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#51 “The Nudist Camp” by Gayle Crowder

I’m in my thirties. Over the past few years, since I started flying, some of my best pals have become folks in their sixties. Other than my parents, I’d never really talked to people in that age group. I’m so lucky that my venture into aviation has delivered me these gifts of friendship. Otherwise, I’d have missed out on all sorts of crazy things! I’ve laughed more since these people accepted me into their flying circles than I have in my entire life.

Here are two examples: Shortly after I met David we went flying together for the first time.  Now, I didn’t know David at all. I’d met him at the store where I work and somehow he’d let it slip that he had an airplane. I’d always been fascinated by airplanes, so I was at full attention. I don’t recall how, but I managed to wangle from him the promise of a ride. He said we’d go once the weather cooled down. I never expected to hear from him again.

A couple of months later he called and asked if I remembered him. “I’m the guy with the airplane,” he said. Of course I remembered him! We made plans to meet at his little airport a few days later. I’d never heard of this airport, though it was in the same county where I live. I’d soon find out there were some other things I didn’t know about in my county.

After a few phone calls back and forth with him, I finally found the driveway to the airport. The airfield was not visible from the road. There were rows of really old hangars containing really old airplanes. I wondered for a minute if this was going to be safe. David seemed nice enough, near sixty, and his plane was gorgeous. He explained that it was a 1941 Taylorcraft. 1941? I wondered again if it was safe. He walked me through the preflight inspection, explaining in great detail everything he was doing. I was intensely interested. I still remember every word he said. That day turned my life upside down.

We crawled into the tiny cockpit and took off. My jaw was on the floor before we were a hundred feet up. I loved it!

We’d barely cleared the trees at the end of the runway when he started a little turn. He said, “Now look down there on your right, that’s the nudist camp.” I almost choked.

What have I gotten myself into? I thought. I don’t know this guy at all and he’s showing me a nudist camp? I didn’t even know we had a nudist camp!

photo by Chris Crowder

Yeah, the old guy that runs it gets all mad when we fly over this low. He comes running out and shakes his fist at us. It’s not like you can see anything but old, flabby people anyway!” he explained. Well, that cracked me up. I was beginning to enjoy this fellow.

We tooled around for a while, then I took the controls of an airplane for the very first time. It was amazing! I was still flying even after we landed. While he put the plane away he told me about the customary beer you drink after a safe landing in a taildragger. I thought he was full of baloney, but we sat outside his hangar for a while with a couple of other pilots who’d also been flying. I had my first customary taildragger beer, and was hooked on aviation from that moment forward.

I hung around David and those other guys at the airport from then on.  I learned all about telling tall tales and hangar flying. “Bullshitting,” as they’d say. I didn’t learn how to do that until I had my own flying stories, but….

….fast forward a little.  My flight instructor, Don, was in his sixties. He and I were on perhaps our second flight together. I’d only met him a couple of times. I didn’t know him, either.

We’d done some pattern work and decided to just go fly around a little so I could get the feel of the airplane. We were meandering about, enjoying the nice weather and smooth flight, when suddenly he tapped my shoulder.

“Look down there to your left. There’s the nudist camp.” I just about fell out of the airplane. What was it about strange men I didn’t know, pointing out that place to me?

“Yeah, sometimes you fly over on a hot day in the summer and they’ll be out there on those metal boats on the lake. Looks like they’d have to put a towel down or something to keep from burning their asses,” he said, and laughed. “It’s not like you can see anything down there except old, flabby people!”  That’s when I knew Don and I were going to get along just fine.

We landed, put the plane away, then shared that customary taildragger safe-landing beer.

These days, David is my best buddy. Don is one of my favorite people. I would never have believed it if you’d told me a few years ago that there isn’t really a “generation gap” at all. All you have to do is fly over a nudist camp with a total stranger and suddenly, you’re friends for life.




19 comments to #51 “The Nudist Camp” by Gayle Crowder

  • James

    I hear they are looking for new members over there at the camp so just “do drop in”. LOL Enjoyed your article.

  • Gayle Crowder

    Thanks, Uncle J! I appreciate the comment. I think I’ll stick to flying over, though…it’s not as if you can see anything from up there!

  • Great Story Gayle! Oh.. by the way it was your wind story that inspired me to tell mine.

  • Gayle Crowder

    Wow, thanks, Bert! It’s been great “working” with you this week!

  • gerald smith

    Got a real hoot out of your “tree hopping”. It takes a whole lot of courage to fly over any kind of “camp” in a a 60 year old airplane. I don’t have the courage to try it. So I’ll stick with joing the “colony”.

    Great article.

  • Gayle Crowder

    Thanks a lot, Gerald! Glad you enjoyed my tale and hope to see you soon 🙂

  • Patti Dunford

    Great story! 🙂

  • Dave Austin

    I got your link from FB and really enjoyed your writing! I have an approximately 60 year old copy of FLYING Magazine with an article about a nudist colony as seen from the air AND the ground- tastefully of course! I’ll have to find it for you.

