When you fly as often as I do, roughly with each new dusty loop of Haley’s Comet, you can imagine how pleasantly surprised I was to find the amazing progress made concerning these new-fangled aeroplanes!
Headphones? Carbonated drinks? And you no longer have to fire up the propellers manually?
Chocks away, ol’ girl!
I don't get in airplanes often, but I spent quite a bit of my childhood in them.
My father was a crop duster when I was small. You remember crop dusters, don’t you? Those crazy young men, flying under power lines, spraying the sugar beets with insecticides?
That was my dad up there.
I spent many afternoons in two-seater airplanes. From the top of the sky, the white clouds below us were scoops of ice cream, the dark clouds where barely visible men waited to throw lightning bolts at unsuspecting two-seaters, hoping to knock out electrical systems.
Up on the Red River Valley, the storms, with no trees to slow them down, no hills to divert them, come upon you quickly.
“Tell me when you see one, Pearl!” my dad would shout over the roar of the Cessna; and I’d stare at the thunderheads, eyes open wide, because you just knew that those men with the thunderbolts moved so fast that something as slow as a blink was all they needed. As Dad explained, I wouldn’t see the men – they were too fast – but I would see the lightning.
“So what are you gonna yell when you see danger, Pearl? What are you gonna say?”
“I’m gonna yell DANGER! THREE O’CLOCK!”
“That’s right,” he’d yell, nodding. “Just like on the clock. You tell me where it is.”
My father was always poised to slip a life lesson into the day.
“There can never be enough lerts in the world, Pearl,” he’d say, thoughtfully. “Ya gotta be a lert.”
And I was the designated lert. I had a role to play, dagnabit; and at five, I took that responsibility seriously, knew that the fate of the two-seater lie in all four of our capable hands: with my father at the yoke and my eyes trained intently on the clouds on the horizon, through our devotion to our duties we landed, rubber-side down, every time.
Of course, it is years later, many years later, and it has become clear to me that my father used those clouds to give me something to do outside of worry, to give me something on which to focus.
We were never hit, of course; and I’m sure my imagination has exaggerated, as is its wont, any danger we were in; but to this day, I keep an eye peeled for the men in the clouds.
Because if you’re not looking for it, you won’t see what’s in front of you.
And because the world needs more lerts.
The Power of Ideas and When They Fail
10 hours ago