It’s a plane!

Farm Forum

Like many little kids, I was deeply envious of birds. Not just because they can fly, but also because they can go to the bathroom while doing so. Imagine how much fun that would be!

I observed birds as they flitted about and soon concluded that there wasn’t much to flying. All you need to do is build up enough velocity, spread your wings – I surmised that arms would also work – and soar up into the blue.

The tricky part would be obtaining sufficient speed. We had a swing set in our backyard, and I calculated that if a kid were to swing high enough and if he were to jump off at just the right moment, he would soon be in the stratosphere. It was a simple matter of physics.

One spring day when the weather was ripe for a pleasure flight, I took to the swing. Straining as hard as I could, I quickly reached what I reckoned was escape velocity. At precisely the right moment, I jumped.

And I flew! In my mind’s eye, I could see myself cavorting by the barn’s cupola with the pigeons and soaring with the gulls. I would soon be visiting cottony cloud castles, scribing circles around their fluffy turrets.

But something went wrong. Perhaps I didn’t flap my arms hard enough. There certainly couldn’t have been anything amiss with my calculations.

My flight was quite short. It was mere milliseconds between takeoff and impact.

It’s been said that any landing you can walk away from is a good landing. True enough. But in my estimation, any landing that doesn’t end with a bloody lip and permanent grass stains on your knees is even better.

Achieving flight via our swing was an obvious no-go, so I began to search for more conventional means. Whenever our family went anywhere, my eyes would scour woodlots and machine sheds for an abandoned empennage or a forsaken fuselage. Or maybe I would espy an entire airplane moldering in someone’s grove! In that case, I was fully prepared to claim it under the rules of “finders keepers.”

The back pages of Popular Mechanics magazine were another possibility. One could find plenty of war surplus jeeps there, but never a leftover P-51 or an unclaimed B-25.

I would watch aircraft intently whenever they flew over our farm. Using the proven power of mind waves, I tried to make airplanes run out of fuel as they crossed our airspace. My hope was that the plane would thus be forced to land nearby; after the pilot left to fetch gas, I could swoop in and invoke the “finders keepers” rule.

One summer Sunday when I was about ten, a small plane began to circle low over our farm. I immediately locked onto it with a beam of intense mind waves. Imagine my delight when the aircraft idled its engine and bounced to a landing on our alfalfa field!

My siblings and I ran down to the plane. I was glad my younger brothers and sisters came along; they could distract the pilot so that I could quickly claim the aircraft.

But the plane didn’t contain just random strangers. It was crewed by our uncle and aunt Harold and Eldora! Who could have imagined that those old fogies – they must have been in their 40s! – would be so hip and daring?

After unfolding themselves from the cabin, Harold and Eldora explained that being it was such a nice day, they had decided to take a pleasure flight. They soon found themselves over the old neighborhood and thought they would drop in to see if anyone was home. This was exactly how I imagined it would be to own a plane!

We kids formed a herd around Harold and Eldora and escorted them to the house. They sat at the kitchen table and yakked with Mom and Dad, who plied their fly-in guests with high-octane coffee and fresh homemade donuts. I listened raptly as Harold nonchalantly described their flight.

Fortified and refreshed, Harold and Eldora strolled back out to the plane. As they said their goodbyes, I examined the aircraft closely. There wasn’t much to it. Certainly a guy could reproduce such a thing using some of the old lumber stacked by the barn and a few scavenged and straightened nails.

Eldora climbed into the cabin as Harold stood by the prop. “Switch it on, Ma!” he shouted. He gave the prop a vigorous swing and the engine coughed to life. No kid could have been more awestruck.

And as the little plane clawed its way back into the ether, I mentally kicked myself. I had forgotten to note where the bathroom part was located!

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