Mike Thompson, ANF , Garwood, Texas
ar. Welcome! We are heading into a pretty dark territory, with conspiracies, disease, businesses shut down, people quarantined, with loss of revenue and loved ones. Pretty dismal days ahead, but I'm confident that the Lord Will see us thru!
A brief history of myself: I grew up in the ag industry along with cousins, brothers, and uncles. My late father, Leonard Thompson, owner of Thompson Flyers of Garwood was a huge influence on my career and my faith. When I watched my father on his deathbed, the tears that rolled out of that man's eyes, I realized that it wasn't him crying, it was the person he had come to love, weeping for me! I was reborn at that moment, WHOA!!!
I started as a sack toter back in '69, grabbing sacks of fertilizer as they were cut and dumped in the socks, to eventually getting into an Ag Cat on June 7, 1980. The reason I remember this day was when I told my wife Denise that I had flown my first job, she went into labor and my daughter Stephanie was born. Pretty funny, but life has a way of doing things we don't expect. I flew for dad a couple of years, then moved to greener pastures in Kansas, flying for Gary Davidson. That was short lived, Texas is home. Returned home and flew another year or so until dad sold out, then kind of jumped around in La, and back at home for several local operations. I started ANF in the spring of '93 with Jim Gardner as my partner. We bought a couple of 985 Cats, and gave it a go. The following year, I bought him out, and have continued to this day in Garwood, TX.
Fast tracking forward, I was asked to go to a TAAA board meeting back in about 2011, and asked if I would consider joining the board. I wasn't even a member, but dues were paid and I accepted under the deal that I'd never be in the spotlight. Things change, as I said earlier. I accepted the spot on the board, and figured I'd see where this was headed. In 2012, I was asked to join Crop Dusters United, a private organization on Facebook with over 2100 crop dusters worldwide. I was also asked to give a worship service in Gaston, AK that year to over 300 members, which I did, and am now one of the administrators of CDU, but that's another story. That following spring, I attended the Leadership program in Washington DC, with one thing in mind, putting God 1st and foremost! I at first said no, but when I gave it about a minutes thought, I thought maybe it would help me be a better ambassador for what I hold dearest, serving the Lord best I can! When I was asked what the most important tool an agriculture aviator must possess, my answer was Faith. There was some giggles, as I'm certain there are now, but when I finished telling the why's, the room was definitely quiet, even the Syngenta teacher! I knew then and there that His work would be done!!!
Since that day, TAAA is the only association that has Worship at the beginning of every year at our Convention. Johnny Seah, Stamps, Murf, Fitch, Hale, Leger, Bruton, and many others have not only attended, but got up and testified to crop dusters of how the Lord has worked in their lives as well. Remember, we are Big men, larger than the world itself and some of the best aviators God has created, but to see the humbling of these men, including myself, the walk has been worth it! Things happen as I have said several times before, but remember this, God knows what's coming, and is in total charge!
My son Cody, was in a fatal crash on May 11, 2019, and our world would have been turned over if it hadn't been for the Faith and support of so many in this industry. Immediately, Matt Fitch showed up to help run the business, Perry Lowry flew in with a 802, and their first comments were "we are here for as long as you need us!" I got back in the plane I'd been flying, an 802 also, a week later, because I knew that's where I was the most comfortable, in the air away from people and phones. Me, the good Lord, and I felt that my son was with me as well. I bought my second 802 from Lane Aviation a month later, because I knew Mr. Lowry would need to return home. ANF Currently operates two AT802, and an AT402. I have given up logging hours, but it's well over 20,000. Again, going back to Things Happen! We got a letter from Workers Comp, Cody's spouse wasn't going to be covered. Folks, a woman, alone with three little girls, NOT HAPPENING! I mentioned this to the TAAA board, and Chris Shields made some calls and got us in touch with an attorney who would take the case. Shelley was awarded the benefits due to the swift actions of the TAAA's own, Chris Shields. As I keep saying THINGS HAPPEN!
On Feb 4, 2020, our wedding anniversary, I was hit with another surprise, a mass was found in my right kidney. Three weeks later, I'm in recovery at MD Anderson, less a kidney. The doctor said he had but one question for me, who do you know that got you in here so quick? Well Doc, let's talk about that, LOL. The Lord again, very important tool we should all put first! Denise told me I had two options, sell the business or hire pilots because she lost a son in the business, and just got over the fear of losing me to cancer, and certainly didn't want that fear of me being in an airplane anymore. She wanted me out of the plane, NOW!
Again, things happen! Hired two 802 pilots that week, can you believe it, good ones also!!! Made a couple calls, SURE WOULD LOVE TOO, with one having to make a decision to stay home or take the seat offered in another state. Win win for all of us! Both local, doesn't get any better. 2020 was our best year ever, and we are anxiously awaiting the start of this year. Folks, I don't know what the year holds, but I GUARANTEE you the one who does, and that's the Lord. I'm proud to serve you this year, praying it's a good one. One filled with safety, camaraderie, Faith especially, and is also one which all of our needs are met.
God Will Bless each of you if you'll but ask,
Your President, Michael L Thompson!