Oggy the Frendly Dragon

KPC Media Group columnist Lou Ann Homan, right, watches as pilot Jack Semler starts to inflate the balloon Oggy the Friendly Dragon with hot air as he prepares to launch during the media flight of Angola Balloons Aloft Friday morning.

I am back home with my feet on the ground and coffee in hand. I want to pinch myself because I think it didn’t really happen. But it did.

The text came earlier in the week from Mike. “Do you want to go up in the Media Flight balloon on Friday?” I was stunned for a moment. Three years ago I was to go up, but it was windy and rainy and it was a no fly. Shall I admit something to you? When that happened I was a bit happy for myself … not for everyone else. But on this moment of the text, I knew the weather was to be perfect. Perfect for flying.

I gulped and sent back a quick note …. uh, yeah. Now what, I asked myself. Should I watch the “Wizard of Oz” again? (Side note: Pokagon State Park was actually showing it outside on Thursday! Good choice, Pokagon.) No, maybe not. I mean, remember when she got in the basket, and the professor didn’t make it? No, should not watch that movie.

Instead I headed over to see Connie at Angola Sports Center, babbling all the while about needing a T-shirt. We chose white with red sparkly letters, “There’s no place like home. Dorothy.” She promised to have it ready by Thursday afternoon. Another perfect.

With perfect weather, perfect T-shirt and notification of family and friends, I was ready. Thursday night I set two alarms … I couldn’t be late. As it was, I really didn’t need my alarms. The sun was barely making shadows on Miss Columbia as I drove around her. Twice. I parked at the high school. Tim Crooks was already there (of course) working hard. “You have had quite a week,” I said to him, “with the cycle ride and now all of this.” He stopped for a moment to reflect on his ride and then told me I should scurry in and meet my pilot at table 33.

Meeting the pilot, I thought, then this is really going to happen. Downstairs in the cafeteria in the high school there were doughnuts and coffee, but I had to pass on all of it on this morning!

Table #33 was full of folks laughing, drinking coffee, and eating those doughnuts. They had on Balloons Aloft T-shirts, whereas I was wearing my Dorothy T-shirt. I met the pilot, Jack Semler. We weren’t there long as we were heading out to Meijers for the launch. I sent a quick note to Aaron’s family and Carolyn and hopped on in the truck pulling the balloon. Jack chose the grassy area out front because we needed so much room for our balloon, Oggy the Friendly Dragon. “It’s 12 stories high,” he told me. That is really a big balloon. The crew and volunteers from Cameron Hospital went right to work. They told me some balloons don’t need such a large crew, but because our balloon was so big, they needed extra hands. It was amazing to watch them unroll the balloon and get to work. The crowd took photos and laughed as I stood with Aaron and Rachel and Graham. Carolyn also made it over for the launch.

It seemed as if only minutes passed because Jack called me over to get in the basket. I got in and we lifted off in a nanosecond. Rachel filmed the launch as I hollered, “There’s no place like home.” I will be really honest with you, my knees were full of jelly until we were up.

Jack was amazing … calm, professional. Kelly, from the hospital, won the draw and went with us. What can I tell you, my dear little town? I can tell you that from the air, you look magnificent. Houses, farms, fields, woods, roads … everything in neat and beautiful order. I took photos, but mostly I was in awe. Jack told stories about Oggy and himself. This balloon has been everywhere around the country.

I thought I would cry, but that came later upon reflection. It happened so fast. One minute we are on the ground, the next we are sailing over the town where my heart lives.

We landed back at the high school with a perfect landing. Aaron’s family was waiting for me.

Perhaps what lies over the rainbow is … us. You. Me. Our families. Our town. The lives we have chosen.

Thanks to Mike at the Herald, to Cameron Hospital, and to Balloons Aloft and Parkview Health.

Oh, and go meet Oggy this weekend. He is, indeed, very friendly!

Lou Ann HOMAN-SAYLOR lives in Angola at the White Picket Gardens where you can find her gardening or writing late into the night under the light of her frayed scarlet lamp. She is a storyteller, teacher, writer, actress and a collector of front porch stories. She can be contacted at locketof time@aol.com.

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