Jun 10, 2005

Miss Behaving

I was thinking this morning, and yes, we all know that's a dangerous thing indeed. A mind is a terrible thing, and should be stopped before it hurts someone.

I was thinking that we're running out of things.

Not things in a general sense, because that's a rather wide application. Let me clarify. I'm a huge fan of WWII aircraft, right up to the jet age where I draw the line. And as the years have passed, I've been lucky enough to live right on the outskirts of an air force base. So as a child, I spent more than a few summers walking up and down scalding hot tarmac, looking at and into aircraft of every sort and description. And the years I didn't get to go to the show I spent lying on the scalding hot roof, watching the fly-overs, which was almost better than being at the base, because then I didn't have to deal with the crowds.

Last year around this time I got a call late one night from my brother, who was utterly freaking out. You see, it's possible to see almost the entire base (now closed and turned into a small metro airport) from the 'bayou road' that winds toward our house, and I think a day doesn't go by that I don't drive that road and cast at least one glance up across the hangars and the runways, trying to see what's new. Well, my brother, coming home late one night swore to me on the telephone that he had seen a WWII era bomber on the tarmac, and, holding his voice very low, he thought it was a B-17.

Now the fact that there might be a bomber on the tarmac alone was thought enough to make me want to slip my shoes on and go see. The thought that it might be a B-17 was enough to make me slip a gear. I grabbed the digital camera and tore off for the base. Sure enough, it was a B-17, a silver-skinned beauty basking under the glow of the area lights.

Long story short, it turns out that this aircraft, "Sentimental Journey," was on tour from an air museum out in the desert. I got two different opportunities to crawl all over her, inside and out, poking my head in every open door and access port. It was a grand time. And it made me think of one other tour of a B-17 that I had managed years ago, the "Tommahawk." And speaking to SJ's flight crew, I realised that I had just set foot in the second of only twelve B-17s that are still airworthy. That got me to thinking of how many aircraft there are that are even rarer than that. There is a tiny little aircraft, I believe it's name is the "Fairy Swordfish" or something very unusual like that, which was made to be stored inside a Navy dirigible, and lowered, launched, and later recovered from the dirigible during flight. There were I believe six of them when the dirigible carrying them all crashed during a test flight, and now they're all on the bottom of the ocean.

And this could turn into a post about lost opportunities, but it's not going that way. You can get enough of that from your own life without me poking fingers into it. No, I was thinking more about the experiences that get lost when we lose people or things. When an elderly person dies, all that experience, all those years of wisdom are instantly taken from us. I have no idea what it's like to drive an old Cadillac on a winding country rode, but there are people out there who do. I don't know what it was like to stand in the gunner's bay of a B-17 in the bitter cold of the upper atmosphere and defend your ship and your crewmates from enemy fire, but there are still a few gentlemen out there who did just that. I don't know what it's like to drive a car around a racetrack at 200 mph, although I do know what it's like to drive a motorcycle at 174.

There's so much I'm missing, so much I want to hear about. To return briefly to the B-17 theme, the base out here used to be, back in it's glory days, a B-17 base. My mother has told me, several times, because I cannot get enough of the story, the day she and her family watched a crippled B-17 return over the trees, very low, with a fully-loaded bomb bay, and make a semi-controlled crash landing on the runway without exploding. The best I can match that with? I got up early one morning and was treated to the sight of an Ag Cat crop duster airplane crash in a cottonfield no more than a mile or two distant.

That event sort of pales in comparison.

So--go talk to someone today. Let them tell you about something you've never done. And keep that memory alive for someone else, before there's no-one left who knows what it's like to feel a horse gallop with you in the saddle, or what it feels like to dive into the ocean to swim with dolphins.

1 comment:

Vulgar Wizard said...

Whatever you do, people, do NOT speak to the resident mouth breather!

P.S. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz