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  • It was my seventeenth year and I was rapidly running out of time before I had to make some life decisions. Up until then life had been one fun adventure after another. One girl friend at a time, usually, and no real worry’s. My current girlfriend had her own car and was a live wire, theatrical type. She had already picked out the college she would attend after graduation. She wanted to be an actress and was going to school to hone her craft.

    Me, I was more of a wishy-washy fanatic. One day I would be sure I wanted to do this, and the next I would go off on a different tangent. No desire to be a contender. Always willing to roll along to the next stop. As you can tell, we were star crossed from the get go.

    But Lynn, did I tell you her name was Lynn? Her father was a pilot. No, I mean a real pilot who fought in both WWII and Korea. Actually, he was shot down and a prisoner of war in both areas of conflict. He had the distinction of escaping from a Japanese prison camp, somewhere in the pacific and hiding in the jungle for three weeks before the Allies rescued him. Of course, they had overrun the prison camp two weeks before and already freed the other prisoners. Go figure! In Korea, he stayed put until rescued. He never would eat rice.

    Anyway, Don, did I tell you his name was Don? He asked me if I would like to go for a ride in an airplane one afternoon. Now I had never been up in a plane before and was both excited and nervous as we left for the airport. I had a real fear of heights and wasn’t sure how I would handle being off the ground in a plane. But, I couldn’t chicken out in front of Lynn. Yes, she was going to go along for the ride. Probably to protect me from her father.

    Don had Lynn get into the rear seat of the small Cessna and I got the Co-Pilot spot. He did his pre-checks of the airplane and Marvin, his wingman from the old days taxied over to us. Seems like they had a plan. I put my sunglasses on and readied myself for take-off while Don got clearance from the tower. He released the brakes and we rolled down the runway…wingtip to wingtip with Marvin.

    After we cleared the airport, things got a little rough. Don and Marvin had decided to have a mock dog-fight somewhere over the St. Charles area. During the first stall I had a grin on my face that was still frozen in place from our lift off and Don looked over at me, thinking I was really enjoying it. He put it into a spin and a roll and I don’t know what else. Lynn was crying in the back seat and trying to beat her father to death “if he didn’t stop” stalling the plane. After my sunglasses flew off my face during one of his maneuvers, he must have noticed that my eyes were wide open in terror and returned to a level flight.

    We landed in a small grassy field airport outside of St. Charles and they stretched their legs while I kissed the ground. I don’t know how I got back in that plane for the return trip. I probably didn’t want to look bad in front of Lynn. That was my first airplane ride and my only one in a very small plane. I found out later that Marvin was the pilot the FAA had been trying to find. Seems he had painted out the numbers on his plane and then flew upside down through the St. Louis Arch.

    I’ve flown many times since then. In Constellations and Jets.
    I even caught an Air Force hop from Charleston to St. Louis in a Cargo plane once.
    But I have never had that sheer terror again.

    I can truly say, “Scared me and I ain’t scared of nothin’”

    Photo is of Lynn and myself taken the Christmas leave before the "Dear John" letter
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