I met Mike Pollack 25 years ago when I was instructing at the A.I. Martin airport in Montour Falls. It was a surprisingly good runway at the edge of the Catherine Marsh. Mike and his friend Dave would fly down together from Dundee to take lessons in an old Aeronca that they owned.
By the next summer, Mike, Dave, the Aeronca, and I had all stopped flying, and I didn't see Mike again until 1988 when I joined the Dundee Club. He still intended to finish his lessons, but he is a clever and hard working guy, with many interests, abilities, and a family. Flying could never stay on the top of the list long enough.
Recently, on a cold sunny Monday after a Sunday ice storm, Clarence Sebring received a distress call from Mike. Mike knows how small their corner of Yates County is when seen from the air, and he was anxious to find his 28 brown and white cattle. They had wandered off the night before, and he had spent the morning calling on the telephone and riding the back roads in an unsuccessful search for them.
Clarence never needs too much of an excuse to go flying, and the ice- crusted snow only made the flight more interesting. On a day when the big airports were all but closed because of ice, Clarence and Mike tiptoed the Cessna 150 across the expanse of crusted snow that covered Dundee's humble airstrip, and took off in search of the cattle.
They figured that the cattle would be between Big Stream at the south and Himrod Gorge on the north, and the lake to the east, so they flew a grid pattern between those natural boundaries. They thought that a herd of cattle would readily stand out from the snow- covered scenery below, but there is such detail to be seen from an airplane that initially they missed them.
I'd have been a poor choice to help find the cattle. I would have seen the railroad wye where the pusher locomotives up from Watkins turned around, I'd have seen the traces of glacial moraines that wander across the landscape, and I'd have seen the woodland hideaway cabins, lots of friends' houses, and the traces of the original survey lines that were laid out with the coming of the region's first settlers.
Two dozen brown and whites aren't too hard for persistent people to spot, however, and on a second pass over the area, the cattle were found. They were together in a clearing about a mile from Mike's. They were out of sight of the road, away from any houses, and no one had likely witnessed their wanderings. It might have been a while before they were found had it not been for the airplane.
Mike rounded up a bunch of friends and drove his cattle home, and Clarence finished the day with yet another story of his thirty- odd years of flying at Dundee.
To contact Bob Tilden, send an e-mail.