Up, Up and Away

91 FL plane

Unfortunately we did not receive an offer to ride in the pictured airplane. We didn’t get to meet the pilot. The four older children didn’t get to view the stunt show of the previous day. The four younger ones who witnessed it weren’t impressed.

The four older children had gone to Disney World. Vacation in Florida came with the prospect of being three hours from the magical world. Of course they wanted to go. Of course John would love to take them. The four older children saved paper route and baby sitting earnings all winter for the privilege.  In the dark of the morning, the family van  left with four excited children who speak about the visit to this day. It left behind four sleeping younger children who speak (complain, whine, grouse) about unfairly being left behind to this day. As one of the “little ones” of my siblings, I feel their pain, as a parent, not so much. Get over it, go now, take your kids, you’re an adult, you have options.

Those of us left behind spent the day at the cottage and at the beach. In the afternoon the drone of a plane brought our attention skyward. Bright yellow with, as I remember, equally bright red markings the bi-plane circled above us. He was low enough, the area around the cottage clear enough that the pilot saw us wave. Maybe he could hear our cheering too. We certainly yelled loudly enough. Our magic began with the dip of the wings. Directly in our line of sight, in the airspace above the clearing, the WWI era plane performed. Loop de loops, dives, twists, circles, the pilot executed them all. Whether for us, or part of a regular practice we had no way to know. But we cheered as if it was for us alone. With a good-bye dip of the wings and a final pass overhead, the relic from the past disappeared.

The following day we hunted up the airfield. Our hope to meet the pilot failed, but the plane was easily spotted. We admired it, took the picture and left. The photograph elicits frank responses from the children each time they see it. They all focus their attention on the “dorky” shorts and hats I “made them” wear. The older four recount the excitement of the previous day at Disney World. The four younger ones lament they didn’t get to go along. I recall how impressed I was. I still am. In fact the plane and its barn storming performance became an incident in the sequel to Steeple in the Distance. 

“When the plane returned, it flew over the farm, banked and flew again, lower than before. The children were the first to rush from the trees that hid them. They spread into the open space of the farmyard where they waved and called. The plan grew small against the expanse of the October blue, and circling, spiraled downward until they saw the glint of sun off the pilot’s goggles.

“He sees us,” Beckie yelled. “The wings waved. Look, there they go again!” The adults followed, more subdued in their curiosity than the children. The plane disappeared to the west and still they stared, hearing the buzz of the motor and hoping it would return. Twice more it did, wagging in a friendly way to the south each time.

“He wants us to go where we can see him.” Thomas realized after the third pass. “There isn’t enough open room here. C’mon, lets go to the pasture and see if he follows us.

Cider press and apples forgotten the group surged past the house and strung along the fence where the trees and buildings no longer obstructed the view. The adults were as eager for the show as the youngsters. The only one not impressed was the baby as Maggie followed despite his objections to a shortened feeding. The plane returned, the pilot’s wave of approval visible before it climbed above the field. To the amazed “oohs and ahhhs” of the spectators the pilot performed a series of tricks, loop de loops, barrel rolls and spins. They clapped at each, delighted with the private show and shouting for more, certain the pilot could hear their words.” (Came by Train, a book currently under construction)

It’s fiction, so the children are duly impressed.

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