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The ‘universe’ needed to send me to Yuma

Progressive Dairyman Editor Walt Cooley Published on 11 September 2014

I have to admit that I wanted to write this editorial just because the headline is so intriguing. When I teased the idea of it to my fellow editors Emily Caldwell, Peggy Coffeen and Karen Lee, they said they wanted to read a draft when it was ready.

What follows is mostly a travelog, but it does have a happy ending.

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In early August, I boarded a flight from Fresno, California, to Phoenix, Arizona. I had just returned from visiting with executives at World Ag Expo in Tulare, California, to confirm our partnership to offer dairy-specific seminars during their February 2015 show.

I was leaving a state that was hot and bone-dry. The hour drive from the show grounds to the airport was a mostly brown and tan-colored one. Most prominent was the occasional lifeless orchard or stack of dead fruit trees piled up due to a lack of water.

While in the air and 15 minutes before the end of the planned 45-minute flight, the pilot came over the intercom for an announcement:

“For those of you with an acute inner ear, you’ll notice that we are circling. There is a large monsoon-season thunderstorm over Phoenix, and air traffic control has suspended all aircraft from landing.”

For the next 20 minutes, I counted the number of times we circled past the spot on the ground that looked from the air like a sewer treatment plant for some small Arizona town. Its greenish lagoon ponds were most distinguishable. I think we passed it four times. Overall, the flight was a merry-go-round I wanted off of.

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As we banked to the right after passing that green-ish pit on the ground one more time, I could see the tall, dark thunder clouds parked over where we should have been going. Just then, the unmistakable ding the pilot sends over the intercom when he wants to speak to the stewardess rang out.

I could tell we weren’t going to our original destination when the tall, dark-haired stewardess hung up a tan cabin phone, bit her lip and headed through the first-class cabin to the back of the plane.

Moments later the captain came back on: “We’re not going to be able to circle long enough before we run out of fuel to land. We’re being diverted to Yuma.”

What followed next was the most gratifying part of the journey.

The woman in the row in front of me squealed in delight. I overheard her telling her seat mate why.

The woman’s son was a marine and serving on active duty. She hadn’t seen him for more than two years as his leave had not permitted him enough time to get home. She not-so-secretly hoped to be able to get to see him.

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As we descended on the joint civilian-military airport, I could tell the crops in Yuma were doing much better than where I had just come from. Their orchards were green, and the flood-irrigated ground between each tree top reflected back the evening skylight. We stepped out onto the warm, arid airstrip at dusk.

The airline personnel directed us to the terminal to wait for the storm in Phoenix to pass.

More than 90 minutes later, when we boarded the plane again, this time in the dark, I realized the woman was not on the plane. Her seat mate told of an emotional reunion between the woman and her son. She was going to stay in Yuma and spend some time with him.

A slender, middle-aged woman within earshot of the story and one who looked like a stereotypical hippie then commented on the happy ending. She said: “Well, the universe must have needed to send us all to Yuma to reunite that woman with her son.”

With a bit more religious conviction, I thought, “Yes, God did need to divert a few of us for a couple of hours in order to answer the prayer of a mother.” I was okay with that.

When we landed in Phoenix, I discovered all of the potential connecting flights to my final destination had left for the night. Luckily, I was able to get a seat on the first flight out the next morning.

For such a disruptive, unpredictable day, I was calm when I arrived at a hectic hotel near the airport that night. If one woman benefitted from the day, it was worth it. Plus, it didn’t hurt that I’d bought travel insurance for the trip either.

Dairy farming is full of unexpected twists and turns. If you do experience a little turbulence, trust that God has a plan, even if it may include a random side trip. PD

  • Walt Cooley

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