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Title: Famous Flyers - And Their Famous Flights
Author: Grayson, J. J.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Famous Flyers - And Their Famous Flights" ***

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FAMOUS FLYERS AND THEIR FAMOUS FLIGHTS


By

CAPT. J. J. GRAYSON

[Illustration]

THE WORLD SYNDICATE PUBLISHING COMPANY

Cleveland, Ohio — New York, N. Y.

-----

  Copyright
  _by_
  THE WORLD SYNDICATE PUB. CO.
  1932

  _Printed in the United States of America_
  by
  THE COMMERCIAL BOOKBINDING CO.
  CLEVELAND, O.

-----

CONTENTS PAGE

  CHAPTER I—Exciting News
  CHAPTER II—Captain Bill
  CHAPTER III—The Wright Brothers
  CHAPTER IV—Some War Heroes
  CHAPTER V—The Eagle
  CHAPTER VI—More About The Eagle
  CHAPTER VII—A Close Shave
  CHAPTER VIII—North Pole and South
  CHAPTER IX—Four Women Flyers
  CHAPTER X—Hawks and Doolittle
  CHAPTER XI—Hal Comes Through

-----

FAMOUS FLYERS
AND THEIR FAMOUS FLIGHTS



CHAPTER I—Exciting News


Bob Martin stood outside the large red brick house and whistled. He
whistled three notes, a long and two short, which meant to Hal Gregg
inside that Bob wanted to see him, and to see him quickly. Something was
up. At least, that was what it should have meant to Hal, but evidently
it didn’t, because no answering whistle came out to Bob, and no head
appeared in any of the windows.

Bob whistled again, this time a little more shrilly, and he kept on
whistling until a pale, spectacled face appeared at an upstairs window.
The window was thrown open, and Bob shouted up before Hal Gregg had a
chance to speak.

“Hey, what’s the idea of keeping me waiting? Hurry up, come on down,
I’ve got something great to tell you.”

“Hold your horses. I didn’t hear you whistle at first. I was reading,”
called down Hal.

Bob snorted. “Put it away and hurry up down. Books can wait. You should
hear the news I’ve got to tell you.”

“The book’s swell,” said Hal. “It’s that new book on aviation I got for
my birthday. Is your news more important than that?”

“You bet it is,” yelled Bob. “And if you aren’t down here in two
seconds, I’m going to keep it to myself. And won’t you be sorry!”

Hal laughed. “I’ll be down in one second. I’m not going to have you
knowing anything I don’t know. You’re too smart now.” The dark head
disappeared from the window, reappeared atop the narrow shoulders of its
owner at the front door within a few seconds, bobbing about as he leaped
down the front steps two at a time. Hal Gregg joined his pal Bob under
the maple tree on the Gregg front lawn.

The two boys made a strange contrast as they flung themselves down in
the shade of the tree. They were the same age, sixteen, with Hal having
a little edge on his friend. But Bob could have passed for the other
boy’s big brother. He was a full head taller, his shoulders were
broader, his complexion ruddier. He was the typical outdoor boy, with
tousled brown hair, a few unruly freckles, and a broad pleasant face.
Hal Gregg was short and slight, with sloping narrow shoulders. His
complexion was dark, and his large, serious eyes were hidden behind
shell-rimmed eye-glasses. Yet though they were such a badly matched
team, the two boys were fast friends.

Their friendship had begun strangely. In the first place, they lived
next door to each other, on a quiet, shady side-street in the large city
of Crowley. Bob had lived there first, while the red brick house next to
his had been empty for a long time. Nobody Bob’s age had ever lived in
that house, and he had grown to look at it as an old fogey sort of a
house, very dull, and fit only for grownups. It didn’t seem as though
young people could ever live in it. So he’d been pretty much excited
when he found out that the house had been sold, and that a boy his own
age was going to move in.

But his first glimpse of Hal was a disappointed one. “Oh, golly, just my
luck,” he said to his mother. “Somebody my own age moves in next door at
last, and look what he turns out to be.”

Mrs. Martin had also caught a glimpse of Hal as he had got out of the
automobile with his mother, and entered the house. “He seems to me to be
a very nice boy,” she said quietly.

“Nice! That’s just the point. He looks as though he’s so nice he’ll be
as dull as ditchwater. I’ll bet he’s the kind that can’t tell one
airplane from another, and buys his radio sets all made up, with twenty
tubes and all kinds of gadgets. Lot of fun I’ll have with him!”

Mrs. Martin smiled and said nothing. She was a wise mother. She knew
that if she praised Hal too much he would seem just so much worse in her
son’s eyes. So she resolved to let him decide for himself, just as she
always let him decide, whether he wanted Hal for a friend or not.

For several days Bob saw nothing of Hal, but one day, as he rode his
bicycle up the driveway that separated the two houses, he heard someone
hail him. He looked over into the Gregg yard and saw Hal there,
stretched out in a steamer chair, an open book in his lap. He looked
very small and puny. Bob got down from his bike. He was embarrassed. Hal
hailed him again. “Come on over,” he called.

Bob got down and walked over to where the other boy was sitting. The
meeting between two strange boys is usually a hard one, with suspicion
on both sides. But Hal seemed surprisingly pleasant. “I’ve seen you
riding around,” he said, “but I haven’t had a chance to call you before.
I’m Hal Gregg. You’re Bob, aren’t you?”

“Sure,” grinned Bob. He was beginning to think that this Hal might not
be such a bad sort. “How did you know?”

“Oh, I’m a Sherlock Holmes. Anyway, I’ve heard your mother calling to
you. And if she calls you ‘Bob,’ that must be your name.”

Bob laughed, “You’re right, she ought to know,” he said. But he didn’t
know what to say next. Hal filled in the gap.

“You go swimming a lot, and bicycling, don’t you?”

“Sure,” Bob replied. “That’s about all a fellow likes to do in summer.
Don’t you swim?”

Hal’s forehead wrinkled. “My mother doesn’t like me to go swimming,” he
said. “I’ve never had a bike, either. You see, my mother’s always afraid
that something’ll happen to me. She hasn’t got anybody but me, you know.
I haven’t got a father, or any other family. I guess that’s what makes
Mother so anxious about me.”

“My mother never seems to worry very much about me,” said Bob. “At
least, she never shows it.”

Hal looked at Bob enviously. “You don’t have to be worried about,” he
said. “You’re as husky as they come.”

Bob felt himself getting warm. This wasn’t the way for a fellow to talk.
All of his friends called each other “shrimp” or “sawed-off,” no matter
how big and husky they might be. None of them ever showed such poor
taste as to compliment a fellow. He guessed, and correctly, that Hal
hadn’t been with boys enough to learn the proper boy code of etiquette.
But he just said, “Aw, I’m not so husky,” which was the proper answer to
a compliment, anyway.

“You sure are,” said Hal. “You see, I was a sickly child, and had to be
taken care of all the time. I’m all right now, but my mother doesn’t
seem to realize it. She still treats me as though I was about to break
out with the measles any minute. I guess that’s about all I used to do
when I was a kid.”

“With measles?” laughed Bob. “I thought that you could get those only
once.”

“Oh, if it wasn’t measles, then something else. Anyway, here I am.”

Bob’s opinion of the boy had sunk lower and lower. He saw that they
weren’t going to get on at all. Why, the boy was nothing but a
mollycoddle, and not much fun. “What do you do for fun?” he asked,
curiously.

“Oh, I read a lot,” said Hal, picking up the book in his lap.

Bob’s mind was now more firmly made up. A fellow who spent all his time
reading was no fun at all. And he needn’t think that Bob was going to
encourage any friendship, either. “What’s the book?” he asked.

“A biography,” said Hal.

“Biography!” thought Bob, but he looked at the title. It was a life of
Admiral Byrd.

Bob’s eyes lighted up. “Oh, say,” he said, “is that good?”

“It’s great,” said Hal. “You know, I read every book on aviators that
comes out. I’ve always wanted to be one—an aviator, you know.”

Bob sat up and took notice. “Gee, you have? Why, so have I. My Uncle
Bill’s an aviator. You ought to know him. He was in the war. Joined when
he was just eighteen. I’m going to be an aviator, too.”

“You are? Have you ever been up?”

“No,” said Bob, “but I’m going some day. Bill’s going to teach me how to
pilot a plane. He’s promised. He’s coming to visit us some time and
bring his own plane. Dad takes me out to the airport whenever he can,
and we watch the planes. I’ve never had a chance to go up, though.”

Hal’s eyes clouded. “I hope you get to be an aviator,” he said, “I don’t
think that I ever shall. My mother’d never allow me to go up.”

“Oh, sure, she would,” consoled Bob, “if you wanted to badly enough.
Have you ever built a plane? A model, I mean?”

“Have I? Dozens. One of them flew, too. You’ve got to come up to my
workshop and see them,” said Hal eagerly. “I read every new book that
comes out. I think that airplanes are the greatest thing out.”

“You’ve got to see my models, too. I made a _Spirit of St. Louis_ the
year that Lindy flew across the Atlantic. Of course it isn’t as good as
my later ones. Say, we’re going to have a swell time, aren’t we?” At
that moment Bob knew that he and Hal were going to be good friends.

And good friends they were. There were a great many things about Hal
that annoyed Bob no end at first. Hal was, without a doubt, his mother’s
boy. He was afraid of things—things that the fearless Bob took for
granted. He was afraid of the dark—afraid of getting his feet wet—afraid
of staying too late and worrying his mother. And then he was awkward.
Bob tried gradually to initiate him into masculine sports—but it irked
him to watch Hal throw a ball like a girl, or swim like a splashing
porpoise. But he had to admit that Hal tried. And when he got better at
things, it was fun teaching him. Bob felt years older than his pupil,
and gradually came to take a protective attitude toward him that amused
his mother.

Mrs. Martin smiled one day when Bob complained about Hal’s awkwardness
in catching a ball. “Well,” she said, “you may be teaching Hal things,
but he’s teaching you, too, and you should be grateful to him.”

“What’s he teaching me?” asked Bob, surprised.

“I notice, Bob, that you’re reading a great deal more than you ever
have. I think that that’s Hal’s influence.”

“Oh, that,” said Bob, “why, we read the lives of the famous flyers,
that’s all. Why, that’s fun. That’s not reading.”

Mrs. Martin smiled again, and kept her customary silence.

The strange friendship, founded on the love of airplanes, flourished.
The boys were always together, and had invented an elaborate system of
signals to communicate with each other at such times as they weren’t
with one another. Two crossed flags meant “Come over at once.” One flag
with a black ball on it meant “I can’t come over.” These flags, usually
limp and bedraggled by the elements horrified the parents of both Bob
and Hal when they saw them hanging in various intricate designs out of
windows and on bushes and trees in the garden. But since they seemed
necessary to the general scheme of things, they were allowed to go
unmolested, even in the careful Gregg household.

The friendship had weathered a summer, a school year, and was now
entering the boys’ summer vacation again. It was at the beginning of
this vacation that Bob whistled to Hal and called to him to come down to
hear his wonderful news.

“Well,” said Hal, “spill the news.” It must be said of Hal that he tried
even to master the language of the real boy in his education as a good
sport.

“Bill’s coming,” said Bob, trying to hide his excitement, but not
succeeding very well.

“What?” shouted Hal.

“Sure, Captain Bill’s coming to spend the summer with us. He’s flying
here in his own plane.”

“Oh, golly,” said Hal, and could say no more.

Captain Bill was the boys’ patron saint. It had been through his uncle
Bill that Bob Martin had developed his mania for flying. Captain Bill
Hale was Bob’s mother’s youngest brother, the adventurous member of the
family, who had enlisted in the Canadian army when he was eighteen, at
the outbreak of the war. When the United States joined the big battle,
he had gone into her air corps to become one of the army’s crack flyers,
with plenty of enemy planes and blimps to his credit. A crash had put
him out of commission at the end of the war, but had not dulled his
ardor for flying. For years he had flown his own plane both for
commercial and private reasons.

As Bob’s hero, he had always written to the boy, telling him of his
adventures, encouraging him in his desire to become an aviator. He had
never found the time actually to visit for any length of time with his
sister and her family, but had dropped down from the sky on them
suddenly and unexpectedly every so often.

But now, as Bob explained carefully to Hal, he was coming for the whole
summer, and was going to teach him, Bob, to fly.

“Oh, boy, oh, boy, oh, boy,” Bob chortled, “what a break! Captain Bill
here for months, with nothing to do but fly us around.”

Hal did not seem to share his friend’s enthusiasm. “Fly us around? Not
us, Bob, old boy—you. My mother will never let me go up.” Hal’s face
clouded.

Bob slapped him on the back. “Oh, don’t you worry. Your mother will let
you fly. She’s let you do a lot of things with me that she never let you
do before. We’ll get her to come around.”

But Hal looked dubious. “Not that, I’m afraid. She’s scared to death of
planes, and gets pale if I even mention flying. But that’s all right.
I’ll do my flying on the ground. You and Bill will have a great time.”

“Buck up,” said Bob. “Don’t cross your bridges until you come to them.
We’ll work on your mother until she thinks that flying is the safest
thing in the world. And it is, too. We’ll let Captain Bill talk to her.
He can make anybody believe anything. He’ll have her so thoroughly
convinced that she’ll be begging him to take you up in the air to save
your life. See if he doesn’t! Bill is great!”

Hal was visibly improved in spirits. “When’s Bill coming in?” he asked.

“Six tonight,” said Bob. “Down at the airport. Dad says that he’ll drive
us both out there so that we can meet Captain Bill, and drive him back.
Gee, wouldn’t it be great if he had an autogyro and could land in our
back yard?”

“Maybe he’ll have one the next time he comes. What kind of plane is he
flying?”

“His new Lockheed. It’s a monoplane, he says, and painted green, with a
reddish nose. It’s green because his partner, Pat, wanted it green.
Pat’s been his buddy since they were over in France together, and
anything that Pat says, goes. It’s got two cockpits, and dual controls.
It’s just great for teaching beginners. That means us, Hal, old boy.
Listen, you’d better get ready. Dad will be home soon, and will want to
start down for the port. Say, does that sound like thunder?”

The boys listened. It did sound like thunder. In fact, it was thunder.
“Golly, I hope it doesn’t storm. Mother won’t let me go if it rains.”

Bob laughed. “I wouldn’t worry about you getting wet if it stormed,” he
said. “What about Bill, right up in the clouds? Of course, he can climb
over the storm if it’s not too bad. But you hurry anyhow. We’ll probably
get started before it rains, anyway.”

At ten minutes to six Hal, Bob and Bob’s father were parked at the
airport, their necks stretched skyward, watching the darkening, clouded
skies for the first hint of a green monoplane. No green monoplane did
they see. A few drops of rain splattered down, then a few more, and
suddenly the outburst that had been promising for hours poured down.
Bob’s father, with the aid of the two boys, put up the windows of the
car, and they sat fairly snug while the rain teemed down about them. The
field was becoming sodden. Crashes of lightning and peals of thunder
seemed to flash and roll all about them. All of the airplanes within
easy distance of their home port had come winging home like birds to an
enormous nest. The three watchers scanned each carefully, but none was
the green Lockheed of Captain Bill.

The time passed slowly. Six-thirty; then seven. Finally Mr. Martin
decided that they could wait no longer. “He’s probably landed some place
to wait for the storm to lift,” he said. “He can take a taxi over to the
house when he gets in.”

Reluctant to leave, the boys nevertheless decided that they really
couldn’t wait all night in the storm for Captain Bill, and so they
started for home.

Very wet, and bedraggled, and very, very, hungry, they arrived. Hal’s
mother was practically hysterical, met him at the door, and drew him
hastily into the house.

Mr. Martin and his son ran swiftly from the garage to the back door of
their house, but were soaked before they got in. Entering the darkened
kitchen, they could hear voices inside.

“Doesn’t that sound like—why, it is—that’s Bill’s voice,” shouted Bob.
The light switched on, and Bill and Mrs. Martin came into the kitchen to
greet their prodigal relatives.

“Hello,” said Bill, “where have you people been? You seem to be wet.
Shake on it.”

“Well, how in the—how did you get in?” shouted Mr. Martin, pumping
Bill’s hand. “We were waiting in the rain for you for hours.”

“I know,” said Bill, contritely, “we tried to get in touch with you, but
we couldn’t. You see, I came in by train.”

“By train!” exclaimed Bob. “By train!”

“Why, sure,” laughed the Captain, “Why, aren’t you glad to see me
without my plane? That’s a fine nephewly greeting!”

“Oh, gee, Bill, of course I’m glad to see you, but—well, I’ve sort of
been counting on your bringing your plane.”

Bill laughed. “The plane’s coming all right,” he said. “We had a little
accident the other day, and the wing needed repairing. I decided not to
wait for it, but to come in on the train to be with you. So Pat
McDermott is bringing the plane in in a few days. Is that all right? May
I stay?”

“Yup, you can stay,” said Bob. “But I want something to eat!”

“Everything’s ready,” said Mrs. Martin. “You change your clothes, and
come right down to dinner.”

“Sure thing,” said Bob. But he did not change immediately. He stopped
first to put two crossed flags in the window, which meant to Hal, “Come
right over.”



CHAPTER II—Captain Bill


Hal couldn’t come right over. He had to be fussed over, steamed, dosed,
and put to bed so that he would suffer no ill effects from his soaking
that evening. But he was over bright and early the next morning. It had
rained all night, and was still raining in a quiet, steady downpour,
when Hal appeared at the Martin home, dressed in rubbers, raincoat,
muffler, and carrying an umbrella to protect him on his long trek from
his own front door to his friend’s. Captain Bill would have been
startled at the strangely bundled figure of Hal, but he had been warned,
and greeted Hal without a blink of an eyelash. In fact, as soon as Hal
had been unwrapped from his many coverings, and had spoken to them all,
Captain Bill discovered that he was probably going to like this boy
after all, and was pleased that his nephew had such good judgment in
choosing a friend and companion.

They talked that morning, of course, about airplanes, and the boys told
how they had been reading about the famous flyers, and of their hopes to
be flyers themselves some day. Bill had been a good listener, and had
said very little, but after lunch Hal said what had been on his chest
for a long time.

“Captain Bill, we’ve been doing all the talking. Why don’t you tell us a
story?”

The Captain laughed. “I think that Bob’s heard all my stories. I’m
afraid that they’re a little moth-eaten now. But how about the two of
you telling me a story? Some of the things that you’ve been reading so
carefully. How about it?”

“We can’t tell a story the way you can, old scout,” said Bob. “Anyway,
we asked you first.”

“All right, I’m caught,” said the Captain. “But I’ll tell you a story
only on one condition. Each of you has to tell one too. That’s only
fair, isn’t it?”

Bob and Hal looked at each other. Hal spoke. “I’m afraid I won’t be able
to,” he said, blushing. “I can’t tell stories, I’m sure I can’t.”

Captain Bill knew that it would be tactless at that moment to try to
convince Hal that he could tell a story. It would only increase the
boy’s nervousness, and convince him only more of the fact that he could
not spin a yarn. So he said, “Well, we’ll tell ours first, and you can
tell yours later. After you hear how bad ours are, you’ll be
encouraged.” Then Bill had an idea. “How about having a contest?” he
said. “The one who tells the best story gets a prize.”

“What prize?” asked Bob quickly.

“Now, you take your time. We’ll decide on the prize later. We’ll have to
let Pat in on this, too, I suppose, but he’s going to give us some
competition. Pat’s a great story teller. I’ll tell my story first. Then
Bob can tell his, after he’s had some time for preparation; then Pat
will probably want to get his licks in; and Hal will come last. He’ll
have the benefit of our mistakes to guide him. How about it?”

“All right with me,” said Bob, eagerly. He was keen about the idea.

But Hal seemed less enthusiastic. His natural reticence, he felt, would
make it torture for him to tell a story. It would be all right just for
Bob—and he was even getting well enough acquainted with Captain Bill to
tell his story in front of him—but this Pat McDermott—even his name
sounded formidable. Captain Bill didn’t give him a chance to say aye,
yea, or nay, but went on talking.

“I think that we ought to choose subjects that you two know about,” said
Bill. “How about stories of the aviators—of Famous Flyers and their
Famous Flights?”

“Great!” said Bob. “Gee, I want Lindbergh.”

“Lindbergh you shall have,” said Captain Bill. “What’s yours Hal?”

“I don’t know,” said Hal. “I’ll have to think it over. But—I think that
I’d like to take the life of Floyd Bennett—if I may.”

“Of course,” said Bill. “I think that I’ll tell about Admiral Byrd—do
you think he’d make a good story?”

“Marvelous!” said Bob, with his usual enthusiasm. “What’ll we leave for
Pat?”

“Pat can take whomever he wants to take,” the Captain said. “He’ll have
to take what’s left. That’s what he gets for coming late. But what do
you say we wait to start the contest when Pat comes?”

“Yes, oh, yes, I think that that would be much better,” said Hal,
relieved that the ordeal would at least be postponed, even if it could
not be avoided altogether. “I think that we ought to wait until Mr.
McDermott comes.”

The Captain laughed. “Don’t let him hear you call him ‘Mr. McDermott’”
he said. “He’s Pat to everybody, and to you, too.”

“I’ll try to remember,” said Hal, miserably, thinking of what a
complicated world this was.

It was still raining outside. The boys and the Captain, seated in the
library, or rather, sprawled in the library, could see the streams of
rain splash against the windows and run down in little rivers until they
splashed off again at the bottom of the pane.

Captain Bill yawned and stretched. “Not much to do on a day like this.
I’m mighty anxious to get out to the airport as soon as it clears up.
What’ll we do?”

Bob had an idea. “Couldn’t we sort of sneak one over on Pat?” he said.
“Couldn’t we have a story, one not in the contest, now? It wouldn’t
count, really, and it would give us a little rehearsal before Pat gets
here.”

“Who’s going to tell this story?” asked Captain Bill, looking just a bit
suspiciously at his nephew.

Bob grinned. “Well, I thought that maybe you would. Seeing that you’re
the best story-teller anyway.”

“Go long with your blarney. But I guess I will tell you one. It will be
a sort of prologue to the rest of our stories. It’s about the very first
flyers and the very first famous flight.”

“The Wrights?” asked Hal.

“The Wrights,” said the Captain. “Wilbur and Orville, and their first
flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.”



CHAPTER III—The Wright Brothers


The Captain had first to fill his pipe, and stretch his legs before he
began his story.

“Of course,” he said, “we can’t really say that the Wrights were the
first men to fly, or to build a machine that would fly. Even in the
middle ages Leonardo da Vinci drew up plans for a flying machine. Just
before the Wright’s experiment Langley had stayed up in the air in a
machine invented and built by himself. If he had not died at so
unfortunate a period in his experimental life, perhaps he might have
been the inventor of the airplane.

“The Wrights invented the airplane in the same degree that Thomas Edison
invented the electric light. Men had experimented with both inventions
for many years. But it took the genius of the Wrights, the genius of an
Edison to bring together these experiments, to think through logically
just wherein they were right and where they were wrong, and to add the
brilliant deductions that brought their experiments to a practical and
successful end. Edison’s discovery was dependent upon the finding of the
proper filament for his bulb; the Wrights’ success hinged upon their
discovery of the warped wing, which gave them control over their plane.

“The fact that the Wrights were not the first to fly does not detract
from the thing that they actually did. At the time that they were making
their first flying machine, any man who tampered with the subject of
flying through the air was looked upon as crazy. And this was not more
than a quarter of a century ago. Seems funny, doesn’t it? But they were
not to be discouraged. They knew that they were right, and they went
ahead. They had many set-backs. Their planes were wrecked. What did they
do? They just built them over again, and were glad that they had learned
of some new defect that they could re-design and correct.

“You notice that I always talk of ‘the Wrights’ as though they were one
person; everybody does. In fact, they almost were one person. They were
always together; lived together, played together, although they didn’t
play much, being a serious pair, and worked together. They never
quarreled, never showed any jealousy of each other, never claimed the
lion’s share of praise in the invention. They were just ‘the Wrights,’
quiet, retiring men, who did much and talked little.

“From early childhood it was the same. Wilbur Wright, the elder of the
two, was born in Milville, Indiana, and lived there until he was three
years old with his parents, Milton Wright, bishop of the United Brethren
Church, and Susan Katherine Wright. In 1870 the family moved to Dayton,
Ohio, and in 1871 Orville Wright was born. From a very early age the two
were drawn to each other. Their minds and desires were similar.

“When Wilbur decided that he would rather go to work after being
graduated from High School, Orville decided that he, too, would give up
his formal education, and devote himself to mechanics.

“They were born mechanics, always building miniature machines that
actually worked. They did not stop studying, but took to reading
scientific works that were of more help to them than formal education.
In this way they learned printing, and built themselves a printing press
out of odds and ends that they assembled. On this they began to publish
a little newspaper, but they gave this up when another opportunity
presented itself.

“Bicycles were coming in at that time, and the Wright brothers set up a
little shop to repair them. From the repair shop they developed a
factory in which they manufactured bicycles themselves. Their business
was very successful, and they were looked upon as young men who were
likely to get along in the world. This was in 1896.

“That year Otto Lilienthal, a famous German experimenter, was killed in
his glider, just at the peak of his career. Wilbur read an account of
his death in the newspaper, and discussed it with his brother. The event
renewed the interest that they had always had in flying, and they set
about studying all of the books that they could find on the problem of
flight. They soon exhausted all that they could get, and decided that
their groundwork had been laid. From then on their work was practical,
and they discovered principles that had never been written, and which
resulted in the first flight.

“The first things that they built were kites, and then gliders that were
flown as kites. The Wrights were after the secret of the birds’ flight,
and felt that they could apply it to man’s flight. Their next step was
the construction of a real glider. But the country around Dayton was not
favorable for flying their craft. They wrote to the United States
government to find a region that had conditions favorable to their
gliding. That is how the obscure Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, came to be
the famous place that it is. It happened to have just south of it three
hills, Kill Devil Hill, Little Hill, and West Hill. Between the hills
was soft drifting sand, that would provide a better landing place than
hard earth in case of a spill. The winds were steady and moderate.

“To Kitty Hawk the Wrights went. Here they glided to their heart’s
content, until they decided that they had learned to control their
flights, and were ready to build a plane with power. They went back to
Dayton in 1902. They designed and supervised the building of the motor
themselves, one that would generate twelve horsepower. Satisfied, they
set out once more for Kitty Hawk, with the motor and parts of their
plane carefully stowed away.

“They got down there in the early autumn, but found so many difficulties
to overcome, that they could not make the first tests until December. In
the first place, they discovered that a storm had blown away the
building which they had built to work in when they first got to Kitty
Hawk. However, everything was at last ready, the weather favorable, and
the plane was hauled up Kill Devil Hill, and guided toward the single
track of planks that had been laid down the hill.

