.”

Tammi graduated from college and received her officer’s commission on the same day. The autumn of 1999 found Tammi in undergraduate pilot training (UPT) in Oklahoma.

“UPT was 52 weeks of drinking from a firehose,” Tammi recalled. “It was tough. The typical day was 12 hours long. There were 20 people in my class, and I was the only female.”

After earning her wings, Tammi was sent to combat and water survival school.

“We had to learn water and wilderness survival techniques. My teammate and I spent a night out in the woods during the winter. We made a cave under a tree root. It was extremely cold sleeping in the snow, but we survived.”

Tammi was assigned to fly the C-21, the military version of the Learjet 35A.

“We would fly high ranking military and other civic leaders to wherever they needed to be. One time we flew a C-21 all the way to Qatar. That is a long haul for a Learjet!”

Tammi’s next assignment was to McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma, Washington to fly the colossal C-17 cargo jet.

“That was another challenge because of the mission capabilities of the airplane – air refueling, low level flying, assault landings, and night vision goggle operations,” said Tammi. “I was never a copilot in the C-17; it was very daunting to be in command from day one.”

At age 27, Tammi was deemed mission ready as an aircraft commander on the C-17. She was soon flying missions into places like Kabul and Baghdad. Air refueling over the Black Sea was frequently done at night. Tammi’s aircraft hauled anything from equipment to food to troops. The president’s helicopter, Marine One, has traveled in the belly of her plane. She flew several medevac missions out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Tammi has also had the sad duty of taking fallen soldiers on their final journeys home.

One of Tammi’s many aviation adventures involved flying supply missions to the National Science Foundation’s research station in Antarctica.

“We land on a runway made of six feet of sea ice,” she said. “The C-17 can sink inches into the snow while it’s being unloaded, so it takes extra thrust to get it rolling.”

In 2007, Tammi separated from active duty and joined the Air Force Reserve. She still flies the same C-17’s she flew on active duty. She remains ready to deploy anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice.

“I was hired into the Reserve in July of 2007,” Tammi said. “Many of my Reserve colleagues were flying for Alaska Airlines, so I applied for a job with them. The timing was impeccable. I was interviewed and hired by the airline in August. It’s been a juggling act of flying two different airplanes ever since!”

I asked Tammi if there are any major contrasts between hauling freight and hauling people.

There are big differences in the handling characteristics of the aircraft,” she said. “You control the C-17 with fingertip pressure. The 737 is much more physical. And I don’t mind it if the air is a little bit bumpy. But I’m accustomed to making evasive maneuvers during takeoffs and landings or flying over the tops of thunderstorms at 40,000 feet.”

Despite big advances in gender equity, only 7% of airline pilots are women.

“Even today, as I walk through an airport, people will ask me if I’m a pilot,” Tammi said. “When I tell them that I am, they will say that they’ve never met a female pilot. We are a rarity.

“Some years ago, another female pilot and I flew a C-21 to an airshow in Texas. We were chatting about the aircraft with a young family when the father said ‘Wow, you’re really good at this. Have you ever thought about becoming an Air Force pilot?’ He was embarrassed when I pointed out that I already was. He had assumed that I was a flight nurse.

Flying for Alaska Airlines has opened up new vistas for Tammi.

“I’ve seen some of the prettiest landscapes in the world, places like Juneau and Ketchikan and Kodiak. I’ve even flown into Prudhoe Bay, where it was -70.”

Due to slowdowns in the airline industry, Tammi is taking time off to motor to Minnesota with her husband and their five-year-old son. They plan to visit relatives and perhaps, on a warm summer’s night, sit beneath the prairie sky and look up at the stars.

Jerry Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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