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Vintondale Homecoming Today
Sunday, September 1 2002

Flying

Upon reading Jon's entries this past week on flying, I remembered a summer spent sketching and designing an airplane and take-off ramp. I was probably 10 or 11 at the time. My idea was to rotate the propeller using a bicycle chain, sprocket and pedals. I was going to flap the wings with bicycle handlebars hinged so I could pull them up and down. To get my plane into the air, I was going to build a ramp on the hillside behind my house. My ramp would look just like a ski jump.

I never went so far as to plan a landing strip or a way to get my plane to the top of the ramp. And only after I did some reading on flight did I discover that planes achieve lift from the shape of their wings and even birds only flap their wings to create air currents. My airplane plans weren't motivated by a desire to fly but rather by my wish to be an inventor like Thomas Edison whose biography I had just read.

I never did fly in an airplane until I was in my early 20s and Uncle Sam flew me down to San Antonio for basic training at Lackland AFB. It wasn't one continuous flight but rather a night of changing from one propeller-driven plane to another and hop scotching all over the midwest. The airline was Branif and some of the airplanes were so old and dilapidated that I began watching the wings very carefully to be sure they weren't flapping to keep us airborne.

In spite of the adventure of flying for the first time and the rickety old planes, my most vivid memory of the night isn't the flight but the fright of one young man flying with my group. A 17-year-old black fellow from Pittsburgh, he was so scared that we practically had to drag him onto the plane. I kept a close watch on him as we took off because I was in charge of the group. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it, but he literally turned white. By the time we were in the air for half an hour, he was back to his jovial self and bragging about how great it was to fly. I never did let him know that he had turned white.

By the way, someone did fly across the English Channel on a flying machine using bicycle pedals to power the propeller. Of course, the wings didn't flap. They were made of Mylar. It was called the Gossamer. I was unsuccessful in trying to find a reference to it on the Internet.

Entering Texas (series)

  • They are pigs, cattle, and oil wells. That's what they smell like to you. They smell like money to us. Get over it. Don't like it? I-40 and I-10 go east and west, I-35 goes north and south. Pick one.
  • So you have a $60,000 car. We're real impressed. We have quarter-million-dollar cotton strippers that we drive three weeks a year.
  • So every person in every pickup waves. It's called being friendly. Try to understand the concept.
  • Trucks are made to get dirty. Don't bring your Eddie Bauer Limited Edition to my huntin' camp and expect to leave clean on Sunday. It won't happen.
  • We all started hunting and fishing when we were nine years old. Yeah, we saw "Bambi," too. We got over it.

Sent by Mike Harrison

Thought for the day

Life... is like a grapefruit. It's orange and squishy, and has a few pips in it, and some folks have half a one for breakfast.

Douglas Adams

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