“Who was going to get the first chance to pilot the plane? Who was going
to be the first man to fly? Orville insisted that Wilbur be the one;
Wilbur insisted that Orville should be the first. They decided it by
flipping a coin. Wilbur won. He got into the plane, unfastened the wire
that held the plane to the track, and started down. He ended in a heap
at the bottom of the hill, uninjured, but with several parts of the
plane damaged.

“The Wrights were nothing daunted. They repaired the plane as quickly as
possible, and on December 17, they were ready for the second trial. It
was Orville’s turn, of course. He unloosened the wire; the plane started
down the hill; at the end of a forty-foot run it rose into the air. It
kept on going, in a bumpy, irregular course, now swooping up, now diving
down, for 120 feet, then darted to earth. The flight had taken in all
just twelve seconds, but the Wrights had flown.

“I suppose you’ve seen pictures of that first plane. It wasn’t much more
than a box in shape, a biplane, with no cockpit at all, just the wings
held together by struts, and a seat in the center for the pilot. A man
had to be tough to fly one of those planes. The wonder is that any of
them escaped with their lives. They had to sit up there exposed to all
the elements, and pilot the clumsy planes. And yet they grew into
skilful and expert pilots, and could loop the loop and figure eight in
them! The Wrights themselves were excellent flyers. This seems only
natural, with their natural born gift for mechanics. It was well that
they were good flyers, because it was up to them to prove to the world
that their craft was safe, and practical.

“It was hard at first. People were skeptical as to whether the Wrights
really had a ship that flew. Some of their tests were unsuccessful, and
they were laughed to scorn. However, France, who had been more advanced
than the United States in the matter of experimentation in flying,
became interested in the new flying machine, and sent representatives
over to the United States to inspect it. With the French approving of
it, the United States became more interested. The government offered a
prize of $25,000, for anyone who would build a plane that would travel
40 miles an hour, carry enough fuel and oil to cruise for 125 miles, and
fly continuously for at least an hour, with two persons weighing
together 350 pounds. The Wrights built such a machine, and the
government not only gave them the $25,000, but an additional $5,000
besides.

“In the meanwhile Wilbur Wright had gone to France, where he
participated in many flights, and won the hearts of the French people by
staying in the air for an hour and a half. At the end of the year, 1908,
he stayed in the air over two hours.

“The Wrights were showing what they could do. Flying became the rage.
Society took it up, and traveled to the Wrights to see their planes. But
the Wrights, no more impressed by this than they were by anything else,
kept right on working. They were financed by a group of able financiers
in the United States, and founded the Wright Aeroplane Company for the
manufacture of planes, and they were content.

“After 1909, their point proved, the Wrights did very little flying.
They spent their time in engineering problems, making improvements on
the planes that they were designing and manufacturing.

“They did some more experimenting with gliders, but this was in order to
perfect the art of soaring.

“In May, 1912, Wilbur Wright died, and broke up the famous partnership
that had existed for so many years. Since his death his brother has
lived quietly. He has not flown, and has acted as advisor to his company
as they turn out more and more modern planes. He is one man who has
lived to see a thing that he started himself grow into a blessing to
mankind. And if the airplane isn’t that, I’d like to know what is.”

“I think so,” said Bob.

“Who are you to think so?” asked Bill, sitting up very suddenly.

Bob was non-plussed for a moment, but then saw that his uncle was
joking, and laughed. They were interrupted by the ringing of the
doorbell.

“Well,” said the Captain, “who could be out in weather like this?”

They heard the front door open, voices, and then the closing of the
door. In a short while the footsteps of Mrs. Martin sounded on the
steps, and she entered the library.

“A telegram for you, Bill,” she said, and handed it to him. “My, you
three look cozy up here. I suppose you’ve been yarning, haven’t you?”
She gave her brother a playful poke.

Captain Bill, who had risen when his sister came in, offered his chair
before he opened the telegram. “Join us, won’t you, Sis?”

His sister laughed. “I really can’t go before I see what is in the
telegram,” she said. “Of course, I suppose I should be polite and
pretend not to be interested in it, but I am. We all are, aren’t we,
boys?”

Bob and Hal grinned.

“Well, then,” said Bill, “I guess I’ll have to see what’s in it.” He
opened the telegram, and glanced hurriedly over it. “Pat’s landing
tomorrow,” he said. “He wants us to be out at the airport to see the
_Marianne_ come in.”

“Hurray!” shouted Bob, and went into a war dance.

His mother looked at him tolerantly. She was used to Bob’s antics. “What
time is Pat coming in?” she asked.

“He didn’t say. In fact, that’s all he didn’t say in this telegram. But
I guess he’ll start out about dawn and get here around noon. Anyway,
we’ll be going down to the airport tomorrow morning to look around.
We’ll stay there until that Irishman rolls in.”

“What will you do about lunch?” asked the practical Mrs. Martin.

“Why, we’ll eat at the airport restaurant,” said Bill. “Don’t worry
about us, Sis.”

Mrs. Martin looked dubious. She glanced at Hal. She knew that Hal’s
mother liked to supervise her son’s meals, and did not care to have him
eat at strange places. Mrs. Martin felt that it would be a shame to
spoil the expedition for such a trivial reason, so she said, “I have an
idea. I’ll pack a lunch for all of you tonight, and you can take it with
you tomorrow. How will that be? You can eat it anyplace around the
airport. It’ll be a regular picnic. There are some nice places around
the port that you can go to. How about that?”

Bob answered for them. “That will be great. Gee, Bill, do you remember
the picnic baskets that Mom can pack? We’re in luck.”

“Do I remember?” said Bill. “How could I forget? You fellows had better
be up pretty early tomorrow.”

“You bet we will, Captain,” said Bob.

Then Hal said, “I guess I’d better be going. My mother will be wondering
if I’m never coming home. I hope that I can come with you tomorrow.”

“Hope you can come with us? Why, of course you’re coming with us. We
won’t go without you,” Captain Bill said explosively.

“I’ll see,” said Hal. “I’ll ask Mother. Maybe she’ll let me go. But
anyway, I’ll let you know. I’ll put up the flags in the workshop window.
All right?”

“Sure,” said Bob, and walked out with Hal. He saw the boy to the door,
and warned him again to be sure to come.

When the two boys had left the room, Captain Bill turned to his sister.
“Say,” he said, “do you think that Hal’s mother really won’t let him
come, or is the boy looking for a way out?”

“Why, what do you mean?” asked Mrs. Martin.

“Just this,” said Bill, and puffed vigorously on his pipe. “I’ve been
watching the boy, and I think that he’s afraid.”

“Afraid of what?”

“Afraid of actually going up in an airplane. I feel that a change has
come over him since there has been an actual chance of his learning to
fly,” explained the Captain.

His sister looked pensive. “But he’s always been so interested in
flying. That’s all the two of them ever talk about.”

“Perhaps. When there was no immediate chance of his going up in a plane.
Now that there is, I think he’d like to back out.”

“There is his mother to consider, of course,” said Mrs. Martin. “She
would undoubtedly object very strenuously if he merely went to the
airport. You must remember that he’s all she has. She’s always so
careful of him.”

The Captain snorted. “Too careful,” he said. “She’s made the boy a
bundle of fears. Bob has helped him get over some of them, but I think
that they’re cropping out now. It will be very bad for Hal if he funks
this. I think that it will hurt him a great deal. If he succeeds in
overcoming his fears now for once and for all, if he learns to go up in
a plane, even if he may never fly one himself, he will be a new boy.
He’ll never be afraid again. But one let-down now, and he will be set
way back—even further back than when Bob first met him.”

“I think you’re right, Bill,” said his sister. “But what are we going to
do about it?”

The Captain shrugged his shoulders. “I think the best thing to do with
the boy is not to let him know that we know he’s afraid. Treat him just
as if he were the bravest lad in the world. I’ll take care of that. But
I can’t take care of his mother. I never was a lady’s man,” smiled
Captain Bill. “You’ll have to attend to that.”

Mrs. Martin’s brow wrinkled. “I think you’ve taken the easier task,” she
said with a wry smile. “I’d much rather teach a boy to overcome his
fears than teach a mother to overcome hers. But I’ll try,” she added,
and hoped against hope for success.

Bob burst into the room. “How about something to eat?” he said. “I’m
starved!”

“As usual,” said his mother. “I would like to hear you just once
complain about being not hungry.”

“All right, mother,” said Bob. “If you want to hear me complain about
that, you just feed me a good dinner now, and I’ll do my best to
complain about being not hungry—after I finish it.”

“You’re an impossible son,” said his mother, but smiled fondly at him.
She really didn’t believe it.



CHAPTER IV—Some War Heroes


Whether secret springs were put into operation by Mrs. Martin that
afternoon or not, nevertheless Hal was able to join the party going to
the airport early the next morning. It was a beautiful morning. It had
stopped raining, and the sun, coming out strong and bright, had dried
everything so thoroughly that only an occasional puddle here and there
on the road showed that it had rained at all. The drive to the port was
pleasant, too; the port being about a mile out of town, and at least
five miles from the Martin home.

When they arrived, the day’s program was in full sway. A huge
tri-motored plane was loading passengers for a cross-country trip. As
the three approached the port, they saw the great plane rise into the
air and take off exactly on schedule. Smaller planes were flying about
above the airport, and on the ground mechanics were working over several
planes that needed overhauling. Captain Bill wanted to go first to the
administration building, a large white brick structure, modern as any
office building in appearance. He wanted to see the head of the airport,
an old friend of his, and make the final arrangements for the care of
his plane when it came in.

As they were about to enter the building, a tall, heavy-set man passed
them, on his way out. Captain Bill started, and half turned. “Well, if
that didn’t look like—” he began, then turned and went on into the
building. “Looked like an old flying buddy of mine. But of course, it
couldn’t be. Old Hank never was that fat. Never had an ounce of fat on
him. All skin and bone. But you never can tell, eh, boys?”

“You’ll be getting there yourself, some day, be careful,” laughed Bob.

John Headlund, delighted to see Captain Bill, jumped up from his desk,
and pumped his hands up and own. “If it isn’t the Captain! Man, it’s
great to see you again!” Headlund and Bill had flown together in France,
and although they had kept in touch with each other a few years after
they had returned to America, the press of business had kept them apart,
and they had not seen each other for years. Captain Bill presented the
boys.

“They’re going to bring new business for you, Headlund,” said Bill.
“Here are two of America’s future flyers.”

The boys grinned.

Headlund, after wishing them success, turned again to Bill. “Do you see
any of the old boys?” he asked.

“Pat McDermott’s my partner,” said Bill. “He’s flying the old boat in
this afternoon sometime.”

“He is! That’s great! And quite a coincidence, too. Do you know who was
here—left just before you came in?”

“Not Hank Brown!” shouted Bill. “By golly, I thought I recognized that
face! Old Hank! What was he doing here?”

“He’s got a ship down here in one of our hangars. It’s a beauty—a four
passenger cabin plane, with the pilot’s seat up front—a beautiful job.
Listen, Hank’s gone down to the hangar now to look it over. Maybe you
can catch him down there. It’s Avenue B, the last hangar in line.”

“Great. I’d like to see Hank. Last time I saw him he was in an English
hospital, eating porridge and not liking it at all. Who would have
thought that the old skinny marink would have put on all that poundage?
Old Hank fat! And flying in a cabin plane. Come on, fellows, we’ve got
to go down there and see him.” He turned to Headlund. “I’m going to be
in town all summer, Heady, and I guess you’ll be seeing plenty of me.
What street did you say? Avenue B?”

Captain Bill and the boys hurried out, found the right road, and walked
along it until they came to the last hangar. A beautiful plane, black
and aluminum, stood outside. But as they approached, there was nobody to
be seen.

“Ahoy, there!” shouted Bill. “Anybody here know Hank Brown?”

Hank himself appeared from the other side of the plane, where he had
been conferring with a mechanic. “I’m Henry Brown,” he said, peering
from behind gold-rimmed glasses at Bill and the boys. His face
registered no sign of recognition at first. Then suddenly it lighted up,
he rushed forward, and gripped Captain Bill’s hand in his, slapping him
heartily on the back with the other. “Well, Bill! You old sock! Where on
earth did you come from? What are you doing here? Where have you been?”

Bill, delighted to see his old buddy, laughed at him, and poked him in
his now well-padded ribs. “One question at a time, Hank. What are you
doing here? And how come you’ve got this grand ship?” asked Bill.

“I asked you first,” laughed Hank.

They spent the next ten minutes telling each other just what they had
been doing since their last meeting. They spared the details, but each
was satisfied with the other’s story. Hank had done well as the manager
and later as president of his father’s steel plant. Prosperity had
ironed out the wrinkles that had always twinkled around his steely grey
eyes, and contentment had added inches to his waistline, but he was
still the same generous, fun-loving Hank that the boys had known in
France.

“Listen,” said Hank. “Come on in and try the plane. See how comfortable
it is. Say, this is some different from the old rattletraps we used to
fly, isn’t it?”

“But we had some good thrills in them, didn’t we,” said Bill. This
meeting with Hank was bringing back memories that had not stirred in him
for many years.

“Let’s get in here where we can talk in comfort,” said Hank.

They mounted a little step that the mechanic set for them, and entered
the side door of the plane. The inside was amazingly luxurious. Along
both sides were upholstered seats, covered with multi-colored cushions.
There were built-in fixtures, and everything to make for the greatest
ease in traveling. The pilot’s seat could be partitioned off by a glass
sliding door up front.

The three men sat down on the seats at the side of the cabin. “Gee,
they’re soft,” said Bob. “I could ride all day on these.” He jumped up
and down a little.

“Remember your manners,” said Bill.

Bob stopped jumping and blushed. “Oh, I forgot,” he said. He had really
forgotten that Hank Brown was an important man, a millionaire. But Hank
only laughed.

“How would you people like to take the plane up on its last ride this
year?” he asked.

“The last ride?” said Bill. “Why the last?”

“Well, I’m putting her away,” said Hank. “That’s what I was talking to
the mechanic and Headlund about. I was going to spend my summer up in my
log cabin in Canada, fishing, and all that. But my wife wants to go to
Europe instead. She’s going to take the two girls over to France and
leave them there in school. That would mean she’d have to come back all
alone. I’ve been intending to go back to take a look around ever since
I’ve been back in America, so I thought I’d take the opportunity of
getting over there now with her. I wouldn’t take the plane. I won’t need
a big ship like this. If I want to fly I can pick up a little French or
German bus. So I’m putting old Lizzie in the hangar. Seems a shame. But
how would you like to go up now? Would you like to try her out?” he
asked Bill. “Would I?” said Bill. He slid into the pilot’s seat, and
looked over the instrument board, to familiarize himself with the
instruments with which the plane was equipped. Then he turned back to
the boys. “Want to go up?”

Bob was almost beside himself with excitement. “Take her up, Bill go
on,” he squealed. “Sure we want to go up. Go ahead, Bill.”

Hal said nothing. His face was pale. Bill thought that it would be best
to ignore him, and just take it for granted that he wanted to go up,
too. And Hal, although he was by this time frightened to death, would
not admit it. He decided to risk the going up rather than say that he
was afraid.

The mechanic taxied the plane out into the open and took away the steps.
Bill pressed the starter, and the great propeller began to move. Slowly
the ship rolled over the ground, gradually gaming momentum. Finally it
rose into the air. Bill handled the huge ship as though it were a toy.
Higher and higher it rose. Bob, looking out of the window, saw the
building of the airport whizzing by below them, then disappear into a
whirling mass. Were they going? Were they standing still? Bob couldn’t
tell.

“How high are we?” he shouted at the top of his voice to Hank.

“About 5,000 feet,” judged Hank. He was looking over at Hal rather
anxiously. He thought that maybe the boy was going to be sick. But Hal
manfully hung on, and said nothing.

“We seem to be standing still,” shouted Bob.

“We’re going, all right. Your uncle is a great one for speed!” shouted
back Hank.

The plane was banking now for a turn. They were going back. In a short
while Bill had brought the plane down once more into the airport.

“Well, how did you like it?” he said, turning around in his pilot’s
seat.

“Great!” said Bob.

But Hal was just a little sick. He said nothing, and waited for the
world to settle down again.

“You sure handle the ship like you used to in the old days,” said Hank
admiringly to Bill.

“She’s a great ship,” said Bill, modestly.

Hank had an idea. “Say,” he said impulsively, “how would you like to fly
her while I’m in Europe?”

“Gee, Hank, I really don’t think”—began Bill. He thought, the same old
Hank, always generous, always impulsive.

But Hank was going on with his plan. “Listen, I won’t take ‘no’ for an
answer. You fly my plane. And you can fly it up to the Canadian cabin if
you want to. Then a perfectly swell vacation plan won’t be entirely
thrown away. How about it? The cabin is all ready to move into. They’ve
been fixing it up for me. What do you say? Are you game?”

“Game?” said Bill. “Gee, I’m crazy about the idea. But I don’t see why
you should do this for me.”

Hank was embarrassed. “You’ve been pretty decent to me in other times,
remember that, Bill, old boy,” he said.

“Forget it,” said Bill.

Hank turned to the boys. “Bill here shot down a Boche when the Boche was
all but stepping on my tail. Those were the days, eh, Bill?”

“You bet,” said Bill. “We sure were glad to get back alive. Remember old
Lufbery? Raoul of the Lafayette Escadrille? There was a boy who could
shoot them down. Six out of seven in one day. Not bad flying, that. They
used to get pretty close to Raoul themselves. He’d come in with his
clothes ripped with bullets, but ready to go right out again with the
next patrol. Then one day he got his, and there wasn’t a man there that
wouldn’t have given everything he had to save him, either. He’d gone up
after a German that nobody seemed able to down. Lufbery climbed up to
get above him, and dove. But something went wrong with his plane—God
knows what, and those who were watching from the ground saw it burst
into flame. Then they saw him stand on the edge of the cockpit and jump.
It was horrible. But it was the only way for Lufbery to die—with his
plane. He wanted it that way.”

Then Hank said, “And Bill Thaw! There was another flying fool. Bill was
great fun—always laughing and joking, just as if his next flight might
not be his last. Remember what he did to those three German planes when
they got fresh with him, Bill?” He turned to the boys. “Thaw,” he
explained, “was coming back from his regular patrol, when he suddenly
came face to face with three German planes. One of them maneuvered to
his left, the second to his right, and the third dove below him to fire
up. Well, Bill had to think fast, and he did. He side-slipped until he
was directly over the plane below him, and fired down. One gone. Then he
pulled himself out of a steep dive, and went after the second plane. A
quick swoop, and a steep bank, a rapid burst of fire, and the second
German went down in a burning nose dive.

“From then on it was nip and tuck, and each man for himself, dog eat
dog. It was a pretty even battle. The German was plucky, and ripped into
Thaw for all he was worth. But one lucky turn, one accurate shot, and
Thaw had him. Down went his plane. Thaw, his plane in ribbons, his
clothes bullet-riddled, limped home, stepped out of his plane with a
smile, and a joke on his lips.”

“Golly,” said Bob, “that must have been great fun. I wish I’d been
there.”

“What would we have done with a baby in swaddling clothes?” laughed
Bill.

“Aw,” said Bob, “you know I mean if I was old enough.”

Hank was looking into the distance, with the far-away look that meant
another story was coming on, and Bob stopped talking.

Finally Hank said, “Remember Luke and Wehner? What a team! You never saw
two men so different in your life. Frank Luke talked a lot—not always
the most modest fellow in the world, either, and made a great to-do
about everything he did. But he sure did plenty of damage to the
Germans. Joe Wehner was quiet, modest, never talked very much, and never
about himself. But still they were always together. Came to be known as
‘The Luke and Wehner Duo.’

“They worked together, too. Went out on the same patrol and always stuck
together. Luke’s specialty was shooting down Drachens. Those were the
German observation balloons that they sent up behind their lines to
observe what was going on in the American lines. Of course, the
information they got caused plenty of harm, and anybody who shot down a
Drachen was doing a lot of good. But the things were expensive and
useful, and the Germans sent them up with plenty of protection. There
was always a swarm of planes flying around them and ready to light into
any stranger that came near.

“Luke and Wehner used to take care of that. Wehner would fly above Luke,
looking out for any plane that might come to attack him. If one hove in
sight, Wehner would go for him and engage him while Luke flew on and
shot down the balloon. Balloon after balloon went down. The Germans were
getting wary.

“One day when Luke and Wehner were on their way to see what they could
do about three Drachens that were watching the American lines, they met
up with a formation of Fokkers. Wehner dived into the uneven battle.
Luke flew on, and shot down one, then the other bag. But the gallant
Wehner had fought his last fight. One of the Fokkers downed him. Luke,
who saw what had happened to his pal, left the remaining balloon and
furiously charged the Fokkers. He fought like mad, zooming, diving,
spurting fire into those German planes. Two of them hurtled to the
ground. The others fled. Luke started for home. On his way he engaged
and downed another enemy plane. It was a record that on any other day he
would have boasted about. But not that day. His pal had been killed, and
Luke was for once silent and speechless.

“Of course, he didn’t give up balloon breaking. He added up a goodly
store. But one day he got his, like so many of them. He’d sent three
Drachens down in flames that day, when his own plane was so badly
crippled, and he was so badly wounded that he was forced to land. He
wouldn’t let them take him, though, and he died fighting. When a band of
German soldiers approached him, he pulled out his gun and shot six of
them before he fell dead.”

It was Bill’s turn. “Of course you boys have heard of Eddie
Rickenbacker. There was an ace for you. If it was speed and trick flying
that you wanted, Eddie was the man to give it to you. He had a bag of
tricks that would get any pursuit plane off his tail. But he didn’t
always use them. He didn’t have 26 planes to his credit for nothing.
Eddie was a great ace and a great scout.”

Hank interrupted. “Here we go gassing again like two old fogies. I feel
like my own grandfather sitting on the front porch and discussing the
battle of Bull Run. We are getting old, aren’t we, Bill? These
youngsters ought to be glad that they didn’t have to fly those old buses
that we used, though. The new planes are great to fly. You two are going
to have a grand time. I’d rather fly than travel any other way. But I
don’t think that it would be quite the thing to suggest to my wife now
that I would rather fly to Europe with her than take the boat. So old
Hank will be a land animal this time. Or rather, a water animal, instead
of a bird.”

“A sort of—fish?” laughed Bill.

“Shut up, you,” said Hank. “Now, listen, how about that offer of my
cabin and my plane for your vacation? It’ll be a grand trip, and I
guarantee that you’ll like the cabin on the mountain. Nobody around for
miles, except Jake, who takes care of the place for me. In fact, there’s
no town for a hundred miles around. About the only practical way of
getting there is by plane. Just think, old man, all of that beauty and
solitude going begging. You can get right back to nature there, live a
wild life, or have all the conveniences of home, whichever you chose.
We’ve got the place all fixed up. It’s a real man’s place, and you’ll
love it. And I’d like to see somebody who’d appreciate it have it this
summer. And I know you would.”

Bill looked at Hank, who was talking so earnestly, with a puzzled look.
“Listen, Hank,” he said, “you aren’t trying to persuade me to go up
there as a favor to you, are you? Because if you are, you’re crazy. It’s
certainly not you who should be doing the begging. We ought to be down
on our hands and knees begging you for the place. The only reason I
hesitate at all is because I think it’s too much you’re doing for us.”

Hank snorted. “Then you’re going to take the place.”

Bill looked at him fondly, seeing through the strange marks that time
had left on this man, the young, awkward boy whom he had befriended in
France, when he had been just a young fellow himself, but not so green
as the other. Then he said, “What do you say we leave it up to the
boys?” He turned to them. “What do you say, Bob? How does a vacation up
in the mountains sound to you?”

Bob, his eyes shining, could hardly answer. He hadn’t wanted to show too
much eagerness before because he had remembered his manners just in
time, and was watching Bill to see how they should respond to Hank
Brown’s generous offer. But now that he saw that Bill was favorably
disposed, he breathed, “Oh, gee, I think that it would be great! Just
great! Let’s go, Bill.”

Hank was amused and pleased by this enthusiasm.

The Captain turned to Hal. “How about you?”

Hal, who had forgotten his misery during the recital of the exciting
stories of war aces, and was once more fired with ambition, now that he
was safely on the ground, was almost as enthusiastic. “But,” he said as
an afterthought, “I don’t know whether I could go, of course. My
mother—” his voice trailed off.

Bill reached over and grasped Hank’s hand. “We’ll take it, old scout.
Don’t know how to thank you.”

“Don’t,” said Hank. “I’m glad you’re going to go. All you have to do is
to wire to Jake when you’re coming. He lights bonfires to mark the
landing field, and there you are. I’m going to be in town for two weeks,
so you can come up any time to make arrangements. O.K.? Now I’ve got to
go. I’ve been spending too much time as it is. Wish I could stay and see
Pat, but I can’t. Tell him to come up and see me, will you?”

He bid them goodbye and left in his automobile which had been parked
nearby. The next hour was spent in an exciting inspection of the various
planes in the airport, from tiny two-seater monoplanes that looked like
fragile toys, to huge biplanes; and in a growing impatience with Pat’s
delay. Finally a tiny speck appeared on the horizon, but the three of
them had been disappointed so often that they did not dare to hope that
this was at last Pat McDermott. But it was. He stepped out of the green
monoplane and pushing up his goggles, looked around him. He spied his
three friends immediately, and hurried to meet them.

“Hi, Irish!” called Captain Bill. “I want you to meet two pals of mine.”
He introduced Bob and Hal. “We’re going to teach them to fly.”

The two boys shook hands with Pat. He looked like his name, a tall,
broad, husky man with a shock of curly hair that had probably once been
red, but which was now brown, with a little gray at the temples; a young
face—it was impossible to tell how old he was; and a broad grin that
spread across his face and up around his eyes, disappearing into the
roots of his hair.

“Well,” he said, without ceremony, as though he had been friends of
theirs for years, “They’ll make good flyers if they’re not too lazy. And
if anybody can make you work, I can. And I will.”

The Captain laughed. “Don’t take Pat seriously,” he said. “He’s too lazy
to make you work very hard. But let me warn you that he’s trained army
flyers, so you’d better not mind what he says, while he’s teaching you.”

The boys had gone over and were looking at the Marianne. She was a
beautifully stream-lined craft, large yet graceful.

Pat noticed the boys’ admiration, and was pleased. “How about taking a
ride in her now?” he asked.

