Now the plan was to fly in my new little yellow cub from Texas on to the Falkland Islands with my latest sponsors, Alvin and Kandy of AMT Training Solutions, promoting our talks along the way.
From Argentina I was to fly back up the Andes mountain range to the Rockies for Alaska. My floats were waiting there and once assembled it was either trans-Canada on the lakes, converting to skis for the North Pole on the Hudson Bay or, if no sponsorship matured, back on wheels again for Greenland and home.
But arrested just 5 miles from the US President's ranch near Crawford, East Texas, on the 25th April at gun point, had now put the whole dream in jeopardy.
Once the Secret Service had handed me over to the FBI on the side of the road [like I was the last fertile Dodo egg on the planet] then the Sheriff of McClellan County turns up, Stetson and all amounting to eleven vehicles by now. After numerous phone calls I was made to do the ‘field sobriety' test and ‘walk the line', heel to toe, nine times, turn and repeat the same back again without falling over or miscounting!
Now counting was fine but memories immediately came flooding back of a certain veterinary student, Gareth Jones, back in 1967 who, whilst a little under the influence of my home made beer, returning late at night from a boat party in Bristol, had received the very first roadside ‘breath test' having put his old car through a hedge! The Breath Test marked the ending of the days when certain of the ‘chosen', unrecognised at the motoring scene, were later taken aside at the station to be allowed to quietly sober up!
Needless to say I failed the ‘sobriety test'. To walk in the way dictated, with all that metal in my leg, a previously dislocated hip, a fractured pelvis, ankle and toes made it quite out of the question!
So on to the Waco County Prison was my next stop, in handcuffs again, for Uncle Sam's alternative, a ‘definitive test' by blowing into a machine which gave the predicted four nought reading of alcohol in the blood stream. The hastily thought after drug tests held a similar zero result. But this was just delay tactics with no audit trail.
Was I going home now? No chance. After still more delay it was then suggested I had said to a prison warder, during a very fascinating prison experience, I had ‘glided my aircraft from Japan onto the US President's front lawn and recently had ditched [another aeroplane, I assume] in the Caribbean'. I was therefore going to Waco Hospital with the Secret Service in train for fear I was mentally ill!
After many hours of interrogation, brain scans, x-rays and analysis of body fluids, long into the dead of night, I was eventually shipped off to Austin State Hospital, down south, in handcuffs to the secure Psychiatric Unit for up to 90 days ‘observation'.
A little record keeping appeared to be creeping in so I again demanded the usual things one does in such circumstances. The making of a detailed written statement under caution and obtaining a copy of it was just one request. Access to telephone my wife, an independent medical examination, a copy of my medical records was another. "Dream on, Maurice".
After a week and failure to get heard in a court of law, get a lawyer of my own choosing, my own doctor or speak or be able to write to my family I am suddenly released with the offer of a lift to my cub in the farmer's field from either The President's Men or Deputy Sheriff of the County...my choice.
I chose neither. At the aircraft, having enjoyed Alvin and Kandy's lift and company over lunch, I say good bye and fly south for maintenance, the installing of wing tanks for Argentina and for the re registration to a UK register now it was obvious even to me, to travel foreign in a US aircraft, especially South America, sleeping under the fuselage at night or not, was shear folly.
Bellville police, a one horse town two hundred miles south, near Houston, had other ideas.
I was soon re arrested and charged for having an open alcoholic container on the road side and had much of the night under Secret Service interrogation all over again before being put back on a concrete floor with no bedding.
Next day with much futile plea bargaining, offering me $500, bail waiver and time off for good behaviour thrown my way, I am clamped in leg irons, chains and handcuffs and sped away to Houston's huge body disposal factory for aliens dominated by affable but apparently subservient Mexicans who slept most of the day and snored most of the night.
To cut a long story short I was soon segregated for ten days from the one thousand inmates without access to any semblance of a judicial system, contact with my wife or Embassy, seriously worried I had been drugged and denied my medication. My Texas partner of AMT Training Solutions, http://www.amt-1.com/ was refused his weekly visit but at least had it confirmed to him I was there and in solitary confinement.
For the nurse to have to ring ‘Washington', right in front of me, while two doctors surmised as to just which bloods the Pentagon needed, said it all. Especially when everybody there but me knew I was to be put on a scheduled flight to England within a few hours and escorted by members of United States Department of Homeland Security all the way to Gatwick, UK.
I have landed in twenty nine countries so far, flying around the world in a J3 cub, each peoples revealing their own welcome, hospitality and friendship. The current United States of America is not the one I remember when as a veterinary student in 1964 on a seven week vacation. I hitch-hiked from New York to Los Angeles to Vancouver to Quebec, finishing up with two nights under a tree in Central Park and all on just ten dollars twenty five cents.
On the eight thousand mile hike almost every Canadian or Yank greeted me with a great smile and embarrassing hospitality. Now, forty years on, I'm not just old and grumpy the US is a far different place.