Friday, July 26, 2013

Flying With Red

When you get up in years, it seems you have a lot of time to reflect on the past. Things just jump out in what memory you have left. Sometimes happy, sometimes not so much.
The house is quiet, no TV blaring, and that's a good time to sit and just think.
So, hang on, and I'll share a little of my past.
When I was sixteen, I spent the entire summer with my grandmother in a small Mississippi river town. Next door to her lived a fellow named "Red."
Now Red made his living crop dusting, and in the winter went to Florida to do the same. I have always been crazy about planes and flying, so Red was a hero to me.
I had been badgering him pretty badly about taking me flying, I guess he finally got tired of it and caved in! I met him the next day at a small dirt strip he had on the edge of the Delta. He had two old Stearman planes, one rigged for dusting, and the other
somewhat dolled up in a red coat of paint.
Man, I was ready to go, didn't sleep much the night before in anticipation of the next day.
I put on the old cloth helmet he gave me, with goggles no less. clawed my way up to the front cockpit, and was told no matter what, not to touch the control stick or rudder pedals, and to pull the seat belt as tight as I could get it. The real excitement began when he started up the old Pratt and Whitney round engine! In a cloud of dust on that hot summer day, we lifted off. It was a ride I will never forget! I think Red put that Stearman through every maneuver he knew. Snap rolls, stalls, inverted flight, you name it. I couldn't get enough! Finally we headed back for his dirt strip. I couldn't thank Red enough for the ride.
Years later, flying the old Cessna 172 I used to rent, I thought about those maneuvers that Red did, but knew the wings would probably fold, if I tried some of the stuff he did on that day.
About four years after that ride with Red, he was killed dusting a field. They said he hooked a wire, and the whole plane turned into a fireball. Sad day, he was a good person.
Some of the happiest days of my life were spent in the cockpit. Great memories and plenty of stories to remember. The old saying among pilots still rings true.
"There are old pilots and bold pilots, but no old, bold pilots."

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