“They just got down to earth,” said the Captain. He explained about Hank
and Hank’s plane. Pat was delighted that their old pal had turned up,
and decided that they would have to have a reunion very soon. He also
decided on the spot that he was going along with them to the mountains.

“Try to keep me away. Although I don’t much fancy the riding on
cushions, in a fancy plane. When I fly, I want to fly. But if you let me
do the piloting, I’ll make the best of that.” Pat always decided things
that way, but nobody resented his high-hand manner, since he looked, and
was, the sort of man who could make good on any job he undertook. “Well,
Bob, my lad,” he said, turning to the boy, “how about going up? It’s the
first step in learning to fly. And don’t think that it’s going to be
like cabin flying. You’ll notice the difference when you get up. Ready?”

“Sure,” said Bob.

Pat produced a helmet and some goggles. “It’s an open cockpit you’re
sitting in,” he said. “And see that the goggles fit tightly.”

Bob wiggled them around. “They seem all right,” he said.

“All right, hop in,” Pat told him.

Bob climbed into the rear cockpit, no less thrilled by his second flight
that day than he had been by his first. He waved his hand to the Captain
and Hal who were watching them. Pat climbed into the front cockpit.
“Ready?” he called.

“O. K!” shouted Bob.

Pat started the motor, which was a self-starter. The plane taxied gently
across the field, and Pat turned her nose into the wind. Bob felt her
lift from the earth; there was a bump—they hadn’t quite cleared; Pat
speeded up, until Bob, looking over the side of the cockpit, could see
the ground slipping by dizzily. Then the bumping stopped; they had left
the ground. This time they did not again bump; the Marianne soared into
the air.

Bob could feel the blast of air against his face, and he was glad his
goggles fitted well. The motor roared, the wind screamed. Bob tried to
shout, but could not hear himself uttering a sound. He looked down. The
airport looked as it had from the other plane. Now he had more of the
feeling of flying. There was a sudden bump. The Marianne dropped
suddenly. Bob felt as though he were in an elevator that had descended
very suddenly—there was the same pit-of-the-stomach feeling. Air bump,
he thought, and it was. He looked over the side again, and could see
nothing. They were traveling pretty high.

Then suddenly the roar of the motor stopped, and they began to descend
at what Bob felt must be an almost unbelievable speed. At first Bob was
frightened, but then realized that they were gliding down. Every now and
then Pat turned on his engine again. Bob, looking over the side, could
see the fields coming up to meet them. They landed so gently that he
hardly felt the jolt of the wheels touching the ground.

How funny to stand on the stable ground once more! The sound of the
motor was still roaring in Bob’s ears. He pulled off the goggles and
helmet. “It was marvelous!” he shouted loudly to his friends.

“We can hear you,” said the Captain. “You needn’t shout!”

“Was I shouting?” laughed Bob.

“You are,” said the Captain.

But Pat had turned to Hal. “Well, lad, you’re next.”

But Hal said what he had been rehearsing for many minutes, in fact, ever
since Bob had taken to the air. “Don’t you think it’s rather late? We
haven’t had any lunch. Maybe we could go up again after lunch.”

Captain Bill, who knew the struggle that was going on in Hal’s heart,
and who was getting hungry anyway, said, “Lunch. That’s the idea. We’ve
got a great picnic lunch, Pat.”

“Lead me to it,” said Pat.

“Knew that would get you,” laughed the Captain.

They left the plane in charge of a mechanic, who was to look after it,
and went over to the automobile that the Captain had parked. They
decided, on Bob’s suggestion, to eat on a grassy slope from which they
could see the airport.

“I’ve got an idea,” said the Captain. “You can start your story about
Lindbergh.”

“I’m ready,” said Bob, “if you’re ready to listen. I think I know the
story backwards and forward.”

“Begin at the beginning, always,” the Captain warned.

They reached the spot where they had chosen to picnic, and settled back
contentedly in the long grass to hear part of Bob’s story before lunch.



CHAPTER V—The Eagle


“Well,” began Bob, “I guess my story isn’t going to be very new to any
of you. Gee, I know it almost by heart, and I suppose everybody else
does, too.”

“Don’t apologize,” said the Captain. “We’ll be only too glad to stop you
if we’ve heard it before. I don’t think that we will, though. It’s a
story that bears repeating.”

Bob’s eyes lighted up. “You bet,” he said. “I never get tired of reading
about it.” He plucked at the grass beside him. “Gee, it makes a fellow
want to do things. It makes him feel that the older folks don’t know
everything—”

“A-hem,” interrupted Captain Bill.

Bob laughed. “You’re not old folks, old bean. Don’t flatter yourself.
Anyway, they told Lindbergh that he couldn’t do it. They told him that
his plane was carrying too much, and he’d never be able to make it
alone.”

“Did he?” said Pat.

Bob looked at him disgustedly. “Did he! Don’t make fun of me, you old
Irishman!”

The old Irishman looked grieved. “Well, I just wanted to know. I’m
always willing to learn somethin’ new. And you’d better get started, or
we’ll never know. We’ll be leaving the lad up in the air, so to speak.”

“Ignore that ape,” said Captain Bill, “and proceed.”

“Lindbergh didn’t listen to them. He just went ahead and did what he
thought was right, and by golly, he was right. It makes a fellow feel
that even if he is young he can do things. He doesn’t just have to sit
around and do what everybody else has done before. There’s got to be a
first every time. Lindy wasn’t afraid just because nobody had ever flown
the Atlantic alone before, and the wiseacres said that it couldn’t be
done. He just went ahead and flew it.”

“It wasn’t as easy as all that,” quietly remarked Hal.

Bob turned to him. “Of course not. Lindy had planned every move that he
was going to make. He was prepared for anything. That’s why he’s always
so successful. He has his plans all laid before he ever takes off. He’s
got all the courage in the world, but he’s not reckless.”

“Put that under your hat, my lad. It’s a good lesson to know by heart
when you’re going into the flying game.”

“You bet,” said Bob. “Gee, it needed a lot of courage for him to make
that take-off. I’ve got the date down here. It was May 20, 1927, on a
Friday. That must have been an exciting morning down at Roosevelt Field.
He made up his mind on Thursday afternoon. They told him that the
weather was all right over the North Atlantic, and that it would be best
if he started out the next morning.

“He didn’t tell anybody about his plans. He never talks very much
anyway. Everybody found that out later. It was all sort of secret. He
just told his mechanics to get the Spirit of St. Louis ready, and keep
their mouths shut. I guess he didn’t want everybody messing around with
his plans. But the men who delivered his gasoline weren’t so secret, I
guess, and somehow his plans leaked out Thursday night.

“That Thursday night was pretty awful. It was raining, and the weather
could be cut with a knife. But once people found out that Slim was going
to start, they began to come around to Curtiss Field, and at two o’clock
in the morning there was a big crowd of them standing around in the rain
and mud. Slim wasn’t leaving from Curtiss, though, and they towed his
plane by truck over to Roosevelt. They got there just about when it was
getting light.

“There was a crowd over at Curtiss, too. But Slim didn’t care. Crowds
never mean much to him. He saw a whole lot more of them later on, too,
but he never was one to strut or show off. He just got into his
fur-lined suit, and waited for the men to start his engine. Somebody
asked him if he had only five sandwiches and two canteens of water.
‘Sure,’ he said. ‘If I get to Paris, I won’t need any more, and if I
don’t get there, I won’t need any more, either.’ It was just like him to
say that, but the real reason he didn’t take any more was because he had
too much weight already. He had over 200 gallons of gas, and the load
was heavy. He had to cut down on everything that wasn’t absolutely
necessary.

“Well, they started his motor for him. The plane was standing on the
Roosevelt runway, which is pretty smooth, and five thousand feet long.
The weather had cleared up a little. And there was the monoplane looking
all silver and slick, roaring away for all it was worth. Lindy said
goodbye to his mother, and to Byrd and Chamberlin and Acosta, who were
planning their own trips across the Atlantic, and then he stepped into
the cockpit, and closed the door.

“He raced his motor a little bit. She must have sounded pretty sweet to
him, because he gave her the gun, and off he went. That start must have
been one of the hardest parts of the whole trip. The Spirit of St. Louis
bumped along that muddy runway, and the people watching thought she’d go
over on her nose any moment. She was over-loaded. Her motor was pulling
for all she was worth, but it didn’t seem as though they’d ever make it.
She went off the ground a few feet, and bounced down again. But then the
crowd held its breath. She was leaving the ground. They were up about
fifteen feet. And there were telegraph wires in their path. If they hit
those, the trip to Paris was over right then. But they didn’t. The
landing gear cleared by a few inches. That crowd simply roared. But Slim
didn’t hear them. He was on his way to Paris.”

Bob paused for breath. He had been talking very fast, carried away by
his story. The others did not speak, but sat waiting for him to go on.
They had all heard the story before, but as the Captain had said, it
bore repeating, and they could hear it again and again. There was
something agelessly appealing in the tale of that young man’s feat.

Bob was talking again. “I’m not much at poetry,” he said.

“You bet you’re not,” said Captain Bill. “I’ve read some of yours.”

Bob glared at him. “I never wrote a poem!” he said defensively.

The Captain looked contrite. “It must have been Hal,” he said. “I beg
your pardon. Go on with your story. Where does the poetry come in?”

“I was going to tell you, before you interrupted, so rudely, that
there’s somebody who’s written a poem—a lot of poetry, to music—a
cantata I think they call it. It’s about Lindy’s flight, and it tells
the story of the flight across the Atlantic. I guess it’s pretty
thrilling. Maybe that’s the only way the story can be told—in poetry and
music, because it always sounds pretty flat when you just say Lindy flew
across the Atlantic in a monoplane. It needs music, with a lot of
trumpets—”

“Go on, go on, my lad. More words, less music.” Pat seemed to be getting
impatient. The sun was pretty high over their heads now, and bees were
buzzing drowsily in the tall grass all around them. Hal had stretched
out on his stomach, facing the little group, which was seated now in a
semi-circle. “I’ll be falling asleep if you don’t get on.”

Bob laughed embarrassedly. “All right, you just stop me if I get to
rambling. You keep me straight, Irish.”

Captain Bill leaned back on a hummock of earth, his arms folded behind
his head. “I’m so comfortable, I could listen to anything, even to Bob
telling a story. Go on, Bob.”

“One more crack, and you don’t hear anything,” said Bob. “Remember the
rules, no interruptions from the gallery.”

“We stand corrected. Go on.”

Bob settled himself once again into the grass. “Well, we’ve got Lindy
into the air. No sooner had he set out when people began reporting that
they’d seen him. Some of them had. A lot of them were just excited
individuals who’d heard a motorcycle back-firing. But somebody actually
did see him flying over Rhode Island, and about two hours, nearly, after
he had set out, they flashed back that he’d been seen at Halifax,
Massachusetts. Then he dropped out of sight. Nobody reported seeing him.
That was because he took an over-water route, and was out some distance,
flying along the coast of New England.

“They saw him next over Nova Scotia, running along nicely, and then
Springfield, Nova Scotia saw him. It was about one o’clock, and he was
going strong. But he was getting into a dangerous region, cold and
foggy. They had watchers looking for him everywhere. Lindy left Nova
Scotia at Cape Breton, headed for Newfoundland. It was pretty stiff
going, about 200 miles without sight of land, and over a pretty
treacherous sea. But at 7:15 they saw him flying low over St. John’s, in
Newfoundland. They could see the number on the wings, and sent back word
to the world that he had passed there. And that was the last word that
anybody received that Friday.

“The going had been pretty good until then. The weather was clear, and
the ceiling pretty high. But as soon as it got dark, Lindy and his plane
hit some pretty bad weather. It grew mighty cold, and a thick swirling
fog came up and swallowed up the plane. This was mighty tough, because
if he flew low, he was bound to run into one of the icebergs that were
floating in the icy sea. So he climbed up to about 10,000 feet, and
stayed there. Flying high was all right, but it added another danger.
Ice was forming on the wings of the Spirit of St. Louis, and if it got
thick enough, it would break off a wing of the plane, and send the plane
and Lindy into the sea.

“Lindy could have turned back, but he didn’t. He kept right on, through
fog and sleet and rain. His motor never missed. It was a good pal, and
no wonder he included it in his feat, and said later that ‘we crossed
the Atlantic.’

“When morning came, a whole flock of cables came, too. It seems a whole
lot of ships had sighted Lindy’s plane, or somebody’s plane, anywhere
from 500 to 100 miles off the coast of Ireland, where he was headed.
Nobody knew who to believe, but at 10:00 o’clock came the real news,
that he was over a place called Valencia, Ireland.

“Lindy wondered where he was, himself. Flying blind as he had, he didn’t
know just where he had come out. So he decided to ask the first person
he met. Now you can imagine the air roads weren’t full of planes flying
to Ireland, and Lindy had to wait until he sighted a fishing schooner.
He swooped low and shouted out, ‘Am I headed for Ireland?’ The fishermen
were so astounded that they couldn’t answer, so Lindy flew on his
course, depending as he had all night, on his compass. Pretty soon he
came in sight of land, and knew that it was Ireland.”

“Because it was so beautiful,” said Pat.

“No, because it was rocky, and his maps indicated that the land would be
rocky,” said Bob.

“Oh, no doubt he could tell it was Ireland,” insisted Pat. “His mother
was Irish, you know, and it needs mighty little Irish blood to make a
man long for the ould sod.”

“Well, anyway, there he was over Ireland,” put in Bob, pointedly. “And
from Ireland, on to England, and from England, on to France. Along the
Seine, and then Paris. They were waiting for him at Le Bourget, and sent
up flares and rockets, long before he got there. Maybe they weren’t
excited when he flew into range! It was about 8:30, that is, French
time, but about 5:30 New York time, when Lindy and the Spirit of St.
Louis circled around the landing field at Le Bourget and landed. Golly,
I wish I’d been there. The first man in the world to fly the Atlantic,
landing before my very eyes! He’d gone 3,640 miles, and had made it in
33½ hours. Some going!

“Well, he was there. And he got out of the plane. And you all know what
he said when he got out. I—”

“I am Charles Lindbergh,” said Captain Bill and Pat, not quite in
unison.

“Yup,” said Bob, “‘I am Charles Lindbergh.’ He thought that they
wouldn’t know who he was. He’d been flying pretty low over Ireland and
England, and so far as he could see, nobody had paid much attention to
him. So he introduced himself, just as though every man, woman and child
in every civilized country wasn’t saying that very name all through the
day. Remember when we heard the news over the radio, Hal? We were so
excited we nearly upset the furniture. Golly, that was a day.

“Well, that was Slim Lindbergh’s flight, and now about Slim himself. He
was born in Detroit, Michigan, on February 2, 1902, and that means that
he was only twenty-five years old when he made his greatest flight,
which is pretty young to become the most famous man in the world.

“His dad was Charles A. Lindbergh, and he died in 1924, when he was
running for governor of Minnesota on the Farmer-Labor ticket. He’d been
a Representative in Congress before. Lindy and he were great pals, and
played around together a lot. Lindy’s mother was Irish, and taught
school in Detroit.

“Lindy went to school in Little Falls, and to Little Falls High School.
He graduated from there when he was 16. He was good in Math and in other
things he liked, but not in grammar.

“Lindy didn’t go right to college. In fact, he didn’t go until three
years after he’d graduated from high school, and then he went to the
University of Wisconsin, to take up mechanical engineering. He was good
at that. He’d always liked to tinker, and he got his chance there. He
did at college just what you’d expect him to do. He had some friends and
acquaintances, but mostly he kept to himself. He was the same quiet, shy
person that everybody got to know later, when he became famous.

“Slim didn’t stay at Wisconsin very long, so we don’t know what he would
have finally done there. He went over to Lincoln, Nebraska, where they
had a flying school, and asked them to teach him to fly. They taught him
the beginnings of flying, and from the moment his hands touched the
controls, he knew that this was what he was cut out for. He just took
naturally to those levers and gadgets, and could handle his plane like a
toy.

“It seems that Lindy was born to be a pilot. He’s built for one, in the
first place. Long and rangy, and slim. No extra weight, but plenty of
muscle and endurance. He’s got a lot of nerve and never gets excited He
showed that when he got himself elected to the Caterpillar Club. But
I’ll get to that later.” Here Bob paused, and looked up at the sun,
which was just slipping a little westward. “Say,” he said. “Would you
folks mind if I continued my story later? I feel just a little empty.
How about the food?”

“I’ve been thinking that for a long time,” said the Captain. “But rules
are rules. I didn’t want to interrupt you.”

Bob snorted. “Say, for food you can interrupt me any time. Let’s go.”

He jumped up, stretched himself, and made for the car, to get out the
huge hamper of lunch. “Say,” he called back, “Lindy may have been
satisfied with five sandwiches all the way to Paris, but darned if I
couldn’t eat five right now.” He carried the hamper over to the knoll
where the others were. They were all standing now, limbering up,
stretching, sniffing the good air, and looking eagerly toward the food.

“Here, lend a hand,” said Bob. He plumped down the basket so that they
could hear the rattle of forks and tin cups within, and sat down beside
it.

“You’re the host,” said Hal, seating himself comfortably on the grass
and looking on. “It’s your party. We have to listen to your story, so
the least you can do is feed us.”

Bob had opened the hamper, and was viewing its contents eagerly. He
dived into the basket. “Say, anybody who doesn’t help himself, doesn’t
eat. Fall to.”

They fell to, doing much eating but little talking. Finally Bob sat
back, a sandwich in one hand, a cup of steaming coffee out of the
thermos bottle in the other. “I have a suspicion,” he said, “that you
don’t like my story.”

“Don’t get ideas like that, Bob, my lad,” said Pat. “We love your story.
We just like sandwiches better.”

“All right, then I won’t finish,” said Bob. “I’m going to be
independent.”

Hal looked up. “Not finish? You’ve got finish any story you start.”

“One of the rules? There aren’t any rules. You just made that up.”

Hal was cajoling now. “Aw, come on, Bob. We want to hear the end. Come
on, tell us the rest.”

Bob bit into a huge slice of cake. He shook his head. “Nope, no end.”

“Well, at least about the Caterpillar Club. At least you’ll tell us how
Lindy saved his life by bailing out. We’ve got to hear that.”

But Bob was adamant. “I’ve been insulted. I’m not going on. Anyway,
Lindy didn’t save his life once by bailing out of a plane.”

“He didn’t? You said a little while ago that he did.”

“I didn’t say once. He became eligible to the Caterpillar Club four
times.”

Hal looked at Bob with disgust. “I must say that you’re being very
disagreeable.”

Captain Bill, who had been looking on in amusement, suddenly laughed
very loudly. “Don’t coax him, Hal. He doesn’t need coaxing. He’s going
to tell the rest of the story, don’t you worry. Wild horses couldn’t
keep him from finishing the tale. Could they, Bob, old man?”

Bob looked over at his uncle and grinned. “Why, you old sinner. What a
way to talk about your favorite nephew. But now that you mention it,
maybe I did intend to finish the story, seeing that I’d started it. Now,
where was I?”

Pat was clearing up the debris made by four men eating a picnic lunch.
“You’ve got Lindbergh at the Nebraska flying school for a long time.”

“Oh, not very long,” said Bob. “You see, he stayed there really a short
time. In fact, he never did any solo flying there.”

“Well, why not?” asked Hal.

“They asked for a five-hundred dollar bond from every student before he
went up on his first solo flight. This seemed silly to Lindy, and he
left the school.

“When he left, he did what so many of the flyers were doing then. He
went out west, and did stunting, risking his neck at county fairs and
air circuses to give the people a thrill. He did, too. He handled his
plane like a toy, doing rolls, tail spins, and every kind of stunt
imaginable. But the most exciting thing that he did, and it usually
isn’t an exciting thing at all, was landing his plane. He could land on
a dime, and as lightly as a feather. That’s really piloting, isn’t it,
Bill?”

“You bet,” said the Captain. He was sprawled out on his back, enjoying
his after dinner rest. “A landing will show you your flyer’s ability
every time. Provided, of course, that he has a fairly decent landing
field. Did I ever tell you the story that Hawks tells in his
autobiography? Do you mind if I interrupt for just a minute, Bob?”

“Oh, no, go right ahead,” said Bob, witheringly. “Go right ahead. I was
just telling a story.”

“Thanks,” said Captain Bill with a grin. “I will. Well, it seems that
Hawks was stunting down in Mexico, and doing quite a bit of private
flying. He got a commission to fly a Congressman and a General, I think
it was, back to their home town of Huatemo. Have you ever heard of
Huatemo? I thought not. Well, Huatemo had never seen an airplane close
up, and the two high muckamucks decided that they’d give the natives a
thrill by coming back via plane. Hawks had them wire ahead to have a
landing field prepared. The native officials wired that they had a fine
field, clear of all obstructions, but dotted with a few small trees.
‘Fine, says Hawks, but have them remove the trees immediately.’ The
natives said that this had been done, and the party started out.

“After several adventures, Hawks flew over Huatemo, and prepared to
spiral down to the landing field. Imagine his chagrin and surprise, my
dear boys, when he discovered, that the officials of Huatemo had indeed
cut down the Huateman trees, but had left the stumps standing!”

“Whew,” said Bob. “What did he do, turn around?”

“No, he couldn’t. And anyway, there was no other place to land. The
field was surrounded by dense forests. He had to make it. He brought his
plane down without hitting a stump, and then zig-zagged wildly from
stump to stump like a croquet ball trying to miss wickets. And he missed
them all, too, except one. The wheel hit it an awful smack, and
collapsed. The plane tilted up on its nose, and came to rest with its
propeller in the ground and its tail waving gayly in the air, not at all
like a proper plane should.”

“And killed them all,” said Pat.

“Who, Hawks? Not on your life. He’s a lucky fellow. Not one of them was
hurt. They climbed out of the plane, and were greeted by the natives,
joyously and with acclaim. And not one of the natives seemed to suspect
in the least that this wasn’t the way a plane should land. Or at least
the way a crazy American would land a plane.” The Captain finished his
story, and paused.

“Well,” said Bob grudgingly, “that was a good story, too. But, as I was
saying, Lindy was a good stunter, and a good flyer. He decided that he
wanted a plane of his own. He heard that there was going to be a sale of
army planes down in Georgia, and he went down and bought a Curtiss Jenny
with the money that he had saved from his stunting work. He fixed it up,
and was soon off barnstorming again. But I guess the Jenny was too
clumsy a boat for Lindy. He wanted to fly the newer, better planes that
the army had. So he joined the army’s training school at Brook Field,
San Antonio. This was when he was 22 years old.

“I guess he got along pretty fine at San Antonio, and he was sent down
to the pursuit school at Kelly Field. He joined the Caterpillar Club
there. It was the first time that he had to jump from a moving plane and
get down with his parachute. I guess it was a pretty close shave.”

“Gee, how did it happen?” said Hal, his eyes wide.

“Wait a second, I’m coming to it,” said Bob. “He and another officer
were to go up and attack another plane that they called the enemy. It
was a sort of problem they had to work out. Well, Slim dove at the enemy
from the left, and the other fellow from the right. The enemy plane
pulled up, but Lindy and the other officer kept on going, dead toward
each other. There was an awful crack, and their wings locked. The two
planes began to spin around and drop through the air. Lindy did the only
thing there was to do. He kept his head, stepped out on one of the
damaged wings, and stepped off backwards. He didn’t pull the rip-cord
until he had fallen quite a way, because he didn’t want the ships to
fall on him. When he’d gone far enough, he pulled the cord, and floated
gently down. That was the first.”

“And the second?” said Hal.

“The second,” went on Bob, “happened in 1927, just about a year before
Lindy flew the Atlantic. He took a new type of plane up to test her. He
put her through all the stunts that he could think of, and she stood
them all right. It seemed as though she was going to come through the
test O.K., when Lindy put her into a tail spin. They spiraled down for a
while, and Lindy tried to pull her out of it. She wouldn’t respond and
went completely out of control. Lindy tugged and yanked at the controls,
but he couldn’t get that bus to go into a dive. He did his best to save
the ship, but it was no use. He didn’t give up until they were about 300
feet from the ground, which is a mighty short distance to make a jump,
if you ask me. But Lindy made it, and landed in somebody’s back yard,
the wind knocked out of him, but otherwise all right. That was the
second.”

“And the third?” asked Hal.

“We’re getting ahead of the story. In fact, we’re ahead of the story
already. Before he made his second jump, Lindy had joined the Missouri
National Guard, and was promoted to a Captaincy in the Reserve and
Flight Commander of the 110th Observation Squadron. That’s how he got to
be a Captain, you know how he got to be a Colonel.

“Then Lindy joined the Robertson Aircraft Corporation, at St. Louis.
While he was with them, he helped map out the first mail route from St.
Louis to Chicago, and was the first pilot to carry mail along this
route. Slim had a habit of starting things off. He was the first to do a
lot of things. No sitting back and waiting for others to start things.
It was first or nothing for him. Maybe it was his Viking ancestors, I
don’t know.

“It was while he was flying this route that Lindy had his third
initiation into the Caterpillars. He took off one September afternoon
from Lambert Field, in St. Louis, on his way to Maywood. Just outside of
Peoria a fog rolled in, so thick you could cut it with a knife, Lindy
could climb up over it for flying, but he couldn’t land blind. He
dropped a flare, but it only lit up a cloud bank. He saw lights, then,
through the fog, and knew that he was around Maywood, but couldn’t get
the exact location of the field. He’d circled around for two hours, when
his engine sputtered and died. The tank was dry. Lindy quickly turned on
the reserve gravity tank. There was twenty minutes of flying in that
tank, and Lindy had to think fast.

“He tried flares again, but it was no use. When he had just a few
minutes of gas left, he saw the glow of a town. He didn’t want to take a
chance on landing in a town and killing somebody, so he headed for open
country. In a few minutes his engine died. Lindy stepped out into the
blind fog and jumped. After falling a hundred feet, he pulled the
rip-cord, and left the rest to chance. Every once in a while his ship
appeared, twirling away in spirals, the outside of the circle about 300
yards away from Lindy. He counted five spirals, and then lost sight of
the bus. He landed in a corn field, shaken, of course, but all right. He
found his way to the farm house, and told the farmer who he was. The
farmer, who had heard the crash of the plane as it smashed to earth
wouldn’t believe that this safe and sound man was the pilot of it.
Finally Lindy convinced him, and they went in search of the plane, which
the farmer was sure had landed close to his house. They found it two
miles away, looking not much like a plane, but a heap of rubbish. The
mail wasn’t hurt. They got it to a train for Chicago, and the mail went
through. It always does, you know.”

“Yup, it always does,” said Captain Bill.

“That reminds me of a story,” said Pat.

