In 1903, the Wright brothers successfully flew for a handful of seconds at Kitty Hawk. The next year, the brothers started experimenting and flying at Huffman Prairie, northeast of Dayton, OH in an effort to learn how to control their airplane and improve its design so that it would become a practical machine. Later, the prairie became the first permanent flying school, where the brothers charged $750 per student to teach them how to fly.
Even today, the prairie is impressive, though it no longer contains the cows that the wrights had to dodge.
Pa called him Jean in the French way and he did indeed speak with a strange French accent. The man came to visit us every year to hunt and wander the woods looking for birds. We all liked it when Pa announced that Mr. Jean was coming for a visit, even though that meant he would take the big bed and we would be relegated to the trundle or even worse, the floor.
Mr. Jean would bring birds home for us to eat, but some of the birds, he would prop up next to a tree or in some grass and then get out his big book and get to work making likenesses of the birds in charcoal and paint. When Mr. Jean was working in this way, we could watch, but we could not speak or otherwise disturb the man. Pa saw to that with the threat of a switch.
When we were supping, Mr. Jean and Papa would tell stories of their old times, traveling in far off places up and down the Mississippi river way south of here. Mr. Jean would speak of Haiti, Paris, and London as though he were intimate with the places and people that lived there. My imagination always got the best of me and I would dream of seeing those places.
Mr. Jean would tease me with stories of made up animals like the éléphant which he said was as big as a barn, had trees for legs, sails for ears, and a nose like a snake.
Imagine my surprise when, years later, I travelled far and wide as well and saw an elephant in true flesh and blood in Mr. Barnum's circus. The animal was just as Mr. Jean had said it was, only he had forgotten to tell that it also had the tail of an ass and the rumble of distant thunder.
Also, Imagine my surprise to find that my father’s friend, our Mr. Jean was famous and those silly portraits of birds were known to the King of England himself.
Every year, I get up early and take along quiet walk in the national cemetery here in Springfield, Ohio. It's a time for me to spend some time thinking about the sacrifice of others and to put my own service into some perspective.
This year, I decided to head over to the larger national cemetery in Dayton. Seeing the rows upon rows of head stones brings the impact to an even greater scale. I thought about the many thousands of headstones, all in their neat rows, every one of them lovingly given it's own American flag.
I think about my grandfather, my father, my uncle, and all of my ancestors that served and I am proud.
In today's society, I don't often find cause to be proud of being an American. To much political finger-pointing, social division, and a general attitude of selfishness. However, when I find myself surrounded by the quiet ghosts of these brave men and women, I am proud that some American's sons and daughters knew what real sacrifice meant and were proud to do their part for our nation.
I feel humbled.
If you are not familiar with the Doolittle Raiders and their attack on Tokyo, you would read up on them.
After the war, they have had a reunion every year. A bottle of brandy was bought and the tradition has been that the last surviving raider would open the bottle and drink to the others.
More than 70 years later, the last 4 survivors decided that it was time to open the bottle. The ceremony was held yesterday, here in Dayton. To honor the ceremony, a flight of B-25 bombers (the plane they flew) was put together to fly over the ceremony. The planes spent the night at the little airport just north of here. Through some connections, I was given a press pass (my first!) so that I could go out onto the runway and photograph the planes.
Standing there, seeing how small the planes were. Listening to their engines roaring. Seeing the planes circle the airport and then dissappear into the distance. I thought how brave those men were.
P.S. Thought you might like to hear what the engines sounded like being warmed up: http://youtu.be/MDVFdsgceVs
If you have a few minutes to spare in Indianapolis, the tour of the catacombs under the city market is an interesting way to spend the time. A little history, a little architecture, and lots of dank, cool, darkness await the adventuresome. The Indianapolis Museum of Art and the Soldiers and Sailors monument are far more spectacular, however, I like to find these smaller side visits as well.
|Schoolhouse on the Ohio back roads.
This early one room schoolhouse was found one Saturday morning as I desperately searched for a break in the clouds. I really wanted to capture a farmscape. However, I’m very happy I found the school instead. We have a lot of these schools here in Ohio. Usually they’ve been converted into a small home, are being used as a storage building, or are just falling down. This is the first example that I have seen withe the belfry still in place. It might be crooked, but it’s still there.
No windows, it must have been dark and oppressive inside. Still, I am certain that many thousands of children received a solid, no frills, education while attending here.
Have a great Saturday.