    Keep up the flying and writing with passion. It’s infectious.

    • brian

      Thanks for that nice comment, Dave. We at the Tailwheeler’s Journal are very proud to feature Gayle’s stories. I’m happy to report that there are more on the way!

    • Gayle Crowder

      That’s so cool, Dave! I’d LOVE to see the copy of that magazine. I am so glad you enjoyed my story. Many thanks to Brian for the opportunity to be featured here! I’m definitely passionate about the flying, and the writing thing is coming along nicely. The comments are awesome and inspire me to write more. Many thanks!

  • Adina Szewczyk

    Very cute story. There’s nothing like an airport. You can find some really interesting and fun people.

  • John Carroll

    Is that the naked truth, or are there other details that we need to uncover? We have a nudist colony here in the state of New Hampshire that I have heard pilots talk about flying over. I can’t help wondering if they too have some old guy whose job it is to wave an angry fist at low flying aircraft.

    But my real question remains this. In the event of an engine failure, should the pilot of the aircraft in distress try to stretch his/her glide to or away from a nudist colony? I checked, but the regulations don’t seem to cover that contingency. My best guess is that pilots should direct their aircraft away from the colony, to avoid being BARELY legal. ?

    • brian

      Oh, what a great question! I’ve been waiting for this one! An engine failure or other emergency calling for an immediate landing can always be handled in a variety of ways. I had one once for which I’ve been criticized. Instead of simply putting the airplane into a perfectly nice field, I chose to land on a curving road, requiring a landing in a turn, a roll out to a fire department and the ability to fix the problem and take off again, a maneuver I never could have pulled off if I had simply put it in that waiting field. A pilots actions are determined by many things, including his own experience, judgement and ability. I don’t believe in “armchair quarterbacking” of any pilot’s actions. Plus,nudists don’t usually have pockets in which they can have a multiplier or other tools.

  • John Carroll

    I completely agree with you on the Monday morning quarterbacking. I once had to land with a friend on a busy highway at night because of an engine failure. At the time, I tried desperately to avoid the press who arrived on scene because I was trying to get into the airlines and did not want that kind of publicity.

    I would have avoided those news hounds anyhow, even the cute woman reporter who was chasing me down for a story, very much in the same way that I avoid politicians. But in the later case, my reluctance has more to do with a visceral fear of catching whatever it is that makes them act so stupidly, and with so much greed on both sides of the isle.

    Shakespeare was right. Kill the lawyers!

  • Bob Turner

    Droped into Warf for gas before you were born! Tough old lady offered to start me – I’ll never forget. She insisted that I start on the left mag – said I didn’t have an impulse on the right. I decided not to argue, and did as she said. I still have those mags, although they had to be replaced when I installed the radio. Yeah, it started fine on the left. Yeah, they both have impulse couplings

  • Gayle Crowder

    How cool, Bob Turner, landing at Warf before I was born! It’s neat to hear from someone who knows the airport. Here’s an update as this article was written in 2013. I moved from North Carolina to Oregon in 2014, am in my mid-forties, my best pals are still David, Don, and folks in their sixties (and 70’s, 80’s, and a few really cool 90-somethings!) I have an Alon A-2 Aircoupe complete with all the necessities including rudder pedals and the ability to spin and stall with the best. It lacks a tailwheel but gets the job done regardless. Thanks for commenting!

    • John Carroll


      I very much enjoyed your article but am actually responding to a comment that you made in your responses. How do you like your move to Eastern Oregon? I am from New England and am tired of the snow and bitter winter weather. I even considered moving to the Corvalis or McMinnville area, perhaps to be closer to the Spruce Goose, but I think the frequent rains would be too depressing for me.

      It would be nice to be that much closer to some great aviation history. At present, I am a couple of years from making such a move and have narrowed my search to just a few areas of the country with milder weather, areas that are also low in criminals and mosquitoes, with the mosquitoes being the worse of the two! Would you mind briefly commenting on what you experienced moving between both coasts.

      Thank you

      • brian

        Well, although I’ve been there quite a bit, I’ve never moved to Eastern Oregon, being based at Sisters, just above Bend. We get enough snow that sometimes we have to shovel… it’s almost worth getting a snow blower! I was in Florida and Georgia before coming out here and I can tell you that the dryness of Central Oregon is great! It seemed that between the sweat rolling into my eyes and the fact that everything wanted to bite me (mosquitos, alligators, snakes) in the South, I’m happy as a clam out here. As far as criminals are concerned, they are everywhere and the female variety always try to get your airplane, some succeeding. A little diligence can thwart them, though! One good thing about the South: Both of my kids were bi-lingual, speaking both English and Redneck, and in one case, French as well.

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