“Hold it,” said Bob. “I’ve got another parachute for Lindy.”

“Fire away,” said Pat. “But remember to remind me not to forget to tell
you my own story.”

“All right,” Bob put in. “Now the fourth time Lindy jumped was not long
before his big flight. He was still flying for Robertson’s, carrying
mail to Chicago. Just south of Peoria he ran into rain that changed to
snow. Lindy flew around, waiting for the fog to lift, until he heard his
motor sputter and die. He was up about 13,000 feet when he stepped out
of the cockpit and jumped into the air. He landed on a barbed wire
fence. Tore his shirt, but the plane was pretty much of a wreck. He
grabbed the air mail; hurried to a train for Chicago, got another plane,
and flew the mail through. A little late, but still, it got through. And
he didn’t bat an eye. Not one of the jumps fazed him a bit.

“But it wasn’t as though Lindy jumped at the slightest sign of anything
going wrong. He stayed with his plane until the very last minute, doing
everything he could to save it. He hated worse than anything to have a
plane smashed up. Look how long he stayed with that new plane he was
testing out—until he was just 300 feet above the ground.

“Well, Lindy was one of the best mail pilots that the Robertson
corporation had, in fact, he was their chief pilot. They could depend on
him to go out in weather that no other pilot would think of bucking. He
didn’t show off. Just knew that he could fly through anything, and he
did.

“At this time there was a lot of excitement in the air. Orteig was
offering his $25,000 prize for the first man to cross the Atlantic, and
there were a lot of aviators who would have liked the prize, and were
trying for it. Of course, the money wasn’t the whole thing. There was
the honor attached to it. And besides, there was the fact that crossing
the Atlantic would make people sit up and take notice that flying wasn’t
as dangerous as they thought. If a man could fly all that distance in a
plane, maybe planes weren’t the death traps that some people had an idea
they were. Lindy must have been thinking of this when he first decided
that he’d like to try for the Orteig prize. Because everything that he’s
done since his flight has been to get people interested in aviation.

“But it takes money to fly across the ocean. You’ve got to get a special
plane and all that. Lindy had to have backers. He couldn’t get them at
first. Everybody tried to discourage him. In the first place, he looked
such a kid. He was twenty-five, and that’s young, but he didn’t even
look twenty-five. The men he asked to back him all but told him to run
home and wait until he had grown up.

“Then Major Robertson, Lindy’s Big Boss, tried to get backers for him.
He knew that Lindy could fly and finally got some influential men to put
up $15,000 for his flight. Maybe Lindy wasn’t glad! He tucked his check
in his pocket and went on a shopping trip for a plane. He tried the
Bellanca people in New York, but they didn’t have what he wanted, so he
skipped to San Diego to the Ryan Airways, Inc., and told them what he
wanted. They put their engineers to work on his specifications, and
designed him a Ryan monoplane, the neat stream-lined job that was
christened the Spirit of St. Louis. It’s a graceful bird—but you’ve all
seen so many pictures of it, you know what it looks like. It has a wing
span of 46 feet, and an overall length of over 27 feet. They put in a
Wright engine—a Whirlwind, 200 horsepower. It’s a radial engine. You two
probably know what a radial engine is, but Hal here doesn’t.” Bob paused
and turned to Hal. “Do you?”

“Uh-uh,” grunted Hal. “Do you?”

“Of course I do. It’s one in which the cylinders aren’t in a straight
line or in a V, but arranged around an axis, like the spokes of a wheel.
Lindy’s plane had two spark plugs for each cylinder, so that in case one
missed, there was another one ready. She could carry 450 gallons of gas
and twenty gallons of oil, and she was loaded to the gills when Lindy
took her off the ground at the Field.

“Suppose Lindy wasn’t anxious about that plane. He hung around the
factory all the time that it was being built, and made suggestions to
help along Hawley Bowlus, who built the thing. You know Hawley Bowlus.
The fellow who held the glider record until Lindy took it away from
him—but that’s later. Bowlus knows how to build planes, and Lindy swears
by him.

“Well, they got the plane finished in 60 days, which isn’t bad time. Out
in New York, Byrd and Chamberlin and the others were getting ready to
fly the Atlantic. It’s wasn’t really a race to see who would be first,
but of course, there’s no doubt that each one was anxious to be the
first man to cross the Atlantic. Because after all, nobody likes to be
second. So Lindy had to get out to the east coast as fast as he could.
He could hardly wait for the plane to be finished. But at last it was,
and all the equipment in place. Lindy climbed into the cockpit to test
her out. The cockpit was inclosed. I don’t know whether I told that
before or not. Anyway, he could see out little windows on each side, but
he couldn’t see ahead, or above him. So it was really flying blind all
the time, except for a sliding periscope that he could pull in or out at
the side, in case he had to see straight ahead. But Lindy doesn’t mind
blind flying. He’s a wonderful navigator.

“Well, Lindy turned over the motor of his new plane, and it sounded
sweet. He hadn’t got it any more than off the ground when he realized
that this was the plane for him. It responded to every touch, although
it was a heavy ship, and not much good for stunting. But Lindy didn’t
want to stunt. He wanted to fly to Europe.

“It was on May 10, I think, that he left San Diego. It was in the
evening, not quite six o’clock. The next morning, a little after eight,
he got into St. Louis. Took him just a bit over fourteen hours, the
whole trip. It was the longest cross-country hop that any one man had
made up to that time. His old pals at Lambert Field were pretty glad to
see him, and he spent the night at his old stamping grounds. But he
didn’t stay long. Early in the morning he got on his way, and made New
York in the afternoon, in not quite seven and a half hours. Pretty
flying.

“Nobody much had heard of Lindy until he started from San Diego. Of
course, he’d been a dandy mail pilot, but they’re usually unnamed
heroes. Nobody hears about them, and they never get their names in the
paper unless they crash. Not that they care. They’ve got their jobs to
do, and they do them. But when Lindy flew that grand hop from San Diego
to St. Louis to New York, people began to sit up and take notice. He
didn’t say much after he got to the Curtiss Field.

“Out at Curtiss he spent his time seeing that everything was ready, and
all his instruments O.K. He had a lot of confidence in himself—he always
has—but there was no use in taking chances. In back of the pilot’s seat
was a collapsible rubber boat, that he could blow up with two tanks of
gas that he carried with him. It had light oars, and was supposed to be
able to float him for a week in case he decided suddenly to come down in
the middle of the Atlantic instead of flying all the way across. Then
there were his regular instruments. He had a tachometer, and an
altimeter, an earth inductor compass, a drift indicator, and—”

Captain Bill interrupted. “Just a minute, just a minute. You say those
things pretty glibly. Do you know what they mean? What’s a tachometer?
Pat here doesn’t know.”

Bob looked embarrassed. “Well, they’re all pretty necessary instruments.
I’ve been meaning to look them up, that is, Gee, I really ought to know,
oughtn’t I?”

“You ought,” said the Captain severely. “Do you mind if I interrupt your
story for just a minute and give you a few pointers? This is mostly for
you and Hal. You’ll never be able to fly unless you understand what the
instruments on the dashboard are for. Of course a lot of the old flyers,
like Patrick, here, flew just by instinct, and stuck their heads out
over the cockpit to see what was happening. A real pilot nowadays,
though, can be sealed in his cockpit and never see ahead of him from the
time he takes off until he lands, just so long as his instruments are
working. He can keep his course over any country, no matter how strange.
You’ve got to know your instruments.”

“Well, tell us,” said Bob.

The Captain sat up. “I guess the first thing that Lindy watched was the
tachometer. This is the instrument that shows the number of revolutions
per minute, or R. P. M.’s that the engine is making. A flyer must know
how many R. P. M.’s his engine must make to maintain a correct flying
speed, or he’ll go into a stall, which is bad. I’ll tell you more about
stalls later. The altimeter registers the height at which the plane is
flying. It isn’t very accurate at low altitudes, but it’s all right
higher up. You soon learn by the feel and the lay of the land how high
up you are. The exact height doesn’t matter in ordinary flying, just so
that you keep a good altitude. Then there’s that most important
instrument, the earth inductor compass. This is much more accurate than
a magnetic compass, and it keeps the ship on its course. It operates in
regard to the electro-magnetic reactions of the earth’s field, and
directions are indicated in reference to magnetic north. To steer by
this compass, you have to set your desired heading on the controller,
and then steer to keep the indicator on zero. If you veer to the left,
the indicator will swing to the left, and to keep on your course you
must bring your plane back to the right. When he changes his course, the
pilot consults his maps and graphs, and makes a change in the indicator
of the compass.

“Then there is the air speed indicator, which shows the speed of the
plane in the air. This is necessary so that the engine is not
over-speeded. A pilot never runs his plane at full speed as a general
thing, because he’ll wear out his engine. He keeps it at about 80 per
cent of its potential speed, which is a good safe margin.

“The turn and bank indicator also reads from zero, and deviates from
zero when the plane dips. The bubble rides up to the left when the plane
banks right, and rides up to the right when the plane banks left. When
the ship is again on an even keel, the indicator goes back to zero. The
pilot, when he isn’t flying blind, can keep his plane level by noticing
the position of the radiator cap or top of the engine in respect to the
horizon. But in a heavy fog, or if he can’t see over his cockpit, the
horizon doesn’t exist, and a bank and turn indicator is his instrument.

“The instruments that are no less important than these are the oil
gauge, the gasoline pressure gauge, and the thermometer, which shows
whether the motor is overheating. If the oil gauge shows that the oil is
at a good cool temperature, and the gasoline pressure gauge shows that
the gas pressure is up, the pilot knows that his motor is running
nicely. The gas pressure gauge won’t tell you how much gas you have
left, though. It’s always best to figure how much gas you’re going to
need on a trip, and then take some over for emergencies. Most planes
also have an emergency tank, so that if one tank gives out, the other
can be switched on, and will give the flyer time to maneuver about until
he finds a landing place.” Captain Bill paused. “Well, those are your
instruments. I’ll probably have to explain them all over to you again
when the plane comes, and I start to teach you to fly.”

“Oh, no, not to me, you won’t,” Bob said.

Hal sat quietly looking out over the valley below, saying nothing. He
had listened intently to the Captain’s instructions, but there was an
odd expression on his face.

Finally Pat snorted. Bob and the others jumped.

“Hi, what’s the idea. Is there a story being told, or isn’t there a
story being told? Get on with you.”

“It’s no fault of mine, Patrick,” said Bob, looking meaningly at the
Captain, who appeared as innocent as a lamb. “I’m always being rudely
interrupted. But I’ll go on. Where was I?”

“The Lindbergh lad was at Curtiss Field, waiting this long time to be
off,” said Pat.

“Oh, yes. Well, when he got word that the weather was O.K., he got his
sandwiches, his canteens of water, and started off on the greatest
flight in aviation history. And I’ve told you about that.”

“We seem to be right back where we started from,” the Captain said. “Is
that the end of your story?”

Bob laughed. “By no means. You’ve got a lot to hear yet. What do you
suppose I’ve been collecting dope for all these weeks? I’ve got a lot to
tell you. Lindy wasn’t satisfied with one great trip. He’s been flying
since, and has made some pretty important jaunts. Things happened to him
after he got back to America loaded down with about every kind of medal
that one man can get. And I’m going to tell you all of them.”

“I suppose we’ll have to listen. It’s part of the game,” Pat said. “But
not now, my lad.” He rose stiffly from the grass. “You’re mother will be
looking for us, and wondering what’s become of us. We’d better get for
home.”

“How about continuing in the next issue?” laughed the Captain.

“O.K.” said Bob. “You get the rest of it tonight, whether you like it or
not.”

Hal looked up fervently at Bob. “Oh, we like it, Bob. I think it’s a
great story. A great story.” The boy’s eyes shown in his pale face.
“Golly, Bob, it must be wonderful to be able to do things like that.”

Bob looked uncomfortable as they walked over to the car. “Well, kid, I
don’t see why anybody can’t do great things if he’s got grit enough.
That’s what it takes—Grit.”



CHAPTER VI—More About The Eagle


It was after dinner at the Martin’s. Captain Bill, Pat, and the two boys
had gone out to the garden. The Captain and Bob were stretched out in
two deck chairs, the Captain’s long legs sticking out a long way past
the end of the low foot-rest. Pat lay in the glider, swinging himself
lazily, squeaking in a melancholy rhythm at each forward and back push,
Hal, who had got permission from his mother to eat dinner with the
Martin’s, lay on a rug thrown down on the grass. The dusk was turning to
dark, and the Captain’s pipe was beginning to show up as a dull glow in
the fading light.

For a while nobody spoke. Then Pat said, “Well, Robert, tell us the end
of your story.”

“I’ve been thinking of where to start. We left Lindy over in Europe,
coming back to the United States. He didn’t come right back, though. He
had to tour about some of the foreign countries, as an ambassador of
good will, and get decorated with about every kind of medal that was
ever made. It must have been pretty boring for him to go to banquet
after banquet, and listen to all those speeches praising him. He must
have blushed like anything at some of those flowery compliments. But he
stayed calm, and didn’t lose his head and get all swelled up over the
receptions and cheers and everything. He knew that everybody meant every
word he said, and that they were mighty pleased with him. They gave him
all sorts of presents. He could have started a store with them. But I
guess that most of them are in the Lindbergh museum now.

“Well, the honors they heaped on Lindy in France and England and Belgium
were nothing to what was waiting for him when he got back to the United
States. New York turned out, it seemed, to a man. They had a parade
miles long, with Lindy the chief attraction, sitting on top of an open
car, smiling at the mobs of screaming, shouting people all along the
way. It rained ticker tape for hours, and people in offices tore up
telephone books and added the bits of paper to the rainstorm. Nobody
could do enough for the Colonel.” Bob looked around at the group. “He
wasn’t the Captain any more,” he explained. “He was now Colonel
Lindbergh. Well, anyway, there were banquets and parties, until Lindy
had to leave. St. Louis started where New York left off. After all it
was St. Louis where Lindy had found his backers, and naturally they were
pretty proud of him there. Slim took it all smiling, just as modest as
he’d been from the beginning. There was no fussing him. And the people
loved it. Slim was the most talked-about hero the United States has ever
adopted. Why, you remember that almost everything from candy-bars to
swimming suits were named after him—and a whole lot of new babies, too.
All the kids in America were crazy about him, and they all wore
aviator’s helmets and made plans to become aviators as soon as they were
old enough. It seems that Lindy’s plan was pretty successful. He wanted
to get people to talking and thinking about airplanes, and believe me,
they didn’t talk or think about much else from the time he set out from
Roosevelt field.”

“You’d think that he’d be tired and ready for a rest after his flight,
and his receptions, but even though he may have been tired, he thought
he’d strike while the iron was hot, and follow up his good work, this
business of getting people aviation conscious. And I guess, too, he felt
that he owed something to the people of the United States for being so
kind to him, so Lindy set out on a trip around the country. He stopped
at almost every important city, and covered every state in the union. He
traveled almost 20,000 miles. And that’s some traveling. Just think if
he’d had to travel that distance in a train! He’d be going yet. Well,
every place that he stopped gave him three rousing cheers, and then
some. You’d think that by that time he’d be pretty tired. If it had been
me, I’d have turned around and bitten some of the welcoming committee.
But not Lindy. He stuck it out, and smiled at them all.

“And after the country-wide tour was over, he took his Mexican and
Central American and South American trip. It was this trip that clinched
his name of ‘Good Will Ambassador,’ although he’d been one to all of the
European countries that he went to. In December, seven months after his
famous flight, he pointed the nose of the old Spirit of St. Louis south,
and lit out for Mexico City.

“They were pretty anxious to see him down there, and the Mexican
National aviation field was crowded long before Lindy was due to get
there. Everybody knew that this was one flyer who always got places when
he said he’d get there. He was never off schedule. So imagine how
everybody felt when the time set by him to reach Mexico City passed, and
no Lindy showed up. Well, they were all set to call out the reserves,
when Slim Lindbergh winged into sight, and made a sweet landing on the
Mexican field.

“There was some cheering—more, maybe than if he’d got there on schedule,
although you don’t see how that could be possible. They gave Lindy a
chance to explain that he’d been lost in the fog, and then they went on
with their entertaining and celebrating.

“Mexico City was pretty important to Lindbergh, although nobody knew it
then. Dwight Morrow was Ambassador to Mexico then, and he had a daughter
named Anne. Well, I don’t like to get sentimental—I guess I can’t tell
romantic stories—well, anyway, that part comes later.”

Captain Bill saw fit to interrupt the story here. He saw that Bob was
embarrassed, and saw an opportunity to rub it in. “What part?” he asked,
innocently, knocking the heel of ash from his pipe as he did so.

“Oh, you know, Lindy’s marrying Anne Morrow, and that.”

“Well, we certainly demand the whole thing. You can’t leave anything
out,” insisted Bill.

“Aw, all right, but it doesn’t come in now.”

“We can wait,” said Bill, and settled back satisfied.

“From Mexico City,” went on Bob, grateful that his ordeal bad been put
off, “Lindy flew off down to Central America. First he zig-zagged a bit
to get in all of the little countries, and went from Guatemala City to
Belize in British Honduras, and then back again to San Salvador, and
from then on straight down the narrow isthmus to Teguci—Teguci—well,
that place in Honduras.”

“Tegucigalpa,” said Pat.

“That’s it,” said Bob. “And from Teguci—and from there, he went on to
Managua, and then to Costa Rica—San Jose. Now he was just about three
hundred and twenty-five miles from the Panama Canal, as the crow
flies—or rather, as Lindy flies, which is much better than any crow I’ve
ever seen. He didn’t have any trouble making the flight, and say that
they weren’t glad to see him down there, especially in the Canal Zone,
where the Americans lived. They entertained him royally, and he went
into the jungles of Panama for a hunting trip, which must have been
great. They have all sorts of wild hogs, deer and pheasants, and it must
have made grand hunting.

“But after all, Lindy couldn’t stay anyplace very long. South America
was waiting for him. So he packed himself off, and flew to Cartagena, in
Colombia, adding another continent to his list. From Cartagena he flew
to Bogota, and then straight across the top of South America to the east
coast. He stayed at Maracay, Venezuela. I never heard of it before, did
any of you?” Bob paused dramatically for a reply.

There was only a dead silence for a second, and then, since none else
spoke, Hal felt called upon to confess his ignorance, “I never did,” he
said. “And gee, Bob, how do you remember all these places that Lindbergh
stopped at? I never would in a hundred years.”

“Oh, it’s easy,” said Bob airily. He did not tell them of the long hours
that he had spent memorizing the towns and cities that Lindbergh had
stopped at in his good will tour, nor the hundreds of times that he had
wished that Lindy had flown to some easy place like Canada, where the
names were all pronounceable. But then, Lindy might have flown to Wales,
and Bob, having seen Welsh names, thanked his lucky stars for such
places as Tegucigalpa and Bogota. And now, having at least impressed
Hal, he went on with renewed enthusiasm.

“Maracay,” he said, “was the jumping off place for the thousand-mile
jump to the Virgin Islands. You see, Lindy was on his way back to the
United States. He hopped from island to island in the Caribbean Sea,
stopping at San Juan, Porto Rico; Santo Domingo; Port-au-Prince in
Hayti; and then to Havana. From Havana he made the biggest hop of all,
and landed smack in St. Louis without sitting down once along the way.
He made some twelve hundred miles in about fifteen and a half hours.

“Somebody figured up how long he had flown, and how long he took for the
whole ‘good will’ trip, and found out that he’d made sixteen flights to
fifteen countries, and had gone 8,235 miles in one hundred and a half
hours. Of course, that was actual flying time. The trip had taken him
just two months, because he got back to St. Louis on February 13th, and
he’d left Boiling Field at Washington on December 13th. But in those two
months Lindy accomplished a great deal. He’d made friends with all the
little countries down to our south, and with Mexico, too. They
understood us better, and we got to understand them better. Gee,
wouldn’t it be great if airplanes would make people friendlier? I mean,
we’re so close to each other now, it seems as though we ought to know
more about each other, and like each other better. I may not be saying
that so well, but you fellows know what I mean, don’t you?”

“That’s a very good philosophy,” said Captain Bill, and Bob beamed as
broadly as the moon that had risen over the trees and was shining over
the little group in the garden. “Let’s hope that you’re right.”

“Well, Lindy palled around with his old buddies at St. Louis, and
carried mail over his old route to Chicago. He broke up his flights with
going to New York to get a medal from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation for
international peace and understanding, and then he went to Washington to
get the Congressional Medal of Honor. And he had to get a new plane,
too, from the Mahoney people who made the Spirit of St. Louis. I guess
Lindy hated to part from the old bus. It was still in great condition,
even though he’d flown 40,000 miles in it. But they wanted to put it in
the Smithsonian Institution, and he had to get another.

“It was just about this time, in April of 1928, that Lindbergh had to
put his flying to a stiff test. He was in St. Louis when he learned that
Floyd Bennett was very sick with pneumonia up in Quebec. Bennett was a
great fellow, one of the most popular aviators of his time. He’d flown
with Byrd to the North Pole, you remember. And in April, although he was
sick, and knew he shouldn’t have gone, he flew up to help Captain Koebl
and Major Fitzmaurice and Baron von Huenefeld, who’d flown across the
Atlantic, and were forced down off the coast of Labrador. Well, he
landed with pneumonia in a Quebec hospital, and they needed some serum
in a hurry to save his life. Lindy offered to fly with it, and took off
right away for New York. It was 500 miles from New York to Quebec,
mostly through fog and snow, and blizzards, but Lindy made it in three
hours and thirty-five minutes. The serum didn’t save Floyd Bennett,
though. That plucky scout died the day after Lindbergh got there. He’d
put up a great fight, but it was no use. The whole country felt gloomy
over his death, and Lindy especially so, although he’d done his best to
save his pal’s life.

“In June of that year, that is, in 1928, Lindy,—maybe I should call him
Charles Augustus Lindbergh, was appointed the chairman of the technical
committee of the Transcontinental Air Transport, the company sending
planes cross-country. This gave him the chance to be right in on the
ground—or rather right in the air—of aviation progress. It wasn’t just
an office job, either, because Lindy flew almost as much after his
appointment as before.

“In 1929 he kept right on flying. That’s not really news. If Lindy
stopped flying, that would be news. But in February of ’29 he flew the
first mail from Miami to Colon, in the Panama Canal Zone. This was the
inauguration of the Pan-American Airways.

“In February the Morrows announced the engagement of Anne Morrow to
Charles Augustus Lindbergh. From then on the reporters and photographers
hung around in order to be in at the wedding. But Lindy and Anne fooled
them. They were married in April, and nobody knew anything about it.
They just got quietly married, and left on their honeymoon in a yacht.

“From then on, whenever Lindy went on a trip, Anne Lindbergh went with
him. She’s a great flyer, and helps Lindy fly on long stretches. She
pilots while he rests.

“The first long trip they took was in ’29. That was the one through
Central America to Belize, in British Honduras. That covered 7,000
miles. But they didn’t stop long at Belize. They’d gone there for a
reason. They headed their plane over the Yucatan peninsula, looking for
Mayan ruins. You know, the Mayan Indians had a wonderful civilization
all built up long before the white men came to Yucatan. They had a huge
empire, and big cities with buildings as large as ours. Scientists are
always digging around down there to uncover the ruins, so that they can
find out about the Indians, and how they lived, and all that. But it’s
hard to find the places where the Maya Indians had their cities. The
jungle has grown up so thickly all about them that it takes days and
months to get to them. And those that aren’t on rivers are almost
impossible to get to.

“So Lindy proved once more that the airplane was a help to science, and
flew over the old Mayan hang-outs, looking for ruins. He skimmed his
plane over the tops of the jungles, so low that it seemed he might
almost reach out his hand and grab a branch of one of those giant trees
that grow down there, and he flew slowly, too, so that the scientists
that were with him could take pictures.

“They found what they were after, three cities that hadn’t ever been
discovered before. And it took only four days, where it might have taken
a party on foot months to do the same thing. Anne Lindbergh helped pilot
the plane, and take pictures, too.

“There weren’t any more exciting flights that year, but early the next
year, that is, in 1930, Lindy ordered a new plane. It was a
Lockheed-Sirius, a monoplane with a Wasp motor. It had a
flattish-looking nose, but it was graceful just the same. It had
something new that Lindy had designed himself. That was two covers that
could be slid over the cockpits, so that the pilots would be protected
in bad weather.

“Lindy and Anne had a use for the plane and the cockpit covers very
soon. They flew across the country one day and broke the cross-country
speed record that existed then.

“Hardly anybody knew what they were up to, and there were just a few
people at the Glendale airport, where they started from. It was a
terrible day, cold and rainy, and the sun hadn’t come up yet to dry
things out. But the Lindberghs didn’t care. They had on suits heated by
electricity, because they knew that it was going to be even colder where
they were going.

“A basket of sandwiches, 400 gallons of gas, and they were ready. It was
hard taking off, because the load was heavy, but Lindy got his
flat-nosed Sirius into the air beautifully, and they disappeared from
sight. Disappeared is the word, because for hours nobody saw them. They
were looking for them, too, because you can bet on it that as soon as
the Lindberghs took off, everybody knew about it. All over the west the
cowboys and Indians were gaping up to see the blunt-nosed plane, but
nobody saw it.

“Then suddenly Anne and Lindy dropped out of the sky at Wichita, Kansas,
said hello, they’d like some gas, they’d be in New York about eleven,
and sailed off.

“They were in New York around eleven, too, and New York was waiting for
them, with auto horns, and whistles, and all the other noise that it can
make for people who have gone out and done things. The Lindberghs
certainly had done just that. They’d come across the country with one
stop in 14 hours and twenty-three minutes and some seconds, and had
clipped two and a half hours off the record then standing.”

“But what happened out’ west?” asked Hal. “Why hadn’t anybody seen
them?”

“Because you can’t see 10,000 feet into the air, and that’s where the
Lindberghs were flying. Way above the clouds, from 10,000 to 15,000 feet
high, flying blind, with the cockpits closed to keep out the cold. It’s
mighty cold 15,000 feet up in the air. Flying blind that way, they had
to depend upon their sextant to keep their course, and Anne Lindbergh
did her part by using this. She did all the navigating from the back
cockpit, and took the controls part of the time when Lindy rested.

“Lindy and Anne hadn’t intended to set a record. At least, that wasn’t
what they set out to do. They wanted to test out flying at high
altitudes, because Lindy believes that planes in the future will fly
high to avoid storms and wind, and that blind flying should be
encouraged. That’s why they flew so high up, out of sight of all
landmarks.

