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Page 145
AUSTIN EXECUTIVE AIRPORT
A History of Austin's Newest General Aviation Airport
R
on
W. H
enRiksen
Chapter 8
but the quick getaway and the knuckleheads
who tried to hide the fact that they'd been
there at all.
Missed landings weren't the only bone of
contention. For the last forty-two years the
Zschiesche family had had to contend with
the nagging easement road in and out of
the airport.
In the years Ray Harding owned the air-
port, the poor condition of the road was most-
ly a nuisance. About three times a year he'd
ask Raymond Zschiesche and later Otillie to
grade the road or allow him to spread a truck-
load of gravel or maybe just let him widen the
path so that two cars could get around each
other without flattening a couple of rows of
crops. Raymond Zschiesche had always been
civil and courteous, and he'd always said "no."
When Jerry Kahlbau and his investor
group came along in 1979, any pretense at
neighborly politeness had vanished. That the
investor group sued the county in an effort
to convince it to take over the road and turn
it into a smooth two-laner didn't make any
friends with the Zschiesche's. Otillie was six-
ty-nine years old when she got wind of the de-
vious plan and sent her youngest boy, Speedy
Zschiesche, off to the county courthouse to
tell her side of it--that the road was private
property, always had been, always would be.
The county agreed.
By the time I came along and made an offer
to buy the family farm, the Zschiesches had
put up with four decades of pilots and jump-
ers and sightseers zooming back and forth
up the dusty road, each time rumbling past
the Zschiesche home's front door not fifty
feet away. I imagined Francine's father, old
Raymond John Zschiesche, in the last years
of his life, holding up a gnarled fist each time
he heard a car or an old Dodge D-100 pickup
with a pair of noisy glasspack mufflers blow-
ing past, each time some thrill-seeker turned
off of Fuchs Grove Road with his radio blar-
ing, fat truck tires spitting rock and loose
gravel every which way, each time a fine
layer of dust settled over the damp laundry
Otillie had pinned to the clothesline earlier in
the day, and I imagined Raymond Zschiesche
cursing the day a crazy, idealistic couple of
kids, Ray and Mary Harding, bought the land-
locked piece of Texas scrub next door and for
some screwball reason got it into their heads
to build an airstrip.
And who could blame him?
All to say that the property came with some
history and a history the Zschiesche clan
would just as soon put behind them.
Round One With
The Zschiesches
In October 2007, Rick Winter, acting as my
real estate go-between, finally reached Fran-
cine Priscilla Zschiesche, now Francine Her-
nandez, the only surviving child of Raymond
and Otillie Zschiesche, and he presented what
I believed was a generous offer.
One, I agreed to buy the property for $11,500
per acre ($1,150 more per acre than the high-
est appraisal price) or approximately $4.2
million in total. Two, I agreed to put $500,000
down and I asked the sellers, Francine and
the four other heirs (Speedy Zschiesche's