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Chris Navarro

Chris Navarro: Flying Blind — The Scariest Moment Of My Life

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By Chris Navarro, guest columnist

It was August 17, 1997. I had flown my son JC to compete in a Wyoming Junior Rodeo in Rock Springs, Wyoming.

The rodeo was over and we were getting back to the airport just at sunset. I had checked the weather and noticed a thunderstorm coming in from the southwest about 30 miles out.

I did a quick preflight of my plane — a 1959 Cessna 182 Skylane. We jumped in and took off and were heading northeast back to Casper, a distance by air of 170 miles.

My plane would do about a 150 mph. I was in front of the storm and would make it to Casper in an hour and 15 minutes.

As my plane left the end of the runway, I noticed the sun was setting and it was starting to get dark. I was climbing out to 9,500 feet. Fifteen minutes into the flight, I was in total darkness.

I was starting to get worried when I realized it was a moonless night with heavy clouds and I was flying over the Red Desert and there were no lights or landmarks.

I was really scared now because it was total black outside. I could not see the ground and the windshield visibility was zero. I was in big trouble as I had just flown into hard IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) conditions.

I was a VFR (Visual Flight Rules) pilot in a VFR rated airplane and just made a life-threatening critical mistake.

I looked over at my young son who was in the seat next to me already taking a snooze. I could feel my heart beating when I realized not only had I endangered my own life but that of my young son.

I could feel the panic starting to rise in me as my adrenaline started to pump through my body. I started getting mad at myself. “How could I be such a dumb ass for getting into this jam,” I thought.

But my next thought was to relax, stay calm, and work the problem: You have to get out of this, use your head!” I told myself.

I had been flying for a few years and had over 300 hours with only five hours of hood-time and maybe 12 hours of night flying.

I was not instrument-rated but I was a member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

I always read their magazine reports and remember the story that determined the average VFR pilot had “178 seconds to live” upon entering “Instrument Meteorological Conditions.”

Because the pilots would become disoriented with vertigo and start chasing their instruments, they would over-correct the plane into a spin. It is a dangerous situation.

American research showed that 76% of VFR into IFR or IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions) accidents involve a fatality. This is exactly what killed John Kennedy Jr., his wife, and sister in-law.  

Relax, be calm, don’t make any quick movements. Just watch and concentrate on your instruments. 

Just keep the wings level and straight. I started holding the yoke which controls the alerions of the plane with just my left index finger and thumb with the lightest of touch.

I next decided I would only turn the plane using a 100% rudder to stay on my heading and for holding my altitude and elevation, I would use only the trim wheel.

That is all I was going to think about and that’s what I did for the next longest 30 anxiety-filled minutes of my life. I kept flying like that until I saw the lights of Casper.

I was never so happy and relieved as I was when I saw the city lights and the Casper Airport runway.  We had a smooth landing, my son woke up, and we pushed the plane in the hanger. 

My son never knew how close we had come to having a disastrous night. I promised myself I would never make that mistake again and I never did.   

I grew up in a family of aviators. My father and three older brothers were all military aviators and I soloed my first plane when I was 19 years old.

I remember my oldest brother Rick, who was a Navy pilot and later a Delta Captain, telling me when I started flying that flying won’t kill you, it’s the decisions you make when flying that will.

True words brother. 

National award-winning artist Chris Navarro from Casper, WY has been sculpting professionally since 1986. He is best known for his large public sculptures and has over 35 monumental bronze sculptures placed throughout the country including a 16-foot-tall Bronze of the famous bucking horse Steamboat for the University of Wyoming. Navarro received the Legacy Award and induction into the Bull Riding Hall of Fame 2021.

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Chris Navarro: Woke Bureaucrats Need To Leave My Street “Squaw Creek Road” Alone

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By Chris Navarro, guest columnist

I just read in the Casper Star Tribune [about] a list suggesting new names for 43 Wyoming places that include derogatory term ‘squaw’.

The Department of Interior, under the leadership of Secretary Deb Haaland, declared the word derogatory in November, and issued an order to rename more than 650 federal public places that now have it in their names.

On Tuesday, they released a list of those places along with five nearby geographical features for each that could become candidates for renaming.

West of Casper, a “Squaw Creek” could be renamed after the nearby Casper Mountain, the Horsch Stockwater Reservoir or Hillcrest Spring — meaning it could end up as “Horsch Creek” or “Hillcrest Creek.” How about ‘’Horse Shit Creek?’’ 