“There was no flying for Anne and Lindy after that for a while, because
in June that year little Lindy was born. It seems awfully sad now to
talk about all the excitement not only in this country, but all over the
world when that baby was born. Lindy was the world’s hero, and his baby
was adopted by everybody just as Lindy had been. Nobody could have
dreamed what a terrible end the Lindbergh baby would come to.”

Bob paused. The events of the Lindbergh baby’s kidnapping, and the
finding of its body a few months later, after the whole world had
searched for it, were still fresh. In fact, they were too fresh for Bob
to talk about then, and with the silent consent of all the men there, he
passed over the horrible details of the case, and in a few moments went
on with his story.

“The Lindberghs have another baby boy now and everybody in the country
will protect this child. People all over the world were heartbroken at
the death of their first baby.

“It was when the baby was a year old, and didn’t require so much
attention, that Anne and Lindy started out on their longest trip, the
flight across the Pacific to China and Japan. That was in July of 1931.
There was some delay in choosing the route, because they had to consider
all sorts of things, like chances for refueling, and over-water flying
distances, but finally they decided that they’d fly across Canada to
Point Barrow, in Alaska, and from there to Nome; then across the Ocean
to Karaginsk, from there to Nemuro, and on to Tokyo.”

Captain Bill broke in. “Good for you for remembering that. Did you
memorize the route?”

“I did,” said Bob proudly. “I even drew a map of it. They flew roughly
northwest, and then south again, making the two sides of a triangle,
with the point up at the top of Alaska.

“Well, the Lindberghs made their usual careful preparations. They needed
more than a ham sandwich for this trip. The plane they chose was a
low-winged Lockheed Sirius with a Wright Whirlwind motor. It was a
blunt-nosed ship, painted reddish orange and black. And since they were
traveling over water, it had to be equipped with floats. These were a
new kind of Edo float, which were grooved on at the bottom to make for
less resistance of the water.

“In the tail of the plane they had a pretty complete emergency kit,
which would pop out automatically if the plane went under. It had a
folding life boat in it, that they could fill from a bottle of
compressed air. It was pretty smooth, with a mast and sail and
everything, and though they didn’t; have to use it, it was a mighty nice
thing to have along in case they sat down in the middle of the ocean.
Then, of course, they had food and water, and an emergency radio set,
besides the one that Anne Lindbergh was going to use. This emergency one
was ready for anything. You couldn’t hurt it by getting it wet, or by
dropping it. In fact, they tested it by dropping it from a hangar, and
then soaking it in water for 24 hours. I wouldn’t want anybody to do
that to my radio set, but I guess nothing much happened, because the
tough radio survived its tests, and went along with the Lindberghs to
China. The rest of their equipment included fifty pounds of food, five
canteens of water, blankets, and all that sort of thing.

“On July 27th, Anne and Lindy started out. Washington was their first
stop, to make the first leg official. From there they went to New York,
bound for Maine, to say goodbye to the baby. But there was trouble right
at the start. About two hours after they had left New York, the
Lindberghs had to turn back again. Somebody had tampered with their
radio, and put it out of working order. But this was fixed up all right,
and they started out again. They got to North Haven, Maine, in about
three and a half hours.

“After spending some time at North Haven with Anne’s parents and the
baby, they left for Ottawa, and from Ottawa for Moose Factory. Just out
of Ontario, though, they disappeared. The newspapers ran big headlines,
‘Lindberghs Missing.’ But they weren’t really missing. That is, the
Lindberghs knew all along where they were, but their radio was out of
order, and they couldn’t tell anybody else. Pilots were sent out to
search for them, and Pilot Clegg found them in Moose Factory, safe and
sound.

“Moose Factory sounds awfully funny, doesn’t it? I’d never heard of it,
before the Lindberghs landed there, but it’s quite a place. All one
hundred of its people came out to cheer the flyers.

“On Sunday morning they left Moose Factory, for their 750 mile jump to
Churchill Harbor, in Manitoba. The weather wasn’t very good for
flying—gray and stormy, and the country was gray and flat. All in all,
it wasn’t a very pleasant leg of their journey, and there was almost
nine hours of it. I’ll bet they were glad when they flew into Churchill
Harbor, and saw the whole town waiting for them. There were only 2,000
people in the town, but then, that probably looked like a pretty big
crowd after all that flying over country without seeing anybody or
anything. And those 2,000 made up for it by being awfully noisy.

“Baker Lake is 375 miles from Churchill, and that was the next stop.
Just three and a quarter hours after they’d left Churchill Harbor, they
got into Baker Lake. Everybody was waiting for them, and everybody in
this case was made up of Eskimos. There are only about six white people
in the whole place, but they were out, too, and took charge of the
Lindberghs when they landed that night. So far so good.

“The Lockheed up to now was working perfectly—the trip was going off as
scheduled—just as all of Slim’s trips go off as scheduled. From Baker
Lake the going was to be harder. The next stop was Aklavik, on the
MacKenzie River. Aklavik is pretty far north, just about 130 miles
within the Arctic Circle, and the route called for a jump of over 1,000
miles across this cold country. But Slim and Anne made it. They did that
1,000 miles in eleven and a half hours, which was some going. They had
the Aurora Borealis with them, because the farther north they went, the
brighter the lights grew, and flying at night was as easy as flying by
day.

“Aklavik may be cold, but it was warm to the Lindberghs. Slim and Anne
saw a lot of things they’d never seen before, and they had what you’d
call their first real taste of the arctic. There were all the people you
read about up there—Mounties, and Eskimos and fur trappers, who’d
trekked in from miles around to see the Lindberghs land. Eskimo kids
trailed them around and grinned when they were spoken to.

“They had a lot of time to look around, too, because they had to stay at
Aklavik for three days. The weather grounded them, but on August 7th,
the sky cleared, and they were off again, now for Point Barrow. Nome was
next. But before they got to Nome there was trouble.

“They’d started out from the Point in the morning, and flew all day. All
they saw was packed ice for miles around. A thick fog was raising.
Finally at 11 o’clock that night the fog grew so thick that the Colonel
and his wife thought it would be best just to sit down and wait for the
fog to clear. So that’s what they did. They sat down in Shismaref Bay,
on Kotzebue Sound.”

At this point Bob paused significantly, and waited. He had pronounced
both words without hesitation of any kind, and he was waiting for the
praise that he felt was due him. There was a strange silence. So Bob
said again: “They sat down on Shismaref Bay, on Kotzebue Sound.”

This time Captain Bill realized what was required of him. “Good work,”
he said “You got them both without a slip.”

Now Bob could go on. “They sat down,” he began.

“That they did,” interrupted Pat. “They sat down on Shismaref Bay on
Kotzebue Sound. What heathen names. But we’ve heard them, and get on
with you, lad.”

“I am,” said Bob, and got on. “They had to wait for ten hours for the
fog to lift, and it must have been mighty uncomfortable in the cockpits
of their planes. When they finally did get started, they found that they
couldn’t get to Nome after all. The fog drifted up again, and they had
to come down—”

Pat broke the silence with a mighty exclamation. “Not on Shismaref Bay!”

Bob was cold. “Of course not. This time they came down on Safety Bay,
and please don’t interrupt.”

But there was another interruption, this time from Hal. “Where’s Safety
Bay?” he asked.

Bob stretched out comfortably. He was satisfied with himself and his
story. “I don’t know whether you’re just trying to test me, or not,” he
said, “but I’m prepared for you. I’ve been over every inch of the
Lindbergh trip with an atlas, and I know where everything is located,
and how to pronounce it.”

Hal, his pale face lighted up by the moonlight, was obviously impressed,
and his large eyes beamed in the light. He was storing up notes for his
own story that was to come later.

“Safety Bay,” said Bob, “is twenty-one miles from Nome, and mid-way
between Nome and Solomon Beach. They call it Safety Bay because
fishermen caught in storms out at sea used to come in to the bay for
safety. It was a ‘safety bay’ for the Lindberghs, too, all right. They
waited for the fog to lift again, and they finally got to Nome. Nome had
been waiting so long for them that it gave them a right royal welcome.

“Nome was an important stop, because the Lindberghs planned to use this
as their jumping off place for the hop across the Pacific Ocean to
Karagin Island, off the Kamchatkan Peninsula. The Pacific has been
crossed before, and was crossed later, too, by Herndon and Pangborn. But
it’s a tricky place to cross, especially in the northerly part, where
the Lindberghs were to cross. It’s a place of fog and ice, and quickly
changing wind currents, so that a fog can creep up on you and blot out
the world in a split second.

“Well, this was the ocean that the Lindberghs were going to cross. And
they crossed it. On Friday, August 14th, they started out. They were the
first to cross by that route, blazing a new aviation trail. For half an
hour there was silence. Then the St. Paul Naval station in the
Pribiloffs made the first radio contact. Anne Lindbergh signaled that
everything was all right, the weather was good, and the flying fine.
Every half hour the station sent out signals, and gave directions,
because up north there, so near the magnetic pole, a regular compass is
thrown way off.

“St. Lawrence Island was the first land in their path; then from St.
Lawrence to Cape Naverin the route was over water again, about 250
miles. Finally the radio operator got the message that they’d sighted
Cape Naverin, and that everything was O. K. They got to Karagin Island
early in the morning. And that means they flew over 1,000 miles in less
than 11 hours. Which is some flying over that treacherous route.

“The Lindys stayed at the Island for just a little while to rest up, and
then took off for the southern end of the Kamchatkan Peninsula, for
Petro—Petro—” Bob paused, embarrassed. “Say, what’s the name of that
place at the southern end?” he asked.

Bill felt called upon to answer. “Petropavlovsk,” he said.

Bob tried it. “Petro—Petro-what?”

“Petropavlovsk,” repeated Bill.

They all tried it then, with varying degrees of success. Finally Bob got
it. “Petropavlovsk,” he said proudly, and was able to go on with his
story. “It was an easy flight, and they made it in about four hours. But
Nemuro was next.

“Nemuro’s on the tip of Hokkaido Island, and to reach it the Lindberghs
had to fly across the Kurile Islands, the worst fog trap in the world.
There’s a warm Japanese ocean current that flows up here and hits the
cold arctic blasts, so that there are sudden fogs that you can’t
possibly see through. And besides, there are volcanic peaks that stick
their peaks up but of the water. Some are dead and some are alive, but
they’re all pretty bad news for an airplane if it happens to come in
contact with one of them.

“The start was pretty good. The sky was clear, and the visibility good.
But they should have known better than to trust such luck. They’d been
out about 500 miles when a thick blanket of fog came up from nowhere and
wrapped them around. A minute before they’d been able to see Muroton
Bay, but when they turned back, it had disappeared. There were two
things for them to do, and neither one pleasant. They could either fly
on in the fog, and risk hitting a peak or losing their course, or land
in the water. This was hardly better than going on, because the currents
are very dangerous around there, and their plane might easily be
capsized. But they decided that it was better to land. They landed on
the sheltered side of a place called Ketoi Island, and put their radio
to work sending out an S.O.S.

“It didn’t take long for somebody to get to them. The Japanese
government ordered two ships to Ketoi to help them. One was the
Shimushiru, and it stood by all night, while the Lindberghs spent the
night doubled up in the cockpit of their plane. They stood by because of
the danger. You see, the island is pretty wild, and is inhabited by
Hairy Ainus, who live in caves. They’re white people, and they’re
supposed to have lived all over Japan once, but they’re not very
pleasant to have around, especially if you’re unprotected. But with the
Japanese ship standing by, the Lindberghs were safe.

“In the morning the ship towed the Lockheed Sirius to Muroton Bay, and
while it was sort of quiet, Lindy fixed up a wet spark plug and they
were ship-shape again, and raring to go. But the fog wouldn’t lift.
Finally it seemed to lift, and they started off.

“When they got to the island of Iturup a thick fog came up from nowhere
and cut off their visibility again. Then a radio message told them that
the safest place to land was at Shana, so at Shana they landed. And at
Shana they stayed, too, grounded by the fog. But finally the fog lifted,
and they were able to get to Nemuro.

“Tokyo next. And Tokyo was glad to see them! There were over 30,000
people at the airport when they landed. The Lindys were just as popular
as ever, and just as much the good will ambassadors as ever. They were
taken all over Tokyo, ate with chopsticks, lived through a little
earthquake, and did as the Japanese did generally.

“Lindbergh told the Japanese people what he had set out to do, and that
he hoped that there’d be a regular airplane route between Japan and the
United States. He said that he thought the route would be from the
north, too, but a little south of the one that he and Anne had taken.

“Japan liked the Lindberghs, but they had to leave, bound for China.
That was in September. Japan and China hadn’t decided yet to go to war,
but things were pretty bad in China, anyway. The Yangtze Kiang and the
Hwai river had overflowed and flooded hundreds of villages and cities.
Together they’d covered about 1,000 square miles of land, so you can
imagine in what sort of condition China was then. Everything that goes
with flood had come to China too, including starvation and disease. The
Relief Committee was doing all that it could to help the inland people,
but it couldn’t do much, because there was no way of communicating with
them, and of finding out who needed aid, and what towns had been
flooded.

“As soon as Lindy landed in Nanking, he volunteered to help the Chinese
government by making surveys of the flooded land. The government
accepted his offer, and Lindy flew over the country, making reports of
districts that were under water. He found a lot of places that no one
knew about, and did wonderful work. At one place he landed on the water
in a village that was completely covered. He had a doctor and medical
supplies with him, but the poor Chinese thought that he had brought
food. They paddled over to the plane, grabbed the supplies and tore them
to shreds, looking for something to eat. Lindy and the doctors took off
as soon as they possibly could. As a result of this, Lindy advised that
all supplies should be brought by armed guards, and that food was the
most urgent need at the moment. Because of the good work that he did,
the President of China gave Lindy another medal to add to his
collection, the Chinese Aviation Medal.

“In October the Lindbergh’s trip was suddenly cut short, in the first
place, by an accident that might have proved pretty serious. The
Colonel, Anne, and a doctor were setting out for a survey of the
Tungting Lake district, and were to take off in the Yangtze. But just as
they were about to leave the water the current caught one of the wings,
and it crumpled up. The plane turned over, and threw them all into the
river. They were all weighed down by their heavy suits, and could easily
have drowned, but they were pulled out of the water. The Lockheed was
pulled up on board a British carrier, and Anne and Lindy decided to go
to Shanghai with it and wait while it was being repaired.

“While they were on board the Hermes, the aircraft carrier, they got
word that Dwight Morrow, Anne’s father, had died. This meant that their
trip was over, since they had to get back to the United States as
quickly as possible. They took a steamer to Vancouver, and then flew
across the country to Maine.”

“From then on the Lindberghs dropped out of the news, because they
wanted to. And they didn’t figure in the news again until that terrible
day when their baby was kidnapped. That was on March 1st, you remember.
But in spite of everything that’s happened, Lindy is carrying on, and so
is Anne Lindbergh. They’re still the country’s most loved couple.

“Lindy’s still working hard at aviation, and trying to make the world
aviation conscious. That’s what he says his aim is, and that’s what he
makes his trips for. He wants people to get so used to airplanes that
they’ll ride in them just like they ride in automobiles, without
thinking twice about it. He hasn’t had any serious accidents, because
he’s always careful that everything’s in perfect order before he starts
on a flight. That’s part of his program. He wants to make people see
that if you’re cautious enough, flying isn’t dangerous.

“I think that Lindy’s succeeded in what he’s tried to do. The world, and
especially the United States was never more interested in aviation than
in the year that Lindy flew across the Atlantic. That made them sit up
and take notice. The United States was way behind Europe in air service,
but since it perked up and got interested in what could be done, why,
its been getting ahead by leaps and bounds.

“And we mustn’t forget that the most important thing about Lindy is that
he was born with wings. He wasn’t made a flyer, he just was one. I’ve
seen him give an exhibition, when we went to see the air races, and
golly, you could tell his plane from anybody else’s in the world. He
handles it so easily, and takes it off like a thistle and brings it down
like a feather. A plane’s just part of him.

“And besides that, he’s as modest as they come. Of course, that’s an old
story. Everybody knows that. But it still strikes me as pretty marvelous
that a man can make a big success when he’s only 25, and then go on as
though nothing had happened, sticking to his work, only working harder
than ever. If anybody gets my vote, it’s Lindy, even if he was running
for President, and I was old enough to vote.” Bob stopped. “Well,” he
said then, “I guess that’s the end of my story.”

It was pretty late. The moon had gone down, and the garden was dark,
with the four men making four mounds of deeper black where they sat.
Suddenly a light in the house switched on, sending out a stream of light
that picked out Bob, his hair tousled, his eyes blinking in the sudden
glare.

Hal started. “It must be late,” he said anxiously. “I’d better be
getting on. The night air—I shouldn’t have stayed so long.”

The screen door of the house slammed, and a figure approached, then down
the garden walk, strangely burdened.

“Hang around,” said Captain Bill, starting up. “This is going to be
interesting.” He hurried down the path and met Bob’s mother, whose
strange burden turned out to be a tray with glasses and a covered dish.
He took the tray from her. “You can’t go now,” he called to Hal. “Look
what we’ve got.” He set the tray down, and lifted the napkin from the
plate. “Home baked cookies,” he said, and took one. “You should have
joined our group sooner,” he said to his sister, between bites.

“Because I brought cookies, I suppose, if for no other reason,” she said
with a laugh.

“Why, Meg, you know that you’d be welcome even without cookies. You
should have been here to hear your son and my nephew tell a grand story
in a grand way.”

Bob felt himself blushing in the dark. Praise from Bill was rare and
much sought after. “Aw,” he said, “it wasn’t anything.”

“It was a good yarn,” said Bill, emphatically.

“If it was a good yarn, then he’s your nephew, all right,” said Mrs.
Martin. “There was never anybody like you for yarning. And good ones,
too.”

Captain Bill laughed, and took another cookie. “If I can tell stories
the way you bake cookies—”

He didn’t finish his sentence. Hal had been standing nervously at the
edge of the group, waiting for a chance to break in. Now he broke in,
chance or no chance. “I’ve got to go, really I do,” he said. “My mother
will be worried. Thanks a lot for everything. Goodnight.” He broke into
a run, and disappeared into the darkness.

Captain Bill looked after him. “Say, what’s the matter with Hal? What
was his hurry?”

Bob was a little embarrassed. He hated to talk disloyally about his
friend, but he felt that Bill ought to know. “I guess he’s afraid to be
out so late alone. You see, Hal’s pretty much of a baby yet. He’s afraid
of a lot of things he oughtn’t to be afraid of, and he’s always afraid
that his mother’s worrying about him.”

“I think that it’s his mother’s fault,” said Mrs. Martin. “She’s
pampered him and spoiled him until he can’t do a thing or think for
himself. She just didn’t know that the best way to rear a boy is to give
him plenty to eat and a place to sleep and let him take care of
himself.”

“That’s why I turned out so well, isn’t it, Mother?” said Bob.

His mother laughed. “Oh, I don’t know about you. You must be the
exception that proves the rule.”

Bill spoke suddenly. “There ought to be something done about Hal,” he
said. “I like that boy. He’s got the stuff there, but he needs something
to bring it out. How about it, Bob?”

“I think so, Bill,” said Bob, pleased that Captain Bill had seen so much
in his friend. “I’ve been trying to help Hal, and I think that he’s
getting much better than he was, don’t you, Mother?”

“I have noticed an improvement,” said Mrs. Martin.

“There’ll be more before I go home,” said Captain Bill.

“Don’t hog the cookies,” said Pat, making his first, but most important
contribution to the conversation. But Pat, though he had said nothing,
had thought a lot.



CHAPTER VII—A Close Shave


The next two weeks were hectic ones for Pat, the Captain and their two
friends, with Pat teaching the boys to fly, the boys learning to fly,
the Captain generally directing all activities, and three of them
planning and preparing for their flight to the Adirondacks. Hal couldn’t
go. It was with real sorrow that he told them that his mother would not
permit him to go with them. Hal was beginning to enjoy better his
flights into the air, and his companionship with his new friends. Pat
did not frighten him at all now, and his happiest hours were those that
he spent with him, Bob and Captain Bill. He knew that he would be very
lonesome if they went off without him, but no amount of persuasion on
his part would move his mother in her determination that he should not
go. She had so many arguments on her side that Hal was completely
floored when he tried to point out to her the reasons why it would be
perfectly safe for him to go with his friends.

Bob was downcast. He knew that he would have a good time with Pat and
Bill, but he knew too that he’d have a better time if someone his own
age were along. After all, he couldn’t do anything as well as Pat and
Bill. He couldn’t fly a plane, although he was learning rapidly, and
would soon be able to take a solo flight; he couldn’t shoot as
accurately as they; nor land a mountain trout so well. Hal, who was also
a novice, would have been just as inexpert as he was at all these
things, and would have made him feel not quite so stupid. And then there
were always things to talk about to Hal that the others wouldn’t be able
to understand—in fact, Hal and he spoke a language of their own. It
would have been fun if Hal could have come along—but if he couldn’t go,
he couldn’t go. Bob decided that he’d better take the matter
philosophically. So he joined in the plans of the Captain and Pat with
all his usual energy. Hal helped, too, Even if he was not going with
them, he wanted to get the thrill at least of being in on the start.

They were all down at the airport every day, rain or shine. Pat gave
them a good background of ground work, and then let them fly with him.
Bob, with his natural quickness, could have flown solo almost after his
first flight, but Pat would not take the responsibility of letting the
boy go up alone.

Hal, on the other hand, had more obstacles to overcome. The first was
the terror that he had felt on his first flight. However, after repeated
flights, and the feeling of power that he gained from actually having
the controls in his hands, he overcame his fear enough to fly with Pat,
and fly well.

Two days before their departure for the mountains, Pat and Bill decided
that the boys ought to make their solo flights, so that Hal would have
made a solo flight before they left him.

Pat had taken the Marianne up into the air, had “taken a look about,”
and landed her again. He turned to the two boys and asked, “who’s
first?”

“Me,” said Bob.

“All right,” said Pat, and Bob climbed into the cockpit smiling
confidently.

“See you soon,” called Bob, and waved a hand in farewell. He taxied the
plane out over the runway, turned her nose into the wind, and felt her
rise from the ground. He felt a thrill of power as the machine responded
to the slightest movement of the stick. He had control of all the
boundless energy stored in that motor, and could direct this huge craft
in any direction he chose. He felt the blast of wind against his face.
He was off the ground now, flying low, just clearing a small tool house.
He pointed the nose of the Marianne up and climbed slowly, then leveled
off again. His instruments showed that he was flying at about a thousand
feet up. The motor sounded good. The air was smooth. Bob felt a keen
exhilaration. He wanted to shout in triumph. At last he was flying a
plane, alone.

Again he pointed the nose up into the air, and climbed to about 5,000
feet. The sky was clear and cloudless. He lost all track of time and
space. He seemed to be by himself in the universe. But he knew that he
wasn’t. The others would be expecting him back. Reluctantly he banked
and turned around, and headed once more for the airport. He throttled
down the motor and glided swiftly to earth. He saw the grass below turn
green as he approached it; he leveled off. In his excitement, he kept
the tail of the plane a little too high, his front wheels landed too
soon, and he felt for a breath-taking moment that he was going over on
his nose. But the Marianne righted herself, and taxied docilely along
the ground.

Bob jumped out, pushing back his goggles. “How was that?” he shouted to
Pat and Bill, who came running up to him.

Pat glowered. “What a landing!” he said, in disgust. “Young man, is that
the sort of landing I taught you?”

Bob’s smile faded, and he looked crestfallen. “I didn’t level off,” he
said.

“Of course you didn’t. A blind man could tell you that.” Then Pat’s
voice suddenly changed. “But you handled her like a veteran,” he said.
“You’ve got the makings of an ace in you, lad.”

Bob’s ready grin spread quickly over his face again. “Did I really?” he
cried. “Bill, what did you think?” He was perfectly willing to hear
himself praised, now that he was sure that his performance has been
good.

“Oh, you’re all right,” said Bill grudgingly. “How about Hal? It’s his
turn now.” He turned to Hal. “You show this young fellow how to make a
three point landing,” he said, and gave Hal a little clap on the
shoulder.

Hal came forward. He was unusually silent, and his face was pale. He had
struggled with his fear and he felt that he had conquered it. He had
come to have confidence in his handling of the Marianne with Pat or Bill
in the other cockpit, ready to take the controls if anything went wrong.
Now he would have confidence taking her up alone. He set his jaw grimly
and got into the cockpit. The motor was warm, and sounded good. Hal took
the Marianne into the air with a grace that made Pat and Bill look at
each other with surprise and congratulation.

“The kid’s got the stuff, all right,” said Bill. “I knew he had. Who
said he didn’t have nerve?”

“He’s better for it, too,” said Pat. “It’s done him good, all right.”
They watched the plane climbing into the cloudless skies. Then suddenly
the sound of the motor ceased. “Good grief,” cried Pat. The others were
too horrified even to cry out. They saw the plane stall, then fall nose
down, spiraling as it went.

When he heard the motor conk, Hal’s heart stood still. He tried the
stick frantically. The rudder, the ailerons, would not respond. The
throttle brought no answering roar of power. The Marianne had become
suddenly a mad thing, an enemy, bent on his destruction. She
side-slipped, her nose dipped down, an she went into a tailspin.

Hal was frantic. His first impulse was to pull up on the stick, in order
to bring up the tail. Then some glint of reason came through his terror,
and he remembered Pat’s warning that this was the last thing he should
do to pull himself up. But what had Pat said? He couldn’t remember. Then
suddenly it came to him. Push forward on your stick! With an effort he
made himself push forward. The Marianne gave a convulsive shudder. But
the action had taken her out of her spin. With a feeling of unutterable
relief Hal felt her come out of her spin and go into a glide. He looked
over the side of the plane. He was rushing toward a brick building, at
the furthest end of the airport! There was nothing to do now but crash.
He was too close to stretch out the glide!

With a last desperate movement, Hal opened the throttle of his engine.
The motor caught! With a thrill of joy he heard the roar of the motor as
it started again, and felt the stick respond to his touch. He pulled
back the stick, the nose of the plane lifted, and he zoomed into the
air.

Down on the ground Pat, Bill and Bob had gone through the tortures of
the damned, watching Hal fall to what seemed certain death, while they
stood helplessly below. When they saw him zoom once more into the air,
their hearts bounded with him.

“The gas-line must have been clogged!” shouted Pat. “It cleared itself
out when they dived!”

“Thank God,” said Bill.

Bob could say nothing, but kept shouting Hal, Hal, Hal, over and over
again. Hal was gliding in, now, to land.

He got out of the cockpit, white and shaking. The others, beside
themselves with joy, surrounded him, shaking his hand, hugging him,
patting his shoulder. But Hal did not seem to notice what was happening.

