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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide for Reeves County, Trans-Pecos, Big Bend of West Texas


Wednesday, January 7, 1998


By Greg Harman

What's with the balloonatic?

So, what's all the hubbub, bub?
Up in that balloon again, huh?
Yeah, those big dreams got a millionaire on the go. To where?
Circumnavigating the world. Strange. Ballooning, the most ancient form of air travel, has yet to pass the critical test that has made the shipping and airplane industries so viable financially: one long, successful circle.
European expansion carved waterways around the globe hundreds of years ago in order to over-awe their rulers with shiny rocks and baubles from abroad and speed the spread of a darker brand of slave the world over. (This is a soundly pessimistic view of history, but closer to the point than what many were exposed to in history class.)

Later, after the coasts of the world had been sketched and the interiors explored, mankind took to the air. The relatively new commodities of steel and oil were cluttering up the hills and valleys, so the Wright boys got out of the bicycle biz and put their thinking caps on and got us off our collective duffs and into the "wild blue" in order to hop those skyscraper obstacles.
That's exciting to me. Portraits of humankind in action. Peary, charting a way to due-est north, Lindbergh and vanished Amelia Earhart both played their part: revving the throttle of aeronautic interest straight into a world that continues to exponentially increase its knowledge and discoveries. That's really something. So why should these 'balloonatics' excite me, lagging behind history so?

Scientists are breaking down the building blocks of matter into quarks and the quirks of quarks, robots are stamping their tread-prints on the surface on the red planet, and T.V. dinners (once strictly meat and potatoes on ice) have advanced into highly gourmet-sounding entrees. Why should a millionaires' extravagance excite me in the face of these truly modern marvels?

Perhaps the significance of this recently-downed-over-Russia balloonist's quest is reflected in the very fact that I cannot recall his name. A guest on the news hour last night, an editor at Outdoor Magazine, brought some of my feelings to light by sharing his staffs' slang term for these big-money pilots: balloonatics.

He said that these thrill-seekers were all either millionaires or people with the uncanny ability to raise millions (which would, in affect, make them millionaires). He said that they were heavy betters and eccentrics, etcetera.

This in itself didn't surprise me, but it helped me understand a little why I just can't get excited about an out-moded exploit.

These types of events meant something once, these feats over nature. When the world rallied around their heroes who pitted themselves against a world that was infinitely larger and much stranger than it is today. I can't find any room in my fascination diet for these self-seeking high-finance adventurers. It just seems showy and frivolous, going up in a modern balloon to conquer an ancient globe, like taking on nature with one arm tied behind the back. I'm even aware of the dangers, and of those who were shot down several years ago in the same attempt.

But with the kind of money that goes into every expedition of this sort, I can't help but feel a little angry (does it show?) when there are so many sick and suffering in this world and there are so many places that a few mil could really make a difference. Those who get my respect are serving others, not their own helium-inflated dreams.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Greg Harman is an Enterprise Writer whose column appears each Wednesday. He can be e-mailed at:

Your View

Website reader searches for information

To The Editor:

I am hoping that you can help me in my search for information on my father, Frank Hiltz, from whom I was separated many years ago. He was raised in Saginaw, MI, went into the Army and then the Army Air Corps from 1940 to 1948. He settled in Texas and I believe it may have been in your area.

I am looking for any information about him - you see we just got a computer and when I started searching I found that he had died April 15, 1992.
Anything you can help me with will be appreciated.

Judi Duke
Saratoga Springs, NY

Your View

McKinney receives support as police chief

To The Editor:

These words are in response to Luis and Connie Esparza's false and misleading letter. You are so worried about what type of example Clay McKinney sends to our community, well let's talk about that.

Since his employment with Sheriff Gomez, Clay McKinney has either directly or indirectly been responsible for placing 219 felony drug offenders in jail, therefore decreasing the availability of drugs in our town.
Clay McKinney is continuously speaking to our children at their schools on drug awareness.

Clay McKinney is involved in our community through several committees and organizations.

Clay McKinney, while being employed full time, received his Bachelor of Arts Degree.

Clay McKinney has received over ten commendations and awards for his service in law enforcement.

Has your family always set a good example for the community?

Clay McKinney assisted in the arrest of Ricky Millan, (your son), for burglary.

Is this the real reason for your letter?

The Pecos City Council are educated and responsible people and I doubt that they will fall for your scheme.

Mae Martinez

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