Few times in my writing career can I recall such distinct honor being bestowed upon me as today when I was asked to do the write up for the 22nd Meet ‘n Meat. It was the best of contests, it was the worst of contests—and when I say “worst”, I mean, “worst” as in amazing and spectacular. That’s a thing, right?
Late September brought beautiful weather with a touch of heat coming in each afternoon. Considering that we had multiple triple digit days the week preceding, the sweater weather mornings were a blessing. Field conditions were fair, but they would have been horrible without the long efforts of the Woodland Davis guys like Pete Cuna, and Doug Barton, filling holes and cracks which the drought caused during the last two and a half years.
Saturday was Classic and Old Time Stunt. Bob Harness decided to destroy the competition with a Thunderbird and Ringmaster. My dad, Lanny Shorts, had trouble at the Nats with a loose motor in his Gypsy and couldn’t remember if he had repaired it since then. (I guess that happens at age 85.) Nonetheless, when he found out I was flying a ringmaster in classic he declared he would never lose to a ringmaster. Apparently, he had repaired his Gypsy and stood behind his claim. I scored a 498, he scored 498.5 for second place.
Sunday, defending Fox .15 Hurl Champion, Zach Schulz, won his first contest in decisive fashion—he was the only beginner. This is an excellent moment to speak of yet another act of extreme generosity from the control line community. Back in June, some of us Nor-Cal fliers were practicing at our secret location on County road 7, just 2.5 miles—oh wait… Zach was flying a Flite Streak and still struggling to do any outside maneuvers. Brett Buck was preparing for the Nats and had his “million” flight Sig Skyray with him as well. Those who have witnessed Brett fly the skyray know that it is not just some dust gatherer, but a plane he has competed with and used regularly for years. After one of Zach’s flights, Brett walked over and handed him the Skyray to try out. Immediately, Zach felt comfortable enough to try some lazy eights and even several inverted laps before the day was done. Then Brett gave it to him. Great job Mr. Buck, and great job Zach.
Intermediate was won by Doug Barton and Advanced was won by Dennis Nunez.
The experts must have really been duking it out. Brett Buck took third while Howard Rush tied David Fitzgerald for first. The other round flight score was used to break the tie and David won yet again. The traditional award (except for this year) has been etched glass mugs. David recounted a dinner party where he served margaritas to his guests from innumerable Meet ‘n Meat mugs. Good thing you can’t keep the Walker cup. Who knows what he’d use them for.
Now, let’s get down to the real event. The Hurl. In lieu of Larry Fernandez, Interim Commissioner of the Hurl and Maximum Ruler by acclamation, Buck, began the event by calculating geezer points, setting out the measuring tape, and marking the world record with a cone. The other preparations are far too exhaustive and outright beyond my comprehension to put it mildly.
The most stalworth competitors lined up, bucking for their chance to cast the nefarious fox .15, like prize thoroughbreds awaiting the start of the Kentucky Derby. Defending champions lined up, the current champion lined up, even Rob Holland (as in the umpteen time U.S and world full scale aerobatic champion) turned up for the Hurl. As the dust settled, Zach Schulz did not defend his title. The new champion, who just won his tenth National Aerobatic championship a few days earlier, is Rob Holland. Buck asked Holland where the perpetual Hurl Trophy would go in his trophy case. Mr. Holland had no hesitation as he declared it would go in front of them all.
On a final note, Uncle Jimby, Jim Aron that is, gave the most incredible trophies I’ve ever conceived of. It is a very long story, so I’ll make it even longer if possible, I mean, much shorter. Jim’s first plane he built at seven years of age was a Baby Ringmaster. He wanted to build a new one (because of another long story) and searched for plans. Unsatisfied with the accuracy of the existing plans he bought a vintage kit from ebay and created plans better than Matt Kania himself ever made. Mission accomplished. Except, Jim forgot what he was doing and then teamed up with Howard Rush to cut several kits of it. Well, if he had kits, he needed an old fashioned 1950’s Baby Ringmaster Box. These didn’t exist so he ordered the crappy vintage cardboard and had Howard cut them to size. Well, having boxes and kits, he needed a label. After an exhaustive search he finally found photos of a ripped up old ‘50s package which led him to recreating a brand-new label exactly like the original. But wait, what about the chits? Those were the little green certificates of authenticity that came in all the Sterling kits. So, after verifying that Inspector 2, Assembly Line 5, was the only supposed inspector there ever was, Jim recreated these too with Smithsonian accuracy. These Baby Ringmaster replicas were the trophies for the contestants. The kits are not “really available”, but the plans will be at some point. If you’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Uncle Jimby and think he may be insane, well, maybe you have met him after all. But as he says (and we stunt guys live up to it), “Anything worth doing, is worth doing to excess.”