“You handled that plane like Lindbergh!” shouted Pat. “Good boy.”

But all that Hal said was, “I’m never going up again.”

Pat had gone over to the plane to look it over. “It seems all right,” he
said, turning off the motor that he had tested. “But there must have
been a bit of dirt in the line leading from the gas tank. You had a
lucky escape, lad. It was quick thinking that you did up there. I’m
proud of you.”

But Captain Bill saw that Hal was in no mood for praise. He knew, too,
that the best cure for the boy was to take him right up again into the
air, so that he would have no time to develop a phobia against going up.
But he would not risk taking up the Marianne until it had had a thorough
overhauling.

The Captain put his arm around Hal’s shoulder. “You mustn’t say that
you’re never going up again, Hal, old man,” he said. “You proved
yourself up there. You’re going to make a great flyer.”

“It was great, Hal, great,” said Bob. “I would have crashed the old bus
and killed myself. I couldn’t have kept my head.”

Hal said nothing except that he wanted to go home. Pat stayed behind
with the plane while the other three went over to the parking lot to get
their machine. “Don’t say anything to my mother, whatever you do,” said
Hal. “I don’t want her to worry. After all, nothing really happened to
me, and why should she be frightened for nothing?”

Bob and the Captain promised to say nothing. In fact, they spoke very
little on the way home. Hal was worn out emotionally and the others were
occupied with their own thoughts.

The Captain was worried by the new turn that affairs had taken. He was
disappointed that all the progress that had been made in Hal’s education
had been ruined on the first solo flight. It would have been all right
if he had been able to take Hal into the air again, but he couldn’t.
Tomorrow they would be too busy with their preparations to do any
flying, and the day after that, they would start for the Adirondacks,
leaving Hal behind. Without his friends, and with the memory of his
terror fresh in his mind, Hal would fall back into his old fears, and be
actually worse off than ever. The time to cure Hal was at once, if at
all.

Captain Bill had an idea. He thought about it rather carefully most of
the way home, and when they were almost home, he broached his plan.
“Say, Hal, how about coming over tonight—with your mother? I’m going to
tell my story after dinner, tonight, and I thought maybe she’d like to
hear it.”

Hal was rather surprised. His mother rarely visited, and did not see
very much of the Martins. In fact, she had been to the Martins only
twice since they had been neighbors, and one of those visits had been to
return Mrs. Martin’s formal call upon her new neighbor when the Greggs
had moved into the house next door. But Hal said, “Why, I’ll ask Mother.
I don’t think she’s busy, and I guess she’d like to hear your story,
Captain Bill. I’ve been telling her about the stories, you know.”

“Good,” laughed the Captain. “Don’t tell her too much, though. I want
her to come to hear them.”

“I think she’ll like to come,” said Hal. Thinking it over, he felt
convinced that his mother should hear Captain Bill’s story that night.
He knew she would enjoy the evening with them all. They were a jolly
lot, and Mrs. Martin often was lonesome when Hal went off and left her
alone. She would be better for a night of company. And perhaps—well, Hal
could not dare to hope—perhaps she would approve more of his going on a
trip with these men if she knew how splendid they were. But then Hal
shuddered. They were going to fly to the mountains. And he was never
going to fly in a plane again. He felt that he would rather do anything
in the world than put himself in a position again where he might
experience the awful horror of feeling himself going into a nose dive.

They let Hal off at his home. When Bob and the Captain were alone, Bob
asked why Bill had thought of inviting Hal’s mother to hear his story
that night.

“Why, Mrs. Gregg’s a nice woman. Don’t you think that I should have
invited her?” asked the Captain, with a twinkle.

“Oh, but you must have some other reason,” said Bob. “You don’t want her
to come over just because you want an audience for your story.”

“Well, to tell the truth,” the Captain answered, “I have a motive. Can I
count on you to help me?”

“If it’s not murder,” said Bob.

“Nothing like it,” the Captain said. “This is my plan, Bob. You know
that we want Hal to come along with us on our trip, now more than at any
other time. If we leave him now, all the good that flying and being with
us has done him will be wasted, and Hal will be the same fraid-cat that
he was before we began to educate him. Now, I’m going to tell the story
of Byrd tonight. Byrd started on his adventures when he was very young.
He had a brave mother, who saw that following his own inclinations was
good for her son. That much is for Mrs. Gregg. Second—Byrd had to
overcome a great many obstacles before he reached his goal. That part is
for young Hal. Now, if the Gregg family takes my story seriously
tonight, I think that we may have Hal with us on our flight. And Hal
will be a new boy. How about it?”

Bob looked admiringly at his uncle. “Gee,” he said, “that’s a great
idea. But I think that you’ll have to tell a pretty convincing story.”

“Don’t you think that I can?”

“Golly, I’m not going to worry about that,” said Bob. “I’m sure you
can.”

When they got in, they found Mrs. Martin sewing, and lost no time in
telling her first the events of the day, and second, their plans for the
evening.

“But why didn’t you invite her to dinner?” asked Mrs. Martin. “I’m sure
we’d enjoy having them with us.”

“I didn’t think of that,” said the Captain, “or rather, I thought that I
was taking enough liberty in just inviting somebody to your home for the
evening.”

“I’ll call her,” said Mrs. Martin firmly. A far away look came into her
eyes. “You know,” she said, “I think that I shall do some talking to
Mrs. Gregg myself, I have some things to tell her about raising her own
son. I suppose she will resent it, but I shall at least have the
satisfaction of getting it off my chest, and perhaps of helping poor
Hal.”

“Hal’s the one I’m interested in,” said the Captain. “He acted like a
real hero in that plane today. Kept his head, and saved himself and the
plane. He’s got the stuff, all right, and he can handle a plane.”

“I’m with you, Captain,” said Bob. “And with you and Mom on the job, I
don’t see how anybody can possibly get away with anything. You two could
convince anybody of anything.”

His mother looked at him speculatively. “Can I convince you right now
that you ought to go up and wash? Believe me, young man, you can’t get
away with looking that dirty, if that’s what you mean.”

Grinning sheepishly, Bob went out of the room. “You win,” he called.
“And I’m betting on you tonight, too.”



CHAPTER VIII—North Pole and South


Dinner was a jolly affair. Everybody was in excellent humor. Hal had
quite recovered from his afternoon’s experience; Pat had succeeded in
getting the Marianne into perfect shape; Bill looked forward to his
evening’s plans with relish; and Bob was happy just on general
principles, anticipating a great evening, and because he was usually
happy. Mrs. Gregg, who often became lonely by herself, was glad of being
in such pleasant company.

They went into the garden after dinner, and the Captain, after filling
up his ever-present pipe, began his story.

“Well,” he said, “there’s only one way to begin the story of anybody’s
life. That’s by telling when he was born, because after all, that’s the
first thing that happens to a man, isn’t it? Well, Admiral Richard
Evelyn Byrd was born on October 25, 1888, in Winchester, Virginia, where
there had been Byrds ever since anybody could remember. In fact, the
first Byrd settled in America about 1690, and the name has been a
prominent and honored one ever since. There were Byrds fighting in the
Revolution and in the Civil War, so it wasn’t from nowhere that our
Richard Evelyn got his courage and grit that carried him through the
dangers of being the first man to cross both the North and the South
poles in a plane.

“He had a grandmother, too, who gave him a goodly supply of what it
takes to do great deeds. That was Jane Byrd, who was the sort of person
around whom legends spring up, and are carried down from generation to
generation. In fact, one of them was a famous story of her killing of a
huge blacksnake. It was during the Civil War. Her husband and her
brother were both fighting for the Confederacy, and Jane Byrd was left
alone to manage the great plantation and farm. And manage it she did.
One day she went to gather the eggs in the chicken house, and found a
great blacksnake had swallowed twelve prized guinea eggs that had been
set under a setting hen. She clubbed the snake to death with a club,
taking care not to strike the twelve bumps that showed all down its body
the places where the twelve guinea eggs reposed. Then she cut the snake
open and took out the eggs and put them back under the hen, without a
bit of fuss or excitement. She took seriously the charge that she must
take care of the estate while her men were away fighting.

“Richard Byrd couldn’t have had better ancestors to back him up in his
adventures, but every ounce of courage, every bit of perseverance that
he inherited, he needed. He was a man who met with hundreds of
disappointments, and innumerable obstacles in carrying out the plans
that meant so much to him and to the world. But he was never downed by
them. Set-backs that would have made other men, men of lesser caliber
turn from their paths and give up their plans, were just so much more of
a spur to him.

“Dick Byrd was never a robust man. He had the physical handicap of a bad
ankle to overcome, and his general build has always been slight. He is
not the huge, strapping hero of story-book fame; he was the little
Napoleon with a great determination that outweighed any physical
weakness. A man doesn’t have to be big to get places. A little fellow,
if he wants to badly enough, can accomplish a lot.

“And Dick Byrd certainly wanted badly to go to the Pole. Even when he
was a kid in school, it was his ambition to be the first man to reach
the North Pole. Somebody beat him to it. Peary got there first, but it
took him a long time, and he had to go on foot. Byrd flew, and
accomplished in a few hours what had taken days and weeks to do before.

“Not only did he want to go to the Pole—he wanted to go to all sorts of
places, and he did, too. Before he was fourteen years old, Richard Byrd
traveled alone around the world! That took nerve. And not only nerve on
Richard Byrd’s part, but on the part of his mother! The trip wasn’t a
regular round-the-world tour that anybody can make today on a boat
that’s like a little palace, but it was a rough, adventurous voyage on
an army transport, and a British tramp.

“It was like this. You see, Dick had struck up a friendship with Captain
Kit Carson. After the Spanish American War, Carson went to the
Philippines as a Circuit Court Judge. But he didn’t forget his friend
Dick. They exchanged letters. In one letter the Captain mentioned that
it would be a fine idea if Dick Byrd came down to the Philippines to see
the exciting time that they were having down there. Dick took him up on
the idea, and made plans to go. At first his mother was horrified at the
idea, since Dick was not a strong boy. But with unusual intelligence,
she decided to let him go, since the trip would be an educational one,
and would do the boy more good than any possible harm that could come to
him. The very fact that he wanted so badly to go, and planned his trip
so carefully, made her feel that he had reached an age where he must be
allowed to decide for himself. This was a very wise decision on her
part, since it was probably this trip, with its adventures in
self-reliance that made Richard into the successful adventurer that he
is.”

“The trip to Manila was made exciting by a typhoon that stuck the
transport—something that the boy would not have wanted to miss, although
the Captain of the transport could have done very well without it—he
said it was the worst that he’d ever been through.

“They got to Manila, though, safe and sound, and Dick was greeted by his
friend Carson. Manila was intensely amusing for a boy of fourteen.
Amusing, and mighty exciting. The excitement included a lone combat with
a gang of angry rebels armed with knives—from which the young Dick
escaped only by the fleetness of his pony’s heels. That’s the sort of
adventure young boys dream of, and that’s the sort they should have to
look back on, if they are to live the full sort of life that Richard
Byrd did.

“From Manila, Dick went visiting to Darim Island. On the island the
cholera plague was raging, and Dick got exposed to the disease. They put
him into quarantine. He didn’t get the cholera, but all around him men
were dying in terrible agony. Finally the doctor managed to get Dick to
the seaport, and he got a boat for Manila. They were glad to see him
back, and he was glad to be back.

“After Manila, Dick went on his merry way around the world by way of
Ceylon and the Red Sea to Port Said, where he reshipped for the last lap
of his cruise. It was a wonderful trip for a boy, and there’s no doubt
that it had a great influence on all that he did later.

“When Richard got back, and had settled down more or less, his parents
decided that he should go to Virginia Military Institute. He was popular
at the Institute, as he was popular wherever he went, for his
spirit—that old spirit that carried him around the world, and later
across both of the earth’s poles. It was the same spirit that made him
try out for the football team at V.M.I.—and carried him to the position
of end on the first team. It was at that time that an incident occurred
which was to be very significant in his later life. In one game of the
season he broke his ankle. This was not important in itself—but it
happened to be the first break of an ankle that was going to bother Dick
again and again—and almost at one time defeat him entirely.

“But I’m getting ahead of my story. After being graduated from the
Military Institute, Dick Byrd went quite naturally to Annapolis. He
entered in 1908. He carried his popularity and his success with him to
this place. His grades were not of the highest, but he excelled in
athletics, going out for football again, besides track, boxing, and
wrestling.

“In his last year at Annapolis, Dick’s ankle made itself felt again.
Dick was Captain of his gym squad, which was competing in the big
exhibition of the year. Dick, as Captain, wanted to make a spectacular
showing, and cinch the meet for his team. To do this, he invented an
intricate, complicated series of tricks on the bars, calculated to stir
up the most lethargic members of the audience. It would have been a
great trick—if it had succeeded—but it didn’t. Dick slipped, somehow,
and his hands failed to connect with the bars. Down he went—on the same
ankle, breaking it once more.

“In 1912 he got his commission, and became an ensign. And he also began
to formulate plans for his great adventures. Connected with the
Navy—there was no telling what opportunity for adventure would come to
him. But he reckoned without his ankle. It gave way a third time—this
time while he was going down a gangway, so that he was pitched headfirst
down. They tried to fix up the ankle—in fact, they joined the bones
together with a silver nail. That is, Byrd thought that they had used a
silver nail—and when he discovered that just a plain, ordinary nail had
been used, he felt very much deflated. Nail and all, Byrd walked with a
limp, and an ensign with a limp was just useless, so far as the Navy was
concerned. So Byrd was retired.

“That must have been an awful blow to him. Not only was the only career
open to him cut short, but he had been married the year before, to Marie
Ames, a childhood sweetheart from Winchester. So that his retirement
affected not just himself, but another as well.

“It might have floored a lesser man. But not Dick Byrd. In 1917 the
United States went into the World War, And Byrd, who had been rejected
by the Navy, and who doubtless could not have found a place in the army,
decided to go into the branch of the service that wouldn’t ask questions
about his bad leg—because it didn’t matter whether he had a bad leg or
not—in aviation. So to aviation he turned.

“He entered the Naval flying school at Pensacola, Florida. It was a
lucky day for Byrd and for aviation that he took to the air. It seems
that the air was where he belonged. He was a Byrd by birth, and might
have been born with wings, for the ease with which he took to flying.

“He became assistant superintendent of the school, and was on the
commission to investigate accidents. There were a lot of them, then. The
planes were not so highly developed as they are now—and the green
youngsters who were entering the service could not handle them. You can
imagine how horrible it was to see some friend’s plane come crashing
down into the ocean, and have to be the first to go out in the rescue
boat, in order to do what was possible to rescue him, and to discover
what had caused the accident. A warning from the observation
tower—somebody was in tailspin. A deafening crash! And the rescue boat
would be put out before the waves from the great splash had subsided. At
this work Byrd learned that more than half of the accidents could have
been avoided with care—either in inspecting the machine before going up,
or in handling it up in the air.

“Dick Byrd was just too good. That was his tough luck at this point in
his career. He was too good to be sent over to France, where he wanted
to go. He was sent instead to Canada, where he was chief of the American
air forces in Canada. At this job, as well as at any other that he
undertook, Byrd acquitted himself admirably. And even though he chafed
at being kept in America, he did his job well.

“But his mind was soaring across the ocean. As early as 1917 Byrd wanted
to fly the Atlantic. But there was always something that interfered.
After the war, he petitioned the Navy again about a cross-Atlantic
voyage, and was given permission to go over to England and sail the ZR-2
back to America. How tragically this may have ended for Byrd you can
see. The ZR-2, on a trial flight suddenly burst into flames and crashed
into the Humber river. Forty-four of the passengers were killed, among
them friends of Byrd. It was Richard Byrd’s task to investigate the
wreck that might very easily have claimed him for one of its victims.

“In 1924 his hopes seemed about to be realized at last. He was assigned
to the dirigible Shenandoah, and was to fly it across Alaska and the
North Pole. But the Shenandoah, too, met with disaster, and Byrd’s hopes
were again dashed. The Navy rejected his petition to go with Amundsen on
the trip that he planned over the Pole, and all hope seemed gone. In
fact, as a final blow, Byrd was retired from the aviation service
altogether.

“But he was as undaunted by this setback as he had been by his
retirement from the Navy. He set about immediately to organize his own
Polar expedition, which was to be climaxed by his flight over the Pole
in 1926.

“Floyd Bennett, whom Byrd often said was the best man in the world to
fly with, helped him plan his expedition which was to be the realization
of all his boyhood dreams and visions. It wasn’t easy to plan, and the
foresighted planning, they knew, would mean the success or failure of
their project.

“They chose a three-motored Fokker monoplane, with 200 horsepower Wright
air-cooled motors. It was 42 feet 9 inches long, with a wing spread of
over 63 feet. It was capable of a high speed of 120 miles an hour.

“That was the plane, the Josephine Ford. Their ship was the Chantier,
given him by the Shipping Board. The crew was made up of picked men, and
Byrd knows how to pick them. Not one of them failed to live up to his
expectations on that trip.

“On April 5, 1926, all of the plans being completed, and the last
supplies of food to last fifty men for six months being stowed away, the
Chantier sailed from New York for King’s Bay, Spitzbergen. They got
there on April 29th, after an uneventful trip, and anchored in the Bay.
But the problem of getting the plane to shore arose. They solved it by
building a huge raft, loading the heavy ship onto it, and towing it to
shore through the choppy, ice-blocked water.

“When they got the plane onto the shore, the wheels sank into the snow,
and they had to replace them with skis, which seemed ample to sustain
the weight of even that great craft. How frail they really were was to
be proved later.

“Byrd and his men set up camp, and prepared for the take-off to the
Pole. They had to work fast. The Amundsen-Ellsworth-Nobile Expedition
with its dirigible the Norge was well on its way with its preparations,
and while there was no bitter rivalry between the two expeditions,
nevertheless the distinction of being the first to fly over the Pole was
one not to be sneezed at. Everybody worked—eighteen hours a day, with
meals taken on the run. And nobody thought to complain—the morale never
broke once. That’s the sort of man Byrd picks to take with him—and
that’s the sort of respect they have for a man who chooses them. Byrd’s
a leader. No matter where he has come in contact with men, he has won
their love and respect, and has got more work out of them by his
kindness and gentleness than anybody else could have by slave-driving.
They worked for Byrd because they liked to, not because they had to. He
imbued them with his spirit of adventure, so that every man of them was
determined that his expedition should be successful, and that Byrd
should be the first man to fly across the Pole.

“One of the hardest jobs of all was packing down the snow into a hard,
smooth runway for taking off. They had to take off going down hill,
since there was no level stretch of snow for their start, and this hill
had to be smoothed and leveled. The first attempt at a take-off was
disastrous. The plane landed in a snowdrift, with a broken ski. The
carpenters worked for two days and nights to make new skis, and the ship
was ready for its second attempt.

“The second trial flight was a huge success. The ship rolled down the
incline and took gently and gracefully into the air. At least they would
be able to get off. The landing, too, was beautiful. So far, so good.
They discovered by this trial flight that they could make the North Pole
and return without landing once, as they had planned before.

“The Josephine Ford was a mighty heavy craft, and loaded with fuel and
supplies, which they would need in case of a forced landing and overland
trek, she weighed five tons. This accounts for the terrible job getting
her off the ground and into the air.

“Well, finally everything was ready, the weather was just right; the
motors had been warmed up, and Bennet and Byrd climbed into the plane,
ready to start. Down the runway they coasted. There was a tense moment.
Would she lift? With a groan, the men on the ground saw her lurch, roll
into a snowdrift, and all but turn over.

“A lesser man, as I said once before, would have been discouraged. But
not Byrd! He got out, inspected the plane, and found to his joy that it
had not been damaged. No delay! Off again. They lightened the load as
much as they dared by taking off some fuel, then taxied the Josephine
Ford up the hill again. The men worked like Trojans to get the runway
lengthened and smoothed out again. At last everything was ready.

“Byrd and Bennett decided to stake everything on that last trial. They
decided to give the engine all the speed they could, so that at the end
of her run she’d either rise into the air, or crack up once and for all.
Even as they planned, they hoped against hope that it would be the
former, and not the latter. The weather was perfect. It was a little
past midnight. The men of the expedition were gathered about, anxiously
awaiting the take-off. Byrd and Bennett shook hands with them, stepped
into the cabin of the ship and started down the runway. The great ship
rose laboriously into the air. There was a shout from their comrades.
They were off for the North Pole! Those on the ground cheered lustily.
The Great Adventure, for which one of those men in the air had been
preparing all his life, had begun.

“They had to navigate first by dead reckoning, following the landmarks
in the vicinity of King’s Bay. They climbed to a good distance so that
they could get a perfect view of the land below them, and looked down
upon the snowy mountains, scenery grander than any they had ever seen
before, and terrifying, too. In a short time they left the land behind,
and crossed the edge of the polar ice pack.

“There are no landmarks on the ice, and when they reached the ice pack,
they had to begin their careful navigating. In the first place, they had
to hit the Pole exactly, chiefly because that was the place they had set
out for, and then because if they didn’t hit it exactly, they would have
no way of reckoning their path back to Spitzbergen, and would be lost in
the arctic wastes.

“But expert navigating was Dick Byrd’s strong point. He had developed a
sextant by which the altitude of the sun could be gaged without
reference to the horizon line, and that was exactly what he needed now,
because due to the formations of ice, the horizon was irregular. But
figuring out position by means of the sextant requires at least an hour
of mathematical calculation, and by the time the position had been
figured, the men in the airplane had advanced about a hundred miles or
more. So they used a method that they had learned, whereby their
position could be judged by means of taking the altitude of the sun and
laying down the line of position on a sort of graph.

“Their compass was of little value. They were too near the North
Magnetic Pole, which had a tendency to pull their magnet from the
geographical Pole to its own position, about 1,000 miles south. So they
used a sun compass, that indicated their position by means of the sun.
Of course, the fact that they had sun throughout the whole trip was an
advantage. I doubt if they could have made it otherwise. Navigating up
there is too difficult. Then they had to figure on wind drift. The wind,
blowing pretty hard, say, about 30 miles an hour at right angles to
their plane would cause it to drift thirty miles an hour out of its
course. This they were able to make up for by means of the drift
indicator, which compensated for the drift.

“Bennett piloted first. He would glance back to the cabin where Byrd was
busy with the navigating instruments, and Byrd would indicate to him how
to steer his course by waving his hand to the right or the left. When
they were certain of their course, Byrd looked down on the land that he
had desired to see since he had been a boy in school. Below them,
stretching for mile upon mile was the ice pack, criss-crossed with
ridges, seeming like mere bumps in the ice from their altitude, but
really about 50 or 60 feet high. Every now and then they saw a lead,
opened by the movement of the water—those treacherous leads that had led
many a hardy explorer to his death.

“Byrd took the wheel. He steered with one hand while he held the compass
in the other. Bennett poured gasoline into the tanks, and threw
overboard the empty cans, to relieve the plane of weight. From then on
they took turn and turn about at the wheel, Byrd navigating incessantly,
until he had a slight attack of snow blindness from looking down at the
snow so constantly.

“Soon they came to land where no man had ever been before. It was then
that Byrd felt that he was being repaid for all the planning, all the
hard work and heart-breaking disappointments that he had experienced.
The sun was shining, the Josephine Ford functioning perfectly.

“Perfectly? Just a minute. They were about an hour from the Pole. Byrd
noticed through the cabin window a bad leak in the oil tank of one
motor. If the oil leaked out, the motor would burn up and stop. Should
they land? No. Why not go on as far as they could, perhaps reach the
Pole? They would be no worse off landing at the Pole than landing here,
and they would have reached their goal. So on they kept. Byrd glued his
eyes to the oil pressure gauge. If it dropped, their motor was doomed.
But they would not land, or turn back.

“Luck was with them. At about two minutes past nine o’clock, they
crossed the Pole. It takes just a minute to say it, but how many years
of planning, how many years of patiently surmounting obstacles had
prepared for that minute’s statement!

“Below them was the frozen, snow-covered ocean, with the ice broken up
into various formations of ice fields, indicating that there was no land
about. Byrd flew the plane in a circle several miles in diameter, with
the Pole as a center. His field of view was 120 miles in diameter. All
this while he was flying south, since all directions away from the Pole
are south. And now, his purpose accomplished, his hardest task faced
him. He had to fly back to Spitzbergen.

“Soon after he left the Pole, the sextant that he was using slid off the
chart table, breaking the horizon glass. He had to navigate the whole
trip back by dead reckoning! With the oil fast spurting out, and the
motor threatening to stop any minute, and no sextant to show his
position, Byrd had his hands full. They lost track of time. Minutes
seemed like hours, hours like ages. Then they saw land dead ahead. It
was Spitzbergen! Byrd had flown into the unknown, 600 miles from any
land, had turned about, and come back to the very spot from which he had
started.

“Maybe you don’t realize what wonderful navigating this was. But anybody
who has navigated a plane by dead reckoning knows that it was a feat
that called for great skill.

“Nobody was prouder of what Byrd and Bennett had done than the men who
had worked so hard to make the trip a success, and who had stayed behind
at Spitzbergen, without glory or reward except in knowing that they had
been a necessary feature in the success of that journey. The whistle of
the Chantier blew a shrill whistle of welcome. The men ran to greet Byrd
and Bennett, and carried them in triumph on their shoulders. Among the
first to greet them were Amundsen and Ellsworth, whom Byrd had beaten in
the race to be the first to cross the Pole by air. But they shook hands
with vigor. They were glad that it was Byrd who had beaten them, if it
had to be anybody. Byrd affects people that way. He’s just as well liked
after successes as before them. That’s the sort he is.

“They were pretty glad to see him when he got back to the United States,
too. There were plenty of whistles blowing, plenty of ticker tape, and
parades for the returning hero. But Dick Byrd stayed modest through all
of it. In the first place, he never gets fussed. He isn’t a southern
gentleman for nothing. And in the second place, he realized that the
shouting wasn’t so much for him as it was for the thing that he did. He
had brought the United States the honor of sending the first men over
the Pole. And the United States was applauding the deed, not himself.
But he seems to have forgotten that if it hadn’t been for his years of
planning, striving and struggling the deed never would have been
accomplished.

“Well, Dick Byrd had accomplished his life’s ambition. But it didn’t
mean that he was ready to quit. There were new fields to conquer. How
about flying the Atlantic? He’d always wanted to fly the Atlantic.
Anything that was all adventure appealed to him. So when they hoisted
anchor at Spitzbergen after the flight across the Pole Byrd said to his
companion Bennett, ‘Now we can fly the Atlantic.’

