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My Dad, The Farmer, and The Pilot
The Farm Life
I remember as far back as three years old. My grandfather had a ranch and it was about 6 miles out of town. I was told that it was about 360 acres. It was in central California not far from the Sacramento River. My mother and her syblings went to the one room school house a mile, down the road. All 8th grades were in one room. When I started school it was in that school house I attended my first year at 5 years old. Then my mother took my brother and I out and we went to a school in town for a year, then back out to the new school house that had just been built, and we stayed there until the sixth grade.The old school house had been hauled to the fairgrounds and set there to be a monument. My grandfather offered each and everyone of his children 5 acres if they would build a house somewhere on the ranch. The only ones who took him up on it were my mother, who was grandpa's daughter, and my father. They were just newlyweds at the time back in the early 1940's. Dad could not afford to build a house so he went over to the neighboring farmer down the road and asked if he could have the old sheep shed that was out in the back of their field. They said yes, but told him he had to haul it over there onto the property himself, as they were not going to do it for him. He went and asked grandpa if he could borrow his tractor and he gave him permission to use it. He took it out into their field and chained it up to the tractor and drug it to just right over the property line and close enough to the road. It is a wonder it did not fall appart as the sheep lived in it for sometime out there and it was falling appart and the roof was leaking everywhere. I remember the first couple years having to put tin cans all over inside the house to catch the rain. When Dad finally got around to putting a new roof on it, he nailed a tin roof on and it leaked almost just as bad as the original one. Not thinking that the holes the nails made would do that. It was just a shell of a building with 4 rooms. Not very large. There was no bathroom, and so he put an out house in the back of the backyard area. I never liked going out there as it had black wiidows in it and that scared me to no end. My Mom did not have the nicer things that many people we knew had. My Dad was not much of a carpenter when it came to doing things for the house. But my Mom seemed to not let it bother her so much after awhile. That was almost right after the depression and many people were in the same condition, and people were having a hard time getting back on their feet. I remember my Dad going back to Aeronautical School when I was in the first grade, since he did not pass the physical examination for the military. His dream was to fly.
Then Came the Kids
Well a few years went by and Mom and Dad had five of us. I have an older brother and 2 younger ones and a younger sister. I am not going to name them, as I think that is best. A few years of hardship went by and I ran away from home at the age of twelve in the eighth grade as a matter of fact. I wasn't alone, a girlfriend also ran away with me. We happened to leave school at noon time in the middle of January, which was the worst time to pick to do such a brave thing. We were scared but we were also distressed with the condition of our home life, she was in a foster home. We walked down the railroad tracks till dark which got us about 8 miles out of town, maybe 10. It started raining and we saw a barn out in the field and ran to it. We climbed up in the loft and found a space where the bales left a small area that we could lie down in. Just about that time we heard a bunch of Mexican migrant workers coming into the barn downstairs. We could not understand what they were saying. Needless to say, we just laid there just frightened to death that someone would come up there and find us. It was about a half hour and a bus came and picked them all up and left. By that time it was 8pm and dark and raining hard. When they were gone we left the barn and headed for the highway. It was really raining hard and we stood along the road trying to hitch hike back to town. A station wagon full of people finally stopped and picked us up and we got in and the lady in the front seat put me on her lap and my girlfriend was in the middle seat on someone else's lap. They were very nice but was really upset to see two young girls our age out in the dark trying to hitch a ride to town. They took us to a phone so we could call our parents. Mom came and got me and my girlfriends foster parents came and got her. I got the third degree all the way home, and I think the only reason I did not get the belt was that it scared them to death. When I walked in the house Dad did not even say a word to me. That was in 1956.
Farm life was not easy, sometimes we had to work in the fields. I remember one winter my Dad grew corn and it had to get picked, so us kids and my mom would sit on a wagon and after the corn was being harvested it would drop into the wagon and we had to husk it and we had no gloves and it was in the winter months and we were very cold and our hands would get raw from handling the hard corn that was for the cows. Eventually we had sheep, pigs, cows, chickens, ducks and a horse. Every morning before going to school we had to put the warm milk in a bottle and feed the baby sheep who's mother died giving birth too. Then the samething when we came home from school. By around this time of my age, my Dad graduated from Aeronautical School with a degree as an A&E Mechanic. His dream was finally coming true. He got busy and started building airplanes from the ground up, that is after he put a half finished shop up. He could hardly wait to get one built. He took the tractor and scraped a long runway to take off and land on. He got it pretty packed down and hard enough to land an airplane. Pretty soon other friends were asking if they could keep their airplanes there too. So other people started bringing their airplanes over to keep them there.
I remember one year, for the whole summer, Dad took off in his Stearman to go to Canada. He flew all the way across the United States and went into Canada right above Boston. Many guys who flew the Stearman all gathered there to fight forest fires by filling their airplane seed tanks with water full of chemicals. Mom was very upset about him being gone so long. Finally he returned home and started working on building more airplanes. By this time he had 3 Stearman and an AT6 and a BT13. One time we flew to Stateline Tahoe Airport so they could go gambling. I was about 14 years old. I was quite proud of my Dad. He would take me flying in his AT6 (picture above), and it would fly at 130 miles an hour and we would fly with the cockpits open and my hair would get to looking just like a rats nest. I would always get air sick, and have to remember to take a bag with me. He would let me have the stick now and then and we would really enjoy being free in the sky. That was the Army Trainer 6, that was on the ships in WWII. I loved flying in that plane. He also had a twin Engine Cessna, and also Aeronica. One thing about Dad, no matter whether we were struggling, he fulfilled his dream, to fly. He built everyone of his Stearman with his own hands from the ground up. I remember hearing that rivet gun going constantly. Actually, every morning that he sprayed other farmers fields with chemicals for bugs, Dad would wake us all up at the crack of dawn, with one of his Stearman engines out back of our house. We never even needed an alarm clock. As long as I live, I will never forget the sound of those powerful engines. When Dad was building an airplane the fabric for the wings were even sewn on my great grandmothers treadle sewing machine that my mother had.
Crashed and Survived!
My parents and family started moving from the ranch in California to a ranch in the Northern Nevada 1962. They homesteaded a place that was about 360 acres. It was hotter than all get out in the summer up there, getting around 100 degrees or more. Dad started flying for the goverment, it had something to do with the Coyotes and their existence. One day a government guy came out to the ranch to go fly with my dad to see if they could find any Cayotes from the air and he was flying above a mountaintop and a down draft got a hold of the plane and slammed it to the ground. Both my dad and the other man survived the crash and it took them 6 hours to walk down off the mountain. My dad talked about it for years, but that never stopped him from flying. Dad only received a broken nose from it, and I think the other guy was just shook up.
In Memory of my Dad!
Airplanes were his thing and he liked them with a double wing. He would fly them low and fly them high. Yes, he felt at home up in the sky. He loved being in control of a powerful engine. Skipping clouds and disappearing within them. He loved turning over and the thrill it gave, with no fear of it even putting him in the grave. Yes, that was my Dad. He was brave when it came to conquering the sky. I wonder now where he is, and sometimes it even makes me cry. Because we never even got to say goodbye!
My Dad flew most of his life, as a matter of fact, he was still flying when he passed away at the age of 78, of an unexpected heart attack. He even took his great grandsons up in his Aeronica just a few years before that. I am happy that I had those moments with him. Just us two cruising in the sky over the Bay area and northern California.
You are welcome to leave a comment. My Dad would like that, I am sure!