Are you kidding me? I have lived worked and raised my family on Squaw Creek Rd. in Casper, WY for over 35 years.

Now a few woke bureaucrats in Washington have decided that the place I have lived, called home needs a new name because they do not want to offend Indigenous Americans. What is wrong with using some common sense.

I had to go through all this same woke foolishness with the controversy at ART 321 in Casper, Wy last summer. Over the LGBTQ Art of Pride exhibit art show and about me creating Indigenous American art that was being shown at ART 321. This was on the front page of the July 4th Casper Star Tribune paper.

As I stated in my reply to that article.  I had no problem with the Art of Pride exhibit. Heck why would I, my work was in it. My smaller sculpture RING OF PEACE (The Mathew Sheppard Memorial) was in the show. Next the part, where Mr. Cessor was uncomfortable about showing Navarro’s pieces that resembled indigenous art since Navarro is not indigenous.

 I called Mr. Cessor and asked him what this was about. He said it was taken out of context and expressed that there should be a conversation about it because some Indigenous Americans are offended by non-Indigenous Americans creating art of Indigenous Americans.

I also called Mr. Joe Arnold to get his take on the matter because I wanted to hear both sides of the story and find out why my name was being kicked around in the article. Talking with Joe, he was apologetic that I was drug into the story. I had worked with him and Art 321 to raffle off my sculpture Spirit of the Thunderbird to help raise funds for the organization.   

I asked each why they assumed I was not an Indigenous American after all my last name is Navarro. Neither one gave a good answer but they both agreed they got into a heated argument over the matter. I told them I had a surprise for them because they were both wrong, and I had the DNA evidence to back me up!

Years ago, for Christmas my wife Lynne gave me the gift of Ancestory.com. This gift came with instructions and in only 6 weeks I would know the mystery of my DNA ethnicity. Dang if my dreams of being a pure blood were completely shattered when I received the results.

Come to find out I am of a mixed breed, nothing but a simple mongrel, merely a brown eyed American mutt.  Here are the sad statistics of how it broke down: Spanish 33%, English 25%, Indigenous American 16%, Portuguese 8%, Wales 6%, French 3% and Irish 3%.

But wait! I found out I am 16% Indigenous American. However, was it enough? After all it was only 16%. Would I be able to make Indigenous American art without offending others in society? I thought about it for a while and then I decided who gives a ****!

Making art is not about who my parents are or my blood line. What it’s really about is my own mindset.  Just as early man created images on cave walls, we all have an inherent need to express our individuality. One of the reasons I became an artist was to express who I am and what I believe.

But when you open the window of your soul and share your art with others, you expose yourself to criticism, judgment, and rejection. It is difficult not to take that criticism personally when you’ve invested so much of yourself in the creation.

We all suffer setbacks from time to time; it is the way we react to those setbacks that matters. That is why I like to take rejection and criticism and make them work for me.

When someone tells me that I’m not good enough or that my heritage isn’t quite right and I can’t do something, all it does is put a fire in me. It fuels my desire to not only disprove the naysayers, but also to prove that I am capable.

Believe me, I don’t like rejection, failure, or looking foolish, but I’m not afraid to take risks. Life is full of challenges, and that is what gives meaning to life. There is little value in easy perfection. Don’t do it because it’s easy; do it because it’s hard.

There will always be negative people and haters out there. Your happiness should not depend on what’s going on in someone else’s head. You have no control over that. What matters is how you view yourself and what is going on inside of your own head. Like Eleanor Roosevelt said ‘’No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.’’

It is important to keep your sense of humor in all things. Humor is the armor that protects you in life; it is the great lubricant that makes the difficult things easier to bear. So, laugh at yourself and roll with the punches.

For the artist or person who thrives on challenges and believes in themselves, rejection is not a problem. Because the real responsibility is to put forth your best effort and strive for continual improvement. In the end, that is all one can do.

 I live in the United States of America from the great state of Wyoming, a democratic society. I have a right and a vote.

I want you to leave my road’s name alone and let it remain Squaw Creek Rd. Or must I buckle to the wishes of a few who are offended by the name of a road they don’t even live on. I think not. Because who really wants to live on Female Indigenous American Rd. 

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National award-winning artist Chris Navarro from Casper, WY has been sculpting professionally since 1986. He is best known for his large public sculptures and has over 35 monumental bronze sculptures placed throughout the country including a 16-foot-tall Bronze of the famous bucking horse Steamboat for the University of Wyoming. Navarro received the Legacy Award and induction into the Bull Riding Hall of Fame 2021.

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