forty days. forty stories.
Viewing Mifflin County from the air, you will know that pilots live here. The rocky ridges of central Pennsylvania cloaked in beautiful hardwoods and pine forest separate rich farming valleys. But among the checkerboard of fields, dotted with barns and silos, the telltale orange windsocks will give away those long grassy strips as private airfields. Look again, and a good deal of those barns turn out to be hangars.
The chart of the Ferguson Valley indicates a grass strip called Jenson Field beside the family farmhouse where Nelson Aurand was born. Nelson taught high school and later raised pigs on the land that had been home to four generations of Aurands. He flew a small PA12 until the family outgrew it.
Julie’s mom, Genevieve (Jennie) explained “We took one trip up to West VA to see Nelson’s sister, Jean and family, in that cream and red, PA12, before Julz was one month old,” says Jennie now. “I said – ‘Never again.’ We need a 4 place.”
They bought a blue, black and white Cessna 170B, a four seater. Julie remembers family trips to the shore and to visit relatives in it.
Nelson died in the 1987 in the same house where he was born. But aviation is still important in the family. Julie got her Private Pilots License in Alaska and has flown solo flights between the villages of the Kuskokwim River. Jennie remarried into a family of pilots from the next valley over: The McCardle family home has a grass strip. Harv is a pilot, as are his brother and father, and the family hangar has a number of planes in various degrees of construction.