“The plan to fly the ocean had its origin in the same motives that the
North Pole flight had. Byrd wanted to make America aviation conscious;
and he wanted to make American aviators conscious of the benefits of
careful planning. Dozens of lives had been lost in unsuccessful
trans-oceanic flights—the lives of young men full of the love of
adventure, who made hasty plans, or no plans at all for spanning the
ocean—who had no qualifications except a great ambition to see them
through the great grind that was before them. Byrd wanted to show all
fool-hardy young flyers that care, care, and more care was needed in
their preparations. He had to prove to the United States, too, that if
care were exercised in these flights, they were not necessarily
dangerous. All this Byrd had to prove. And in the meantime he’d have the
time of his life, steeped in the adventurous sort of work that he
craved.

“So Byrd and Bennett started their plans. The first step, of course, was
the choosing of the plane. Opinion was in favor of a single-motored
plane for a cross-Atlantic flight, since a single-motored plane would
have a greater cruising range; offer less resistance in the air; and be
less complicated to handle than a multi-motored craft. But Byrd held out
for the tri-motor, the same type of plane as the Josephine Ford, which
had carried him over the Pole. There was this to say for it: if one
motor stopped, the other two would still function; and it might be the
solution to the problem of what kind of plane would cross the Atlantic
in the future, when planes ran on regular schedule. They wanted a bigger
plane than the Josephine Ford, though. So they had one designed with a
wing spread of 71 feet, which meant that they got an increased lifting
power of about 3,000 pounds. That enabled them to take along about 800
pounds of equipment above what they actually needed, to show that a pay
load could be carted across the water in a plane.

“They needed plenty of equipment, though. There was a special radio set,
rockets to shoot off as signals if anything went wrong; two rubber boats
for the crew; and emergency food and equipment of all sorts for forced
landings; and even a special apparatus for making drinking water out of
salt water so that they would not go thirsty. In fact, they could have
survived for three weeks in case of an accident. They? Why, Byrd decided
that besides himself and Bennett, they would take along passengers, also
to prove something—this time that passengers could be carried across to
Europe by plane.

“They successfully petitioned the Weather Bureau to make predictions for
the trans-Atlantic flights, and for the first time in history regular
weather maps for aviation were made of the North Atlantic.

“At the end of April, in 1927, the plane was ready for its factory test.
Byrd planned to make his flight in May, which he figured was a good
month. It happened that there were at the time several other planes
preparing to cross the ocean. Byrd was in no race, however. Of course,
it would have been nice to be the first man across the Atlantic, as he
had been the first man over the Pole—but he encouraged the others who
were preparing and made no effort to be the first to start. However, his
plane was ready before the others.

“Byrd, Bennett, Noville, who was going with them, and Fokker took her up
for her first flight. Fokker was at the controls; the other three,
passengers. Everything went smoothly. She took off well; her motors
functioned perfectly. But as soon as the motors were turned off for the
glide, they felt her nose dip. She was nose-heavy. When they tried to
land, they knew definitely that she was nose-heavy, and zoomed into the
air again to plan what they should do. However, they couldn’t stay up
indefinitely—they hadn’t much fuel. Down they glided again. The wheels
touched the ground. Fokker jumped. But the other three were caught.

“Byrd felt the fuselage heave up. The plane went over on her nose,
turned completely over. Something struck him with an awful impact, and
he felt his arm snap. They had to get out of this! They were trapped in
a mass of wreckage which might at any moment burst into flames and burn
them to death before they had a chance to escape. Noville, beside Byrd,
broke a hole in the fabric with his fist, and they crawled out. The
wreckage did not burn. Someone had turned off the switches of all three
motors.

“Bennett? He was hanging head down in the pilot’s seat, unable to free
himself. His leg was broken; his face bleeding. He was badly injured—so
badly that for a week it was thought that he would never recover. But he
did—of course. His iron nerve and grit pulled him through. But any
thought of his going on the trip was out. This was a blow to Byrd. There
was no man he would rather fly with than Bennett, Floyd Bennett, the
cheerful companion, the willing worker, himself an expert pilot, and
able to divine instructions before they were even given. Tough luck!

“But tough luck, too, was the fact that the plane was almost irreparably
damaged. Byrd set his arm on the way to the hospital, had them put it in
a sling so that it would be out of the way, and went back to the factory
to supervise the repairing of the America. It took over a month of work
night and day to repair the damage that had been done, and re-design the
nose so that the craft would be balanced.

“May 21st was set for the christening of the plane. The christening-was
changed into a celebration of the successful flight of Lindbergh.
Bennett was pleased with Lindy’s achievement, since Lindy had proved the
very things that Byrd himself had set out to prove—that with careful
preparation, the ocean could be spanned; and that a successful ocean
flight would stir the imaginations of the people, making them more
conscious of aviation and its strivings. Then, too, Lindbergh cemented
relationships between France and the United States, which was one of
Byrd’s purposes in flying to France instead of to England, or any other
country.

“Well, after the ocean had been crossed, there was no need for hurry.
Not that Byrd had been in a rush; but there was a great deal of
criticism concerning the delay of his trip. Nobody knows how these
things start, or why. It seems that it should have been Byrd’s, and
Byrd’s business alone, as to when he chose to cross the ocean. After
all, it was his life being risked, and his glory if the flight were
successful. But a great many people in the United States felt that there
must be some ulterior motive in his not starting immediately; and that
he had been bested by a mere boy when he let Lindbergh be the first man
to conquer the ocean.

“But Byrd didn’t care. He knew what he was about. He was a southern
gentleman, and he said nothing to his defamers. And he went on
completing his preparations. Chamberlin, with his passenger Levine,
broke the world’s record for flying to Germany, in a remarkable flight.
Byrd hailed their success.

“Then at last, on June 29th, early in the morning the weather man
reported that weather conditions, while not ideal, were favorable. Dick
Byrd decided to delay no longer. He called together his crew, and met
them on the field at 3:00 o’clock in the morning. It was a miserable
morning, and a light rain was falling. By the light of torches the crew
was putting the finishing touches on the huge’ America. There she was,
atop the hill that they had built for her, so that she would get a good
fast start. And a good fast start she needed, all 15,000 pounds of her.
Think of the speed they had to get up in order to lift that bulk from
the ground! They’d have to be going a mile and a half a minute!

“Bert Acosta was at the wheel; Noville, recovered from his serious
injuries in the trial crash, sat with his hand on the dump valve, by
means of which he could dump a load of gasoline if they didn’t rise into
the air; Bert Balchen, the young Norwegian relief pilot and mechanic,
was busy with the spare fuel.

“The engines were warmed up. The great ship was ready—no, not quite
ready. But she was eager to be off. The America broke the rope that held
her, and glided down the hill on which she had been held. It was a tense
moment. Would they be able to get this great hulk into the air? Along
the ground she sped, gathering momentum. Her wheels lifted. There was a
shout. She had cleared the ground. But the danger was not over. They
must fly to at least 400 feet. Then the America showed her metal. She
climbed on a turn, and they were flying at an altitude of 400 feet. They
were off!

“On they sped to their destination at last. The wind was behind them,
helping them; the weather was disagreeable, and slightly foggy, but this
did not bother them. They reached Nova Scotia easily. But when they got
there they got a horrible shock. They had run into a fog. But what a
fog! One so thick that they couldn’t see the land or ocean under them.
And they flew for 2,000 miles like this, absolutely blind, with black
towering clouds ahead of them, below them, and when they ran through
them, all around them.

“The strain was terrible. In addition, Byrd calculated that they had
used more fuel than he had expected, because of climbing so high to get
over the clouds, and they might not have enough to take them to Europe.
But they did not want to turn back. They would take their chance.
Balchen and Acosta piloted with great skill, and Byrd took his turn at
the wheel while they slept. The wind was with them, and they made
excellent speed. Radio messages came to them clearly. They judged their
position, and their gas supply, and found that they had underestimated
their remaining gas. They could get to Rome.

“On the afternoon of the second day they came out of the thick fog, and
saw the welcome water beneath them. They were bound for France, and they
hit the coastline at Finisterre. They headed for Paris. Then they
radioed ahead for the weather report. Fog! Fog and storm, with its
center at Paris. This was the worst thing that could possibly have
happened to them, this arriving at their destination in a fog. But they
went on. It would be a triumph, and an addition to aviation knowledge if
they could land in a storm, after coming all the way from America.

“They figured finally that they must be almost over Paris. But suddenly
the fog below them was pierced by a queer light. It was the revolving
signal of a lighthouse! Their compass had gone back on them, and they
had made a circle, coming out not at Paris, but back to the coast of
France.

“They turned around, after adjusting their compasses, and made once more
for Paris by dead reckoning. They were above Le Bourget. But what could
they do? They could see nothing below them, only an inky blackness that
nothing could penetrate. Landing would have meant not only death to
themselves, but perhaps to many people who had gathered to watch their
triumphal landing. Their gas was getting low. Byrd saw only one
solution. They turned and flew once more back to the coast. They were
heading for the lighthouse that they had come upon accidentally before.
They flew very low, over the sleeping towns and villages that they knew
were below them, but which were shrouded in pitch blackness. A revolving
light pierced the blackness, and they were at the seacoast. But over the
water it was just as inky black as over the land.

“Balchen was at the wheel. Byrd gave the signal to land. They threw over
a line of flares that gave them some idea as to where to land, then
descended. The force of their impact with the water sheared off the
landing gear. The plane sank to the wings in the water, and the fuselage
filled rapidly.

“Byrd was thrown into the water. He swam to the plane. Noville was
climbing out. The other two were nowhere to be seen. Byrd called to
them. He swam over to the plane, which was almost submerged. Balchen was
caught in the wreckage, but managed to extricate himself. Then Acosta
swam up from nowhere. His collar bone was broken. But a hasty survey
assured Byrd that the others were all right. Almost exhausted, they got
out the collapsible boat, blew it up, and paddled to shore. It was a
mile to the village, and they trudged wearily on.

“They certainly did not look like a triumphal parade when they got to
the village, four tired, wet, dirty men, who looked more like tramps
than aviators. They tried to arouse the villagers, but they could not. A
small boy riding by became frightened when they spoke to him, and
scooted away. Finally they approached the lighthouse, aroused the
lighthouse keeper and his wife, and made them understand what had
happened.

“From then on, all was beer and skittles. There wasn’t enough that the
villagers could do for the Americans who had landed so unceremoniously
in their midst—or practically in their midst. They rescued the plane,
and the mail that was in it.

“Paris was next, and the real triumphal parade started then. The flyers
were almost overwhelmed with the wonderful greeting that the Parisians
gave them. It was worth all of the hours of agony that they had gone
through. They had accomplished what they had set out to accomplish,
after all.

“Then America. Once more the American people welcomed Dick Byrd back as
the hero of the moment. He had excited interest in aviation; he had
proved many valuable scientific facts; he had proved a hero under trying
circumstances; he had added to the friendly feeling felt by the French
for the American people; in fact, he had done all things except one. He
had not extinguished his spirit of adventure.

“No sooner was Admiral Byrd back from his trip across the Atlantic when
he was planning another voyage, this time reflecting again the boyish
dreams of his early youth. He planned to go to the South Pole to make
certain scientific studies, and to fly across the Pole when he was
there.

“Very carefully he began to plan. He first obtained his ships. The
_Larsen_ and the _Sir James Clark Ross_ were to be used as supply ships.
_The City of New York_, once an ice breaker, was to be his chief ship,
and the _Eleanor Bolling_, named in honor of his mother, was to be the
chief supply ship. He took, too, four planes, three for observation
flights, and the huge three-motored Fokker, the _Floyd Bennett_. Every
division of the expedition was equipped with radio sets. Every division
of the expedition was further so equipped that in case of accident, or
in case it should be separated from any other unit, it could rescue
itself.

“Among the preparations was the purchase of about a hundred eskimo dogs,
which were to be used in the arctic. Ships, planes, cameras, radios,
footgear, and a thousand other details Byrd had to plan carefully.
Almost a million dollars had been spent before the ships even left New
York.

“In the midst of the preparations Admiral Byrd received a terrible blow.
This was the death of Floyd Bennett, that someone has already told
about. Bennett flew to the aid of Major Fitzmaurice, Captain Koebl and
Baron von Huenefeld, who had been forced down in the Gulf of St.
Lawrence, during the first east to west crossing of the Atlantic. At
Murray Bay, Quebec, he developed influenza, which turned into pneumonia.
He died in Quebec. Colonel Lindbergh rushed to Quebec with serum to save
his life, but it was of no use. Floyd Bennett, whom everybody loved, and
one of the greatest pilots of his day, had flown his last flight.

“It meant a loss to all aviation, but to Dick Byrd especially, since the
two men had been close friends. There was no man with whom Byrd would
rather have flown over the South Pole, as he had flown over the North.
In memory of his friend, Byrd named the plane with which he was to fly
over the Pole the _Floyd Bennett_.

“Preparations had to go on. It came time to choose the crew and staff
which was to go with Byrd, to be gone for such a long time in the arctic
wastes. The prospect does not seem inviting—the leaving of comfortable
homes, of families, in order to spend a year in the coldest climate that
will sustain life. But so great is the spirit of adventure in man that
15,000 people volunteered to go on the expedition. The men who were
finally chosen were picked men—all physically in perfect health, and
mentally alert. True, some of them shipped in positions in which they
had had no training, but Admiral Byrd could safely say that he had made
a mistake in no case. Every man that he chose proved himself worthy of
the choice.

“Finally all was ready. On August 26, 1928, the _City of New York_
started out. _The Eleanor Bolling_, a steamship, started later, as did
the supply ship, the _Larsen_. _The City of New York_, a sail boat, got
to New Zealand about the middle of November, the last to arrive. The
_Larsen’s_ cargo was shifted to the other ships. On December 2, the
_Eleanor Bolling_ and the _City of New York_ sailed for the ice pack. In
about two weeks it came into sight. Then the latter ship took over the
former’s cargo, and while the sail boat sailed back for New Zealand, the
steamer went on to penetrate the ice pack and steam at last into the
Ross Sea.

“The ship and its precious cargo went on to the ice barrier, and it was
on the ice barrier that Little America, the base of the expedition, that
was to be the home of Byrd and his men for a rigorous year and a half,
was built.

“The village they built was complete in every detail. As soon as they
landed, the men started in with the building program. There were three
clusters of buildings set in a circle about a thousand feet around.
These included the Administration Building, containing living quarters,
dispensary and radio reception room, a meteorological shelter, etc. Then
there was the general dormitory, and the observation igloo. Other
buildings included the store houses and medical supply store-house; a
Mess Hall, which was reached by a tunnel, and contained the dining room,
and more living quarters.

“The community was a comfortable one. There was plenty of work, of
course, but there was time for leisure, too, and the men could listen to
the radio, play with the dogs, read one of the books of the large
library; play cards, in fact, do any one of a number of things. The food
was good. Dried vegetables and fruits had been taken down in quantities.
There was plenty of meat, both smoked, and fresh killed seal meat. They
had electric light, and plenty of heat to keep them warm. In fact, the
life was pleasant if anything.

“Of course, the most significant part of the whole expedition was Byrd’s
flight over the Pole. As in the other flights, the building of the
runway was the greatest task, and one of the most important. It took the
whole crew of 60 men to keep the runway in condition. On January 6th,
the Commander made his first flight in Antarctica, making many
photographs from his plane. After that, many trips were taken, new land
discovered, and scientific observations made.

“The long night set in, and meant less activity, but in the Spring the
sun rose once more, and activity broke out with renewed vigor,
especially around the planes. Men had been sent ahead to cache food for
emergency, in case of a forced landing of the _Floyd Bennett_. Byrd,
Harold June, Bernt Balchen and Ashley McKinley were to make the flight.
Everything was at last ready, and they were waiting only for favorable
weather conditions in order to start.

“On November 27, this was in 1929, came a weather report that satisfied
Byrd, no fog, and plenty of sun. The next day was bright and fair. The
plane was given a final overhauling. It was carefully warmed; the oil
was heated and poured in. Into the cabin went the dogs, and the dog
sledge, the food and other supplies that the men would have to use in
case of a forced landing. Into the plane, too, went Ashley McKinley’s
camera, which was to take records of the crossing of the Pole.

“Finally Byrd gave the signal. _The Floyd Bennett_ was rolled out of its
hangar to the runway. Balchen was to pilot first. He opened the throttle
of all three motors. There was a roar, and they were on their way.

“Away they flew, into the cloudless sky. June and Balchen piloted, Byrd
navigated. They flew high, and in spite of their load of 12,000 pounds,
almost as much as they had had on the _America_, they attained an
altitude of some 10,000 feet. This was necessary in order to clear the
highest of the glaciers. On flew the _Floyd Bennett_, gayly as a bird.

“The craft had left Little America just before three o’clock in the
afternoon. In ten hours she had covered 700 miles. Then suddenly they
were over the Pole. They circled around in a great circle, whose center
was the South Pole, and then turned back. At a little after ten the next
morning they sped wearily into camp at Little America. In nineteen hours
they had been to the South Pole and back, and Dick Byrd, even though he
couldn’t have been the first man at the North and South Poles,
nevertheless found himself the only man in the world who had flown over
both the North and South Poles.

“There was a let-down in the community’s enthusiasm. The great task had
been accomplished. They awaited the City of New York which was to come
to take them home. Preparations were made for the homeward journey. It
was with joyous cries that the steamer City of New York was greeted, and
with pleasure that the men left Little America for New Zealand. By April
they had left hospitable New Zealand behind, too, and had started for
the United States.

“Once more his countrymen turned out to honor Byrd. Dick Byrd was now
Rear-Admiral Byrd, but the same Dick Byrd as he had always been before.
There were banquets, and medals, and many honors heaped upon him. All
over the world movies which had been taken of the expedition were shown
to entranced millions. Everybody shared in the work, the good times, the
adventures of that group of men.

“And here was little Richard Evelyn Byrd, who had been the undersized,
delicate boy, with a will of iron, and a spirit for adventure, the
leader of it all, the prime force behind the whole expedition. He
accomplished all that he sat out to accomplish, and more. The scientific
data that he collected proved valuable; and interest in aviation was
beyond a doubt stimulated. And that’s that. How’s that for a little
fellow with a bum ankle? Pretty good, eh?”

Nobody answered the Captain at first. There seemed no answer. Each of
them was busy with his own thoughts. Or her own thoughts, because the
feminine minds in that gathering were working very fast.

“Well,” said Mrs. Martin at last, “I am usually the last person to point
a moral, but I do think that there’s a moral in that story.” She saw her
opportunity at last. “I think that Dick Byrd’s parents were responsible
for the boy’s success. If they had squelched his adventurous spirit at
the beginning, he would probably never have got any place.”

Mrs. Gregg smiled to herself in the darkness. “Do you believe in young
boys going off by themselves, Mrs. Martin?”

“It teaches them self-reliance,” said Mrs. Martin firmly.

“Do you think that they ought to fly planes by themselves?”

“And why not? After all, there isn’t very much to flying a plane, if you
keep your wits about you. And I’m sure that both of our boys have their
wits about them. I think that the earlier you learn a thing, the better
it is for you. It makes everything else easier, too.”

There was a silence for a while. Then Mrs. Gregg said, with a laugh in
her voice, “I think that I’m being worked upon. First by the Captain
with his story, and then by you. I’m afraid I have no defense.” She
turned to Hal, who had not spoken at all, but who had been thinking a
great deal during the story of Byrd, and the obstacles that he had
overcome. “Well, Hal,” she said, “what do you think? Shall we yield to
these people? Shall the Greggs yield to the Martins?”

Hal had not seen his mother so light-hearted and gay for a long time.
The pleasant evening and the story had had a decided effect upon her.

Hal didn’t know exactly what to say, But his mother went on, “I think
we’re beaten, Hal. Do you want to go to the mountains with your
friends?” Nobody there knew the effort that that sentence cost Mrs.
Gregg, but she had said it, and she stood committed.

Hal was at a still greater loss as what to reply. His heart was beating
wildly. There was nothing that he desired more now than to go to the
mountains, but he felt the effort that his mother had put behind her
words. Should he go? He wanted to. He wanted to show them that he wasn’t
afraid. And he wouldn’t be afraid, either. Not any more. Other people,
little fellows, too, had done things, had gone places, and they weren’t
afraid. So Hal said, “Well, I’d like to.”

“If you wish to, you may,” said Mrs. Gregg.

Bob, who had listened breathlessly to this conversation, could restrain
himself no longer. “Whoopee!” he yelled. “Hal’s coming along! Hal’s
coming along!” He jumped up and started to execute a war dance, dragging
Hal after him.

Captain Bill was pleased. His story had made a hit—more of a hit than he
had even hoped for.



CHAPTER IX—Four Women Flyers


Mrs. Martin, too, was pleased. She had gained her point, and now had
another surprise for the company. “Did it ever occur to you that there
are famous flyers who aren’t men? It’s just like you to neglect the
women altogether.”

“Aw,” said Bob, “we can’t go telling stories about women. We’re sticking
to men.”

“It seems to me that the women oughtn’t to be neglected,” said his
mother. “After all, when we women do things, we like to be recognized.”

The Captain broke in, then. “Well, how about some of the women? he
asked. Of course, being a woman yourself, you can’t enter our
story-telling contest, but you can amuse us from a purely amateur love
of getting in your feminine licks.”

Mrs. Martin smiled in the dark. “You think that I won’t,” she said. “But
I will. I’ve been doing reading of my own, you know.”

“Tell away, Mater,” said Bob. “You’re better than any of us.”

Mrs. Martin began her story. “There are four women who stand head and
shoulders above the rest in the United States,” she said, “when it comes
to flying. They are that oddly-assorted group—tall, slender, boyish
Amelia Earhart, who’s Amelia Earhart Putnam, now; little Elinor Smith,
who doesn’t weigh much over a hundred pounds: medium-sized, gracious and
charming Ruth Nichols, who belongs to the Junior League; and short,
sturdy, daring Laura Ingalls.

“Amelia is probably the first lady of the land, or I should say, first
lady of the air in the United States now, since her solo trans-Atlantic
flight on May 20, 1932. It was fitting that she should make her flight
on the fifth anniversary of Lindbergh’s flight to Europe, because she’s
always been called the Lady Lindy. She looks like him, you know—long,
lean, blonde, with a shock of unruly curly hair, and a shy, contagious
smile. She has even his modest nature, and the ability to win the hearts
of everybody with whom she comes in contact.

“The solo flight wasn’t Amelia Earhart’s first trip across the ocean by
plane. You remember her first flight, when she went as a passenger on
the Stultz-Gordon flight in 1928. She’s the first person now who has
ever crossed the ocean twice through the air. Amelia is a real
pioneer—she must have adventure and excitement in life—that’s why she
gave up social service work, and made flying her profession. It wasn’t
easy for her to learn to fly—she just had evenings and Sundays to get in
her practice flights, but she stuck to it, and finally had a sufficient
number of hours in the air to get her pilot’s license. Of course, she is
interested in the progress of aviation. Everybody who flies has this
interest at heart—but the love of adventure is uppermost in her mind
when she makes her record flights.

“It was that that sent her across the Atlantic, through storms and sleet
and fog, with no thought of turning back, in spite of decided defects in
her motor that threatened to land her in the middle of the ocean and
send her to certain death.

“There wasn’t much publicity before her flight. Since it was going to be
for her own satisfaction, she wanted to keep it to herself. She took off
quietly from Harbor Grace, Newfoundland. The weather was fairly good,
but when she got out a few hours, she met with the same terrifying
flying conditions that her solo predecessor, Lindbergh, had. Fog
enveloped her plane. She could not see in front of her, or to either
side. Ice formed on the wings of her plane, and threatened to break them
off. Gradually the temperature rose, and the ice melted. But new dangers
threatened. A weld in the exhaust manifold broke, and the manifold
vibrated badly; leaks sprang in the reserve gas tanks in the cockpit,
and then—the altimeter broke.

“Now the altimeter, as I suppose you all know, records the altitude at
which the plane is flying. Amelia Earhart had never flown without one,
and now she realized the hazards of not knowing how high she was flying
through the fog. Sometimes she would drop so low that she came suddenly
out of the fog, but so close to the water she could see the white caps
on the surface.

“The girl realized that she must make a landing as soon as possible, and
that was when she reached Culmore, Ireland, a tiny place five miles from
Londonderry. She landed in a field, scaring a team of plow horses, who
had never before seen a woman landing after a trans-Atlantic flight. She
went by automobile to Londonderry, and there received the rousing
welcome that was due her.

“Europe entertained her royally. She was awarded the Distinguished
Flying Cross; she was received by the Prince of Wales; she was partied
and banqueted. And through it all she kept her poise, and modestly
accepted the acclaim that was showered upon her. She was the first woman
to fly solo across the Atlantic, but not only that, she had set a new
speed record for the North Atlantic Ocean, flying a distance of 2,026
miles in about thirteen and a half hours. She had at the same time
broken Ruth Nichols’ long distance record for women, which had been set
at 1,977 miles from Oakland, California, to Louisville, Kentucky.

“Ruth Nichols has a habit of setting records. She started to fly at
about the same time that Amelia Earhart started, and has kept nip and
tuck with her, except for the fact that proposed plans of hers to fly
the Atlantic have not as yet been carried out. She was graduated from
Wellesley College, and was a member of the Junior League, which rates
her pretty high in the social scale, but her overwhelming desire for
adventure and pioneering, led her, as it led Amelia Earhart, to choose
aviation as her profession. Ruth Nichols held the long distance record
for women until it was broken by Amelia Earhart. She holds the altitude
record for women, though, and broke the altitude record for Diesel
engines in 1932, at a height of over 21,000 feet.

“Elinor Smith was, in a way of speaking, born in an airplane cockpit.
Her father was a pilot; Elinor made her first flight as a passenger at
the age of eight; took over the controls at twelve; and made her first
solo flight at fifteen. She was so small that her head did not reach
over the top of the cockpit, and the other pilots called her ‘the
headless pilot.’ It was a funny sight to see a plane land gracefully on
a field apparently with no one to guide it. Then out would pop Elinor, a
grimy little girl, covered with grease from the motor, and with a
cheerful grin on her impish face. It was Elinor, who at seventeen, set
the women’s solo endurance record by staying in the air alone for 26
hours and 21 minutes. Elinor should do great things in aviation. She
knows her planes inside and out; she’s had the opportunity such as no
other woman has had, to learn the technicalities of aviation when she
was young that she absorbed them as part of herself. Elinor Smith is one
of the most popular women in aviation now.

