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Page 144
A History of Austin's Newest General Aviation Airport
W. H
Chapter 8
So that's what Francine's daddy did. Ray-
mond Zschiesche took a breath and stepped
up into the cockpit, strapped himself in, and
held on.
Twenty minutes later when the two touched
down and taxied the airplane to a standstill,
Ray asked if Francine might want a spin
around the patch.
"Well," Francine said, staring at her daddy,
whose expression before and after the flight
hadn't changed. "I wouldn't mind, if you think
it's okay."
"You sure about this?" Raymond Zschie-
sche asked.
"I think so."
He gave her a serious judicious look, then
glanced at the airplane and then out past
the runway to the pasture beyond. "Go on,
then," her daddy said. "You buckle up tight,
you hear me."
"I will."
"Do what Mr. Harding tells you," Raymond
Zschiesche said. "I mean it, now." Off her
look, he said, "You don't have to do this?"
Now more confident, she said, "I don't have
to. I want to."
Years later, after Raymond Zschiesche was
gone and Francine had grown up and married
and had two children of her own, the airport
still played a part in their lives. She recalled
packing up the kids and making the short
trip from her home in Austin up to Manor to
visit her mother, now living alone. Otillie's
old brick home had become a place for week-
end visits and family gatherings on special
occasions. Francine's husband would drive
slowly along narrow Gregg Manor Road and
hang a left onto Fuchs Grove Road, and when
the car got close to the airport the children
would put their faces to the glass and point
out airplanes sitting on the ramp or under the
sunshade and skydivers floating overhead
aiming for a big circle of gravel in the field.
If the family arrived early enough one of the
children, Scott or Kimberly, whoever shouted
first, might point out a massive hot air balloon
laying on its side, half-inflated, with nylon and
color flapping in the wind, a wicker basket
somewhere in all the lines, a flame shooting
out the top of the basket and a dozen people
standing around holding onto ropes to keep
the showy balloon from floating away. Fran-
cine and the kids might bypass mom's house
for a few minutes and see if they couldn't lend
a hand getting a balloon or two off the ground
and up into the air.
As much as the Zschiesche family liked the
Hardings, the neighborly relationship had its
problems. Otillie, living alone after her hus-
band passed, didn't take kindly to pilots run-
ning off the end of runway 16 into her corn
fields (which didn't happen too often), nor to
skydivers landing willy-nilly on her property
(which happened all the time). Most of the
jumpers were scared they'd missed the drop
zone so badly and here comes some halfwit
friend in a pickup truck zooming out into the
open field to pick them up before anyone no-
tices, and flattening great swaths of bamboo-
like stalks with their pale yellow silk tassels
as if none of the Zschiesche's could figure out
what had happened or care that all that de-
struction came at a cost. It wasn't the missed
landing that did so much damage to the crops,