Monday, May 23, 2016

Shenanigans in the Air

Surprise In A Fishing Boat
Sometimes the urge to play while flying is irresistible, especially on a beautiful day when one is young and feeling frisky. 

Joe Carter and I were flying our Pawnees over the croplands of central Washington around the town of Royal City.  We were spraying potatoes for evil little bugs intent on destroying this good farmer’s crop. We had covered the field with insecticide and were returning with empty hoppers to our airstrip. 

It so happened we had to fly near a lake of very blue water. Mean fellow that he was, Joe flew up close and pointed to the lake and with strange hand signals motioned for me to follow. I knew he was up to some mischief which might prove interesting. I tacked on his left wing and played along.  He flew lower and lower until his wheels were actually touching the smooth surface of the lake.  I had never attempted this but figured if the water would support his airplane it should do the same for mine. 

I was surprised to find the water smooth and solid.  We were actually water skiing along as nice as you please. Fun fun fun! We went sailing by the point of a small peninsula which protruded out into the lake. This bit of land was covered in large trees. As we hurtled by this projection I suddenly realized there was a boat on the opposite side. In the boat were two men who were obviously fishing. Our sudden appearance no doubt was quite startling to these sportsmen.  

One of them made the quick but wrong decision to leap to his feet.  In one hand was his fishing rod, in the other was a bottle; quite possibly an alcoholic beverage.  As he leaped up the boat rocked to the left and then to the right at which time he lost his balance and fell into the water.  The other fellow didn’t jump up but dropped his pole and quickly made a grab for it, coming very near capsizing the boat. Joe and I laughed like to evil little kids. I was glad that we departed as quickly as we appeared.  I am sure there was some foul and abusive language drifting across the waters of the lake.

Sad Ending
That reminds me of my former boss, a big German named Don Schumacher. He came upon a similar situation, but with a very tragic ending. A small pond, two fellows fishing.  Don wasn’t buzzing them, just flying by. 

He noticed of them one had fallen in the water and was thrashing around. Schumacher suddenly realized the man was drowning. He hastily surveyed the situation and decided to land in a nearby alfalfa field. As quickly as possible he put the plane down and made a run for the lake as he shed his shirt and shoes. He dived in to the water but the man was already under water. 

He dragged him out and desperately applied artificial respiration. Don was an ex-marine, a strong swimmer and knew the drill.  But in spite of his best efforts the man was dead. The other man in the boat was an older fellow who did not know how to swim.  Foolishly, they had no floatation gear.  When I landed a bit later, Don was quite beside himself because he failed to save the man. 

The Super Safe Pilot
One other tale.  One of my fellow pilots, whom I will call Jim had attended a state wide ag-pilots meeting. While there, he was awarded a certificate and a impressive medal for his safe flying record.  He had flown some 15 years, if I remember correctly, without an accident.  

Jim loved to laugh and kid folks and he never missed an opportunity to more or less rub it in that now he had a safe flying medal and I had none: neener-neener-neener!

A short time later Jim spayed a field of wheat and somehow struck a fence along the boundary as he entered the field for the last pass. One wing was ripped off. The plane rolled over and hit the ground upside down, skidded along and came to rest inverted.  

Jim wasn’t hurt much but this was one time he was not wearing his crash- helmet. He had on a “gimme” cap so he could pin his safe-flying metal on the front of it. This is the gospel truth. That small pin had cut a little trench across his forehead,starting just above his eyebrows and on up into his hairline.

Needless to say I heard no more about his award. Of course, I couldn't help smirking and kidding him just a wee bit. Heh heh heh.

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