“Laura Ingalls is the stunt flyer of the women. She came out of the
middle-west, from Missouri. She took to music and dancing first to
express her restless spirit, and then found that it was flying that
would express her best. So she went to a government-approved school, and
became an expert, daring flyer. She is the holder of the record for
loop-the-loops for women, and of the barrel roll record for both men and
women. She is interested in the progress of aviation, but gets a great
thrill out of merely flying for its own sake.”

Mrs. Martin paused. “I guess that gives you an idea,” she said, “what
women are doing nowadays.”

“Women have always done the great things in aviation,” said Mrs. Gregg.
“They stay home and wait while the men are risking their lives. Waiting
is harder than doing.

“Women haven’t a monopoly on that,” said Bob. “What about Mr. Putnam,
who waited at home while his wife flew the ocean?”

Everybody laughed. “You’re right, Bob,” said Mrs. Gregg. Then she added,
“It’s getting pretty late. How about our going, Hal?”

The two of them cut across the garden to their home.



CHAPTER X—Hawks and Doolittle


The next day was spent in a pleasantly muddled state, getting Hal ready
to go with them, and putting the finishing touches to their own
equipment. Stout boots, fishing lines, flies, everything on their lists
was gradually being checked off. Late in the afternoon they had a
breathing space, and Bob remembered that it was Pat’s turn to tell his
story.

“Come on, Pat, you might as well get it over with,” said Bob. “We
haven’t anything else to do, anyway.”

“You’re mighty impudent for a young one, Bob, my lad,” said Pat. “Just
because you’ve made a solo flight doesn’t mean that you’re wings are dry
yet. You might know that any story I’d tell would be good.”

“Oh, Patrick, you’ll have to prove that,” said the Captain. “I’ve heard
some pretty awful ones from you. Haven’t I?”

“It must have been two other fellows,” said Pat. “But I’ll begin. And I
won’t take so long, either. I’m not one of these long winded story
tellers,” he said significantly.

“Get on, get on.” This from Captain Bill.

“My two boys are the speedy two, all right,” began Pat. “Speed was their
middle name. Their real names were—well, you probably have guessed. It’s
not a secret—Frank Hawks and Jimmie Doolittle. Beg pardon, maybe I had
better say Lieutenant Commander Frank Hawks of the United States Naval
Reserve, the holder of some 30 inter-city aviation records, etcetera,
etcetera; and maybe it would be more proper to talk about James
Doolittle, M.S.; D.A.E.. But what’s the use of the titles? They’re just
Frank and Jimmie, two of the squarest shooters in the game.

“Frank was born, of all places for a flyer to be born, in Marshalltown,
Iowa, on March 28, 1897. Iowa’s flat, you know. Wouldn’t think that
there’d be much inspiration for flying out there. But maybe all that
flat prairie was just so much inspiration to get away from it all, and
get up into the air. Anyway, young Frank put plenty of grey hairs in his
mother’s head with his love for climbing. Just crazy about high places.
Always up a tree, so to speak.

“Little Frank was mighty pretty, I guess. Maybe he wouldn’t like my
saying it, but he must have been a smart kid, too. At a very tender age,
my lads, our friend Frank Hawks was playing children’s parts in
Minneapolis. But then the family moved to California—maybe to live down
the scandal of a performing son, and Frank got serious, being mightly
busy just going to high school.

“Maybe it was fate, but something happened that changed Frank Hawks’
ideas about what he wanted to be when he grew up. The Christofferson
brothers, who were pretty great shakes in those days, and pioneers in
flying, set up a shop on the beach outside Frank’s home town. They took
up passengers. But they charged plenty for it, and Frank, while he hung
around a lot, never had the money to go up, although he was mighty
anxious to fly.

“Finally he got an idea. If he couldn’t get up in the usual way, he’d
find a way he could go up. So young Frank got himself a pencil, a
notebook, and a mighty important look, and approached one of the
Christoffersons. ‘I'm from the newspaper, Mr. Christofferson,’ he says,
‘and I’d like an interview with you.’ And he interviewed him just as
serious as you please, with Christofferson pleased as could be, thinking
of the publicity and the new passengers he’d get. Then young Frank asked
if he couldn’t go up, in order to write his impressions of an airplane
ride. Of course, of course.

“So Frank Hawks got his first ride in an airplane, and decided on his
future career. Aviation got a recruit and Christofferson waited a long
time for his interview to appear. In fact, he waited indefinitely.

“The problem for Frank then was to get another ride. He finally went to
the flyer, and told him what he had done. He was forgiven, and worked
out his passage for that ride and other rides by working around the
flying field. It was then he learned to fly. But business was not too
good, and the brothers moved on. Frank Hawks went on with his high
school work, and was graduated in 1916. Thought he ought to have more
book learning, so he went on to the University of California.

“But the war stopped that. When he was twenty, Hawks joined the army,
the Flying Corps. He was too good, though. Too good for his own good.
They never sent him to France, where he wanted to go. Instead, they made
him an instructor, so that he could teach green recruits how to fly. At
the end of the war he was discharged, with the title of Captain.

“The five years after that were hectic ones. Aviation was still
new—interest in it had been stirred up by war flying, and all sorts of
men, young, old, every kind, bought up old planes from the government
and went barnstorming around the country, taking people up on flights,
stunting, flying in air circuses, balloon jumping, and doing anything
they could to make money with their tubs. Some of these planes were no
more than old junk, and the flyers no more than the rankest amateurs.
But there were some of them who were good, and one of these was Hawks.
He went dizzily stunting around the country, until’ he got himself the
reputation of being just plain crazy, but a great flyer.

“There were ups and downs, to be sure. And I don’t mean to be funny,
either, my lads. The people in the United States were getting just a
little weary of going up in airplanes just for the fun of the thing—they
were getting too common. But—there were people down in Mexico who had
never seen a plane, much less flown in one, so down to Mexico went
Hawks. He gave. Mexico plenty of thrills, and Mexico gave him some, too.
The country was unsettled at the time, upset with revolutions. Hawks got
a job flying a diplomat from Mexico City to his ranch, because they’d be
safer in the air than going by automobile through the mountains. Hawks
even tried ranching for a while, but it didn’t work.

“He decided to go back to the United States, and when he went back he
married Edith Bowie, who hailed from Texas. Down in Texas Hawks flew
over the cotton fields with arsenic to kill the boll weevils. He worked
in the oil fields, too, as a driller. It was good experience for him.
They found out that he could fly, and he got a job piloting officials of
the oil company from place to place in the oil country. They found that
they were saving time and money.

“At this time Lindy flew over the Atlantic. Hawks bought the Spirit of
San Diego, which was the sister ship to the Spirit of St. Louis, and
flew across the country to greet Lindbergh when he came back. He flew
4,000 miles on a National tour with the Spirit of San Diego, and then
7,000 miles criss-cross.

“Luck was with him. He was going to reap his just rewards. He became a
member of one of the country’s richest oil companies, as their technical
flying expert. He advised them in buying planes, and chose their pilots
for them, and in addition, had to sell flying to the country.

“And maybe he didn’t set out in earnest to make the country sit up and
take notice then! There was a Wasp-motored Lockheed Air Express
monoplane at the manufacturers’ in Los Angeles, and it had to be flown
to New York. Hawks got the bright idea that he could fly it across the
country without a stop. And he did.

“It was his first cross-country flight, and his hardest. In the first
place, it was February, and the weather was pretty bad for flying—so
uncertain that they couldn’t predict what he’d run into. But he decided
to take his chance. This was in 1929. Of course, its being 1929 didn’t
make it any harder, but I just thought I ought to tell you what year it
was. The start from Los Angeles wasn’t bad. He had a mechanic with him
to keep filling the gasoline engines, a fellow by the name of Oscar
Grubb. They hadn’t flown for very long when they ran into a fog. Hawks
thought he’d try flying below the ceiling—but he ran into a snow storm.
Then he tried climbing above it. He couldn’t get over it.

“And in the midst of all this terrible strain of flying through fog so
thick that he couldn’t see the nose of his plane, the engine began to
miss. The tank was empty. He switched on the other tank. It was empty,
too. Why hadn’t Oscar warned him that the fuel supply was out? What had
happened to it? Hawks looked back. There was Oscar, sprawled out, fast
asleep. But he woke up. Pretty lucky for Oscar Grubb that he did, and
typical Hawks luck. The tanks were filled, and on they flew through the
murk and fog. The fog cleared a little when they got to Kentucky, but
Hawks didn’t know where he was, anyway. It wasn’t until they got to
Washington that he recognized his position, by the Capitol dome. From
there he sped to New York, where everybody was glad to see him. No
wonder. This speedy gentleman had made the trip in 18 hours, 21 minutes,
breaking all speed records then existing for non-stop cross country
flight.

“It got to be a habit, this record-breaking. His next venture was New
York to Los Angeles and back. He left Roosevelt field at 8 o’clock in
the morning, and was in Los Angeles in the evening. Seven hours later he
turned back and in 17½ hours more he was back again at Roosevelt field.
It was dark coming down, and he broke a wing, but he escaped unhurt.
He’d broken the east-west, west-east, and round trip records, all of
them, making the round trip in 36 hours and 48 some minutes.

“Hawks never let people forget him for long. He was out to sell speed to
the country, and he knew that the way to do it was by speeding. In July
everybody began to hear about the ‘mystery ship’ that was being built
for him. It was a monoplane. On August 6th, it was a mystery no longer.
Hawks was going to race with the sun. The sun had always beaten him so
far, and he wanted a return match, for revenge.

“So he lifted his monoplane into the air in New York, just as the sun
was rising, at about 6 in the morning. He flew right with that sun and
got into Los Angeles before it had set, or just about 10 minutes before
6 o’clock in the evening. He’d beaten dat ol’ davil sun, all right. One
week later, and he was on his way back across the continent again, and
got to New York in less than 12½ hours.

“Well, he’d proved how quickly you could get across the United States in
an ordinary plane. Then he showed how you could cross with a glider,
towed by an engined plane. Why, you ask. Well, in the first place, it
attracted attention to gliders. And gliders are important in aviation.
And then, if towed gliders are practical, they might solve the problem
of carrying pay loads in cross-country flights. The glider could be
loaded up, hitched to an airplane, and go from New York to any point
west. That was the idea. Well, Hawks did attract attention. It took him
six and a half days to get from San Diego to New York, stopping off at a
lot of cities, and just generally bumming around the country.

“In 1930 about the only spectacular flight that Frank Hawks made was the
tour with Will Rogers, when they flew around the country seeking help
for the drought victims. They covered 57 cities in 17 days, which meant
a lot of work, because they put on a show wherever they stopped. Hawks,
with his stage experience behind him, fitted in perfectly with the plan.
He not only could fly, but he developed a patter, modeled after Will
Rogers’ and came out chewing gum and swinging a lariat.

“In 1931, having about exhausted record-breaking in the United States,
our friend Mr. Hawks left these shores, and went off to Europe to sell
speed and airplanes to that continent. No sooner had he landed than he
started to break their records, too. The first one to fall was the speed
record from London to Berlin, a distance, of 600 miles, which he made in
2 hours and 57 minutes. This was just about half the time that the
regular passenger planes take. He had a light tail wind behind him, to
help him, and a bad fog over the channel to hinder him. He flew the
whole distance by compass.

“About a week later the United States again heard from Frank Hawks. They
heard that he’d dined in three European capitals on the same day. Left
Bourget before breakfast, had breakfast in London, kippers, I suppose,
or kidneys, at the Croydon Field. That was about 9:30. He left Croydon
for Berlin, and got there 3 hours and 20 minutes later, in time for
lunch at the Tempelhof Airdrome. He flew back to Paris, for tea at Le
Bourget, and then motored into the city for a good dinner. The dinner he
didn’t pay for. It was on some friends who had bet him that he couldn’t
make it. He did. Don’t bet against Frank Hawks. It isn’t good business.

“The next month, on June 17, Frank felt hungry again, and maybe tired of
the food he’d been getting, anyway. So he got into his plane, at London,
just after breakfast; had luncheon in Rome, and got back in time for tea
in London. He’d made the round trip in 9 hours and 44 minutes, actual
flying time. Of course, a man has to take time out to eat. Getting to
Rome and back meant that he’d beaten the Alps twice. He enjoyed that
trip. He’d had a head wind with him all the way, and was pretty glad
about beating the Alps. They look less mighty and dangerous when you’re
looking down at them from a safe plane, in the cleat sunshine. Almost
gentle.

“Speedy Hawks decided to come back to America. But he didn’t come back
to rest. He went right on breaking records, and making up new ones to be
broken. In January of 1932 he flew from Agua Caliente to Vancouver,
British Columbia, in 13 hours and 44 minutes. That was called his famous
three-flag flight. It was a grand flight, too, and the first of its kind
to be flown in one day. It wasn’t non-stop; he’d stopped at Oakland,
California and Portland, Oregon, both on the way up and the way back,
for fuel. The trip was about 2,600 miles long, and he’d averaged about
180 miles per hour.

“Hawks is certainly accomplishing what he set out to do. He’s never had
to bail out, and he’s never had a serious accident. He was pretty well
banged up when he didn’t clear the ground and crashed into some wires
early in 1932, but he pulled out of that all right. Flying fast was no
more dangerous than flying slowly, if a man could handle his plane. What
the country needed was speed and more speed, and Hawks gave it to them.
It helped, too. The whole commercial system in the United States has
speeded up. Two hours have been cut off the transcontinental trip, and
more will undoubtedly be cut off. In June of ’32 Hawks was made
Lieutenant Commander Hawks. And it’s no more than he deserves. He’s a
great lad.

“And so is Jimmie Doolittle. There’s some say that Jimmie is the
greatest flyer of them all, but he says he isn’t. I don’t know whether
we should take his word for it or not. He may be prejudiced. Anyway,
he’s one of the best liked flyers in the country. James Doolittle is a
little fellow. That is, he’s short. Just 5 feet 2, but every inch a
scrapper, and every inch nerve.

“Anybody who talks about Doolittle likes to tell the story of the time
he went down to Chile for the Curtiss Company to demonstrate a new type
of flying plane to the government. The Chilean government was pretty
particular. It wanted only the best, so it decided to have five
countries compete in a mock fight, England, France, Germany, Italy and
the United States, and the plane that won the battle would be the one
bought for the Chilean army.

“Well, Curtiss asked the Army Air Service if they could borrow the
Army’s crack test pilot, Jimmie, and the Army lent him. Doolittle went
down there all set to win. But there was a party for the aviators before
the battle, and the aviators, all being young, and good fellows, got
very jolly, and decided that each of them would have to put on a stunt
to entertain the others. Now Doolittle decided that his best bet was
acrobatics, so he balanced on the window ledge, to show his best
handstands and other tricks that he’d learned in college. A brace or
something on the window gave way, and down went James into the street,
landed on both feet, and broke both ankles. Just before the big show!
Well, they took him to the hospital and put both ankles in a plaster
cast.

“The show went on, and the hero wasn’t there. But was he resting
peacefully at the hospital? He was not. With the help of a friend, he
cut off the plaster cast, had himself hoisted into an ambulance, and
taken to the field. When he got there, they strapped his feet to the
rudder bar, and he was all set to go into his act. Only the German plane
was in the air. Doolittle zoomed up, and there followed one of the
prettiest dog fights that anyone there had ever seen. Doolittle
maneuvered and bedeviled that German plane until it turned tail and
retired. James circled around once or twice to show that he was cock of
the walk, and then came down to get the Chilean contract for the Curtiss
people. That’s the way James Doolittle does things.

“How did he get so scrappy? Well, he was a born fighter. And then, he
grew up in a gold camp in the Klondike, and if there was any place
harder than a gold camp in Alaska in those days, it would be hard to
find. Jimmie was born in Alameda. California, in 1896. His father was a
carpenter and miner, and left for the Klondike in ’97, the year before
the big rush to Dawson in ’98. Well, two years later he sent for his
wife and the boy James.

“Jimmie’s first scrap was with an Eskimo child. He drew blood, and was
so frightened that he cried as loudly as the Eskimo warrior. But he
never stopped fighting after that first fight. Maybe it was because he
was so small that he had to fight. Anyway, he usually was fighting boys
bigger than himself, and he got so good that he’d whip them to a frazzle
every time. It gets to be a habit, you know, and any way, he was born
scrappy. Ask anyone.

“The Doolittles left the Klondike, and moved back to California with
their obstreperous son, and I imagine the Klondike parents breathed a
little easier. In California Jimmie went to school, and on the side
became Amateur Bantamweight Champion of the Pacific Coast.

“When he’d been graduated from High School Jimmie went on to the
University of California, same college that Hawks had attended. He went
on fighting, still in the bantamweight class. But one day down in the
gymnasium, the boxing coach put him in the ring with a middleweight for
some practice. Jimmie knocked him out. And he knocked out the second
middleweight, and the third middleweight. So the coach, seeing that he
had struck gold, entered Jimmie in the match with Stanford, but in the
middleweight class. The crowd roared when they saw the little bantam
getting into the ring with a pretty husky middle. The middleweight
thought that it was a joke on him, and was careful not to hit hard. But
he needn’t have been so kind. Jimmy Doolittle retaliated by knocking him
stiff and cold in a few minutes.

“Jimmie didn’t graduate. In 1917 he married Jo, and settled down to
serious things, such as going out to Nevada and becoming a gold miner,
and later a mining engineer. I might say a word about Jim and Jo.
They’re known as the inseparables. They’re always together. They’ve got
two kids, who are thirteen and eleven years old, and who can fly in
their daddy’s footsteps. The family leads a gypsy life, flying from one
army field to another, but they have a great time.

“Well, I’m getting ahead of my story. Let’s get back to the War. Because
the war broke out then, you know, and Jimmie joined the air service. His
first lesson, they turned him over to an instructor by the name of Todd.
They were still on the ground, when they heard a crash, then another
crash. Two planes had collided in the air. First one dropped, then the
other, close to Jimmie’s plane. One of the pilots was killed; the other
pilot and his passenger were badly hurt. Doolittle helped them out, and
went back for his first lesson.

“Jimmie, like Hawks, was just too good. They didn’t send him to France
at all, but made him an instructor at Rockwell Field, San Diego, where
he became known as one of the star aviators in the air service. He was
pretty angry when he found that he couldn’t go to France. He went out to
relieve his feelings. He picked out an innocent soldier walking down the
road, and made for him. He didn’t have any grudge against that soldier,
just against the world. But that soldier had to bear the brunt. Jimmie
swooped down on him. The soldier wouldn’t move out of the way or flatten
out. Jimmie swooped closer and closer. The soldier stood his ground.
Finally Jimmy came so close that his wheels nicked the soldier, and down
he went. And away flew Jimmie, but so low that he couldn’t rise again in
time to clear a barbed wire fence at the side of the road. He got caught
in the fence and smashed up. They gave him a month in the barracks to
think over how smart-aleck he’d been, and then Jimmie was out again. The
soldier had a bump on the head to remind him that he’d been in the way
when Jimmie Doolittle was mad.

“Jimmie had other crashes. One was just before he made his famous flight
in 1922 across country from Pablo Beach to San Diego. On his first
attempt at a take-off one of his wheels struck some soft sand, and over
he turned, being thrown into the water, plane and all. His second
take-off was more successful—in fact, it was perfect. He got to San
Diego in 22½ hours.

“Jimmie’s greatest achievements have been in testing and experimenting.
After the war he went to the Army technical school at Dayton. He got an
honorary degree from the University of California, and then he went to
Boston with Jo, and entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
With Jo’s help he did four years’ work in three, and got the degrees of
Master of Science, and Doctor of Aviation Engineering—the first flyer to
get the D.A.E. degree there.

“He resigned from the army to join the Shell Petroleum Corporation,
Curtiss borrowed him again, though, and he went to Europe to demonstrate
speed planes for Curtiss to 21 European governments. He’s a marvellous
tester. He got the D.F.C. for his transcontinental flight. In 1925 he
got the Schneider Cup in the International races, and in 1929 the medal
of the Federale Aeronautique Internationale for his outstanding
achievements in aviation.

“I haven’t told you the most outstanding, feats, Doolittle was one of
the pioneers in blind flying. He experimented for the Guggenheim
Foundation, testing instruments to be used for blind flying. He also
tested the stress and strain that flying has on the human body. He would
go into right spirals, risking his life, in order to see under what
pressure a man becomes unconscious. It’s a dangerous business, but great
for aviation.

“In September, 1931, Doolittle won the air derby, flying from Los
Angeles to New York to establish a new transcontinental West to East
record on 11 hours and 15 minutes. He won at the same time the Los
Angeles-Cleveland Bendix trophy when he crossed the finish line of the
National Air Races at the Cleveland airport. His time to Cleveland was 9
hours and 10 minutes, an average speed of 223 miles per hour. As if that
wasn’t enough, he flew back to St. Louis to sleep, making a trip of
3,300 miles in 19 hours. He’d broken Hawks’ record then standing. Both
the boys are still going strong. You never knew when you’re going to
wake up and find that one of them has flown across the country so fast
that he ended up right where he started from, only two hours earlier.
But now I’m getting fantastic,” said Pat. “I must be getting tired, and
no wonder. It’s time we were getting to bed, if we want to leave at any
hour tomorrow.”



CHAPTER XI—Hal Comes Through


The day of their departure dawned bright and clear. There was a high
ceiling, the air was crisp and cool, with a fresh wind blowing. The boys
could hardly control themselves in their impatience to be off. Bob’s
parents and Mrs. Gregg drove down to the airport with them to see them
off. In spite of the excitement of the boys, there was an undercurrent
of restraint in the group. Nobody talked very much except Bob and Hal,
who never stopped talking.

The cabin plane had been taken out and warmed up by the mechanics of the
port. It looked sleek and beautiful in the early morning light. Pat was
going to fly her. He walked over to the Administration Building to make
final arrangements with their friend Mr. Headlund. He took a short cut
across the field. The port wasn’t very busy. But there was some
activity—activity that Pat, intent upon his business, did not notice. A
student pilot, taxiing his plane across the field for his first solo
flight, was coming straight toward him. Pat did not notice the student,
the student was too rattled to see him.

Bob was the first to notice what was happening. “Look put!” he screamed.
“Pat, look out!”

The student pilot suddenly saw Pat. He veered his plane, but a corner of
the wing just grazed Pat’s head, and knocked him flat. He was already
getting to his feet when the others got to him.

“Are you hurt, old fellow?”

Pat was rubbing his head. “No, I don’t think so. That is, no, I’m not at
all. Just nicked me. I’ll be all right in a second.” He shook his head
to clear it. “Gave me a bit of a bump. I’ll be all right.”

The student pilot, white and shaking, came over to them. “Hurt badly?”
he asked anxiously.

Pat laughed. “No such luck, lad. You missed me that time. Better luck
next time. You might try picking on somebody who’s not so tough, next
time.”

Pat was himself again, and the others, thankful that he had not been
seriously hurt, watched him go into the Administration Building. When he
came out, Bill asked. “Do you want me to pilot?”

Pat looked scornful. “Since when did a little bump on the head put me
out of commission? I’m driving the bus.”

All the baggage stowed away, the boys, the Captain and Pat got into the
plane. They waved good bye to the others outside, the huge craft taxied
over the field, turned into the wind and rose into the air. It was
pleasant being off at last. There was the grand trip before them, and
then the vacation itself, fishing, swimming, shooting. Hank had filled
their heads full of the glories of his private mountain, as he called
it. The cabin with its huge open fireplace built of stones, the bunks in
two tiers like the berths on a pullman. Bob and Hal had already decided
that they would have to take turns sleeping in the upper one, because
surely the upper one would be the most fun.

Their thoughts kept returning to the cold mountain streams filled to the
brim with scrappy fish, and the waterfall that Hank said he used as an
outdoor shower. A whole month of it! The boys could hardly sit still on
the leather cushions.

“Want something to eat?” said Bill.

“Of course,” they said, almost together.

Bill reached for the lunch hamper. Then something seemed to go wrong.
The plane lurched. But they hadn’t struck an air pocket. It’s nose fell,
and the three were almost thrown into a heap, one atop the other. The
plane was going into a spin! Beyond the glass partition, Pat lay slumped
over his wheel.

Something had to be done at once. And it was Hal who did it. He pushed
open the glass partition, and got somehow to the pilot’s seat. With all
his strength, and his excitement gave him a strength that he had never
before possessed, he pulled Pat out of his seat, and pushed him through
the door, where the Captain and Bob were waiting to take him. Hal
slipped behind the wheel, and neutralized all controls.

Thank God, they had been flying at a high altitude. The spin wasn’t a
tight one, but a loose one. Hal pushed her nose down. That was what Pat
had told him, wasn’t it? Don’t try to pull her nose up. Push it down,
and she’d come out of it and go into a glide. At first nothing happened.
Hal was trembling, not so much with fear as with exaltation. He felt the
great ship respond. They were coming out of it! They were gliding
swiftly down to earth. He had her perfectly under control. Slowly he
pulled her up, then, and they were flying quietly and steadily with the
horizon again.

The Captain was at the door behind him. “You’re great, Hal, you’re
great. You had more guts than any of us. I knew you had it in you, and
you’ve showed us, Hal.”

Hal was happier than he had ever been in his life. He felt that he was
master of the world now. He’d saved his pals, and now he would never
have to be afraid of anything again. “How’s Pat?” he asked.

“We’re turning around. He hasn’t come to,” said the Captain. “I’m afraid
he was hurt more badly than he thought.”

Hal banked and turned. It was good to feel the ship respond to him,
dipping one huge wing slowly, and turning about gracefully in a great
circle. If not for Pat, his happiness would have been complete.

They got Pat to the hospital, where it was found that the nasty crack on
the skull had given him a slight concussion. But you couldn’t keep Pat
down. It merely meant postponing that trip, not cancelling it.

Hal was the hero of the day. The newspapers, who got the story at the
airport, hounded him until he conquered his shyness, just to get rid of
them. They made the most of the story, and Hal was almost afraid to
leave the house, for fear some of his friends would meet him in the
street, because Hal was still the same modest retiring soul that he had
been.

But he did leave the house to go down to the hospital to see Pat, along
with Bob and Captain Bill. Pat was sitting outside in a wheelchair when
they came, and they sat down on the grass beside him, and talked about
their postponed trip.

“Do you know,” said Captain Bill, “when we come back from our trip,
there’s something that’s going to keep me busy.”

“What’s that?” asked Bob.

“I’m going to collect all of those stories we told into a book. What do
you think of that for an idea?”

“Great!” said Bob. “All of our stories? Mine, too?”

“Sure, all of them.”

“But Hal won’t have a story. He hasn’t told one,” said Bob.

“Hal’s going to be the hero,” said the Captain.

THE END





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