As a columnist, I sometimes find it necessary to have an experience for the expressed purpose of writing a column. Such experiences are often arduous and hair-raising, but hey, somebody has to do it.
    It is easier to tolerate such an experience when it happens to be something I have always wanted to try. A good example of this would be riding in a glider.     
    I have always thought of gliding as the purest form of aviation. Given the fact that gliders have neither flight attendants nor restrooms, one could argue it is also the most primitive.     
    One summer, I noticed that a sleek and shiny sailplane had taken up residence at our local airport. On sunny, summer afternoons it could be seen circling gracefully over the countryside, scouring the atmosphere for thermals although not the kind you would wear during cold weather. I had always wanted to soar like a seagull, so I contacted a friend of the aircraft’s owner to see about hitching a ride aboard the glider.       
    I was worried about the cost but was gratified to learn that one can obtain a free glider ride under the right circumstances. I will not disclose what those circumstances might be except to say that it helps to mention you have a newspaper column.     
    I was instructed to go to the airport and find a person named Maxwell, the official glider guy. I never learned if Maxwell was his first or last name.     
    I strolled around the glider and gave it a once-over. It was a tube-shaped aluminum thingy with a long, hollow slat mounted across it. It was essentially a humungous beer can with a 50-foot airfoil riveted onto it.     
    A man dressed in an olive drab jumpsuit sauntered over and introduced himself as Maxwell. Or, at least, I think he did. The guy had an accent that was thick as pea soup. It sort of sounded like he was from England.     
    “You aren’t from around here, are you?” I asked.     
    “No,” he replied. “Actually, I’m from New Zealand.”
    “Actually” came out sounding like “oxually.”     
    Great. So now I have to go flying inside of an oversized Budweiser can that is being piloted by some guy from a country where they drive on the wrong side of the road.     
    Recalling that I had a deadline, I was able to push my fears aside and shoehorned myself into the cockpit. The configuration of the dual-control glider had the student sitting in front with the official glider guy directly behind. Official glider guys are probably incurable backseat drivers.     
    I was pleased to discover that the glider’s controls were somewhat familiar. There was a gearshift lever directly in front of the seat with a pair of brake pedals on the floor. “Heck,” I thought. “This isn’t much different than a tractor.”
    The tow plane began its takeoff roll. The glider became airborne in a matter of seconds.     
    As we were being hauled up to altitude, I noticed that the brake pedals were constantly moving.
    “Uh, Max?” I said. “I don’t think hitting the brakes will do any good now that we are off the ground.”
    I was beginning to wonder about him.
    At 3,000 feet, the tow rope was released, and we began to do some honest-to-goodness gliding. We banked hard to the right and a breathtaking vista of verdant farmland spread out below us. It was quite peaceful; the only sound was that of the wind whistling over the canopy.     
    But the good times soon ended.
    “You see how she handles?” asked the Kiwi voice behind me. “Right-o. Now take the stick and fly ‘er some.”     
    I grabbed the gearshift (it must be called a stick in New Zealand) and began to move it randomly. As I tried to find a higher gear, my feet stabbed at the brake pedals. I was not able to figure out the shift pattern because the glider chose that juncture to embark on some extremely wild gyrations. Spirited commentary arose from the backseat, the gist of which I readily grasped. Accents are not much of a barrier when it comes to spirited commentary.     
    We eventually returned safely to earth. I clambered out of the cockpit and thanked Maxwell for the aerial adventure. He seemed pale and shaken. I guess airsickness can strike even the most hardened sailplane pilot.     
    Now that I have experienced aviation at its most primitive level, I have a hankering to try it at its most lavish. I am thinking maybe a voyage aboard a luxury private jet – complete with champagne and caviar, of course – might do the trick. Maybe I should contact the folks at Super D-Luxe Aerial Châteaus.     
    It is a dirty job, but hey, somebody has to do it.
    Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, South Dakota. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry currently works full time for the Dairy Star as a staff writer/ad salesman. Feel free to E-mail him at: