Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Buzzing the Kids

Comical incidents occur in most occupations, with possible exceptions such as brain surgery. Here is one I remember well. 

The cropdusting season finished in late fall. Then I was sent to a large ranch in deep East Texas to do some grass seeding by air. This ranch consisted of several thousands of acres with huge areas covered with mixture of large timber. The owner had decided to have the timber removed in order to make more grass land, thereby supporting larger herds of cattle. 

The method chosen was to have the R.G. Letourneau Company bring in some extremely large machines designed to drive through the timber, pushing it down and crushing it. Then I was to fly over the flattened trees, some as much as four feet thick at the trunk, and sprinkle grass seed over the whole mess. The plan was then to wait until fall when the grass has grown up, matured, and dried. It was then set afire. The dry grass acted as a fusing agent. The ground was thus cleared for next spring’s crop to take over and make for fine grazing. A plumb scientific plan, I suppose.

So I set up shop in the middle of the ranch on a dirt strip with my lil ole Stearman and several truck loads of grass seed. Big chunks of the ranch had already been de-treed so to speak when I arrived. A dirt strip had been graded out for me set to work on the west side of the target pasture. 

I began flinging seed over all the downed timber. Of course there was no place to land - and I mean none - if the old wore-out Lycoming surplus engine decided to stop and rest awhile. Like the ole saw has it, that prop up front is like a fan. If it stops running the pilot will shorenuff start to sweat.

Nevertheless, all went well and after a couple of days I had worked my way across half of the acreage. I was monotonously flying back and forth three swaths, and land for the next load, three swaths and land, three swaths and land.

One morning I noticed an old sort of dilapidated farm house sitting back in the timber on the north side of the pasture I was working. At first I thought it was abandoned. But as I worked, each swath brought me closer to the old house and I noticed it had a rail-type fence around it and there were children playing in the yard. I remembered it was a non-school day so they were at home. 

As I got closer I noticed that the kids were up on the fence waving at me as I went by. It must have been a large family or, for all I know, more than one family because there were about ten kids of all sizes from three year-olds to a couple of girls that looked to be teenagers. It reminded me of my own childhood. If a plane flew by fairly low we children would wave at it and sometime the pilot would see us and wobble his wings to answer the greeting. This was a great thrill for me as a kid so I returned the wave to the kids with a wing waggle.

As each swath took me closer it became obvious that the next pass would take me directly over the house and kids on the fence. I decide I would give the kids a little extra thrill. I had been maintaining about thirty-five to forty feet of altitude and as I approached the house on the pass that would take me over them, I tipped the nose of the plane down a bit and opened the throttle for a good buzz job.

When those kids saw the plane coming down toward them there was a scene of pure bedlam. They came off that fence and went in all directions like a flushed flock of quail.

Some flew under the porch, some went up a nearby tree, some sailed around the house, some went in the screen door. One of the older girls grabbed a small child in each hand and headed for that same screen door but it slammed before she got there and she ran smack into it with the kids in hand.

I had no idea that it would cause such a panic, but it was a hilarious explosion of kids and I burst out laughing. On my next pass believe it or not every last one of them was back on the fence waving and laughing. I gave them a big wing waggle and an arm wave and headed back to the strip. I love kids. I guess that is the reason I have five of my own.


  1. Horror turns to hysteria. :-D

    Thanks for this one, Gramps.

  2. LOL. ... I'd forgotten about this story. Thanks for the giggle.