When Your Kid Chooses a Dangerous Career

As I’m sure many of you are aware, yesterday, an air tanker fighting the fires in Australia, crashed, killing the crew.


Fly firefighting air tankers is my 16 year old son’s singular goal in life.

I’ve had a lot of family and friends tell me this is a dangerous career.  Yes, I know.  They ask how I feel about his career choice.  I say I’m supportive of it.  They kind of look at me in wonder.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m still supportive of his career goals.

But the crash gave me pause.   It hit closer to home for some reason.

Evan has always been interested in aviation.  My Dad is a private pilot and has a plane, so he was exposed to it early.  One late afternoon several years ago, we were on our way to a Scout meeting.  A large fire was raging in neighboring Mendocino County and air tankers were flying in and out of our local Cal Fire Air Attack base.  As we were driving, a huge (and I mean . . . huge) air tanker roared over our head so low, it startled me and I was like, “what the heck was that??” as I stared through my sun roof.

That, Evan said, is what I want to do.  He was hooked.  And has remained so since that day.

So, eventually, he started flying lessons.  In late March, he will finish up his private pilot licenses in both fixed wing (airplanes) and rotary (helicopters).  You think its hard to watch your kid drive off in a car for the first time by themselves?  Yeah, try watching them fly away in an airplane and then a helicopter by themselves for the first time.  He completed his solo flights in both airplanes and helicopters on his 16th birthday, before he got his driver’s license.

The other day I heard a helicopter.  I went outside . . . yep, it was Evan, circling the house.

When Air Tanker 134 crashed yesterday, Evan got a text from a friend, letting him know about the accident.  He’s made a lot of contacts in the industry.  Maybe that’s why it hit close . . . it was clear to me that he’s IN this, he knows people in the industry, he’s already a part of that community.

It was quiet in the car as he texted back, “Any survivors?”.


I asked Evan if he was sure that’s what he wanted to do.  Maybe he’d like to find a less dangerous pilot job.  “No way.” he said.  And we talked about it.  “There are many, many air tanker pilots who go their entire careers without crashing or even having some sort of incident” he argued.  I acknowledged that he was correct in that statement.

Aahhhh . . . to be 16 and invincible.

When I tucked him into bed (yep, I still tuck him in most nights), I asked if he was upset about the crash.  “No.  You seem to be way, way more upset about it than I am.” he told me.

Well, he’s certainly right about that.



Squirrels and Frogs

Last Friday night, our power kept browning out.  After 5 or 6 hours of it, we called PG&E (our power company).  A truck arrived surprisingly fast.  The diagnosis:  Squirrels.  Squirrels had chewed through most of the main power line from the road to our house.  No, I did not have a pile of electrocuted squirrels in my yard.  I’m not sure exactly why . . . something about whether or not the squirrels were grounded while they were munching away.  (I don’t really understand electricity.)

Of course, this meant that our power had to be shut off to stop the browning.  I guess our appliances would have eventually been fried . . . or something.  So, there, we had our own personal power outage.  Yay.

Power outages at our house means no water either.  We’re on a well and the pump is electric.  Thankfully, we had all taken showers before we decided to call PG&E.  A crew came out Saturday morning to run a brand new line.  Maybe this one won’t be as tasty to our neighborhood squirrels.

And frogs . . . Last night I was on my way out of the house to dance class.  I was literally at the front door and already running late.  My daughter yelled at me, “Mom!!  I think my frog is stuck!!”  What?  Seriously?  A stuck frog?  So I dropped all of my stuff and walked down the hallway to her room.  Her little frog had wedged itself up in the corner of its aquarium and had one little froggy arm over its air hose.

I quickly thought through the problems in my head:  1)  The frog is jumpy!  Like, super jumpy!  If the frog got out, that would be the end of dance class because I’d be chasing the frog around the room for the rest of the night.  2)  The frog is little!  Which would make finding a loose, jumpy, frog all the more difficult.  3)  The frog’s skin is slightly poisonous (or so the pet store told me when we got it).  That meant I’d have to go find gloves if I were going to attempt to untangle the small, jumpy, frog.

With those things running through my mind, I quickly declared that the frog would be “Just fine!” and left for class.

That’s my life . . . electrical line eating squirrels and stuck frogs.