Friday, July 9, 2010

A Hard Lesson Learned ...


As Uncle Virgil Hunnicutt made his way into town in search of a fierce and efficient "mouser," he came upon the OldBarbershop and decided to drop in for a quick trim ... as many of you know, barbershops are infamous for being places where folks gather to visit with friends, share life experiences and tall tales, or maybe discuss politics, religion, sports, news, weather, current affairs, idle gossip or just about anything interesting or imaginable ... it seems as though when one climbs into any barber's chair, one automatically feels a compulsion to "spill one's guts" concerning anything and everything on one's mind ... if police detectives were to replace all usual interrogation methods with a comfortable barber's chair, most criminal mysteries would be readily solved ... on this particular day Sheriff Clarence A. VanMeter was already sitting in "the hot seat" as Virgil Hunnicutt ambled through the door ... Clarence could be overheard telling Barbershop Bob the barber to "take just a little off the sides please" ... Bob sharply replied "where else could I take some off, the sides are the only places you have any remaining hair?!" to which all present had a great laugh, including Clarence ... so Bob began clipping away at what little Clarence had to clip and their conversation at once resumed, the topic of discussion being Sheriff Clarence's use of a small airplane to locate moonshine stills in dangerously remote and inaccessible areas of the county ... mainly because Sheriff Clarence and his deputies were afraid to approach these locations on foot for fear of getting shot at, dog bit or caught up in some unpleasant booby-trap.

An all but deaf and well-nigh blind Virgil sat there listening intently as he pretended to peruse the local newspaper he had unknowingly clutched in an upside-down position in his hands, but immediately perked up at the mention of the airplane ... "who do you hire to fly you around Sheriff VanMeter, if I might be so bold as to enquire?" Virgil asked of the Sheriff ..."not at all Mister Hunnicutt sir, but I don't hire anybody, I fly myself and use my own airplane ... as a matter of fact, I am an extremely proficient and experienced aviator having accumulated well over 20,000 hours at the controls of an aircraft ... and I'm a certified flight instructor to boot!" replied the Sheriff ... "I wasn't aware of that ... I'm impressed ... what kind of airplane to you own?" added Virgil ... "a vintage WWI, two-seater biplane with a powerful engine, likely used as a trainer for fighter pilots way back when" answered Clarence proudly ... "do you by any chance have your pilot's license Mister Hunnicutt?" he added ... "oh no sir, I never had any use for a pilot's license ... as a matter of fact, I haven't been up in an airplane for quite a few years now" replied Virgil ... to which Clarence made this generous and kind offer "well why don't you meet me over at the airfield tomorrow afternoon and I'll take you up for a spin in my airplane?" ... Virgil was ecstatic blurting out "most definitely sir, I will assuredly see you there!"

The next afternoon Virgil enlisted the services of one Luther DooLittle to drive him over to the little airfield in Luther's Daddy's old Dodge pickup truck ... Sheriff Clarence A. VanMeter had already removed the bright, red biplane from the hangar and was just finishing his preflight check when Luther pulled up with Virgil ... Clarence greeted the motley pair as he and Luther assisted Virgil from the truck and strapped him into the front seat of the fully restored yet clearly antiquated aircraft ... "now you ain't scared or nervous are you Mister Hunnicutt?" Clarence politely asked ... "no sir, not a bit ... I think I'll be alright" proclaimed Virgil with a bit of a chuckle ... Clarence climbed in and cranked up the powerful engine as the propeller spun with a loud roar ... he then taxied out to the end of the short airstrip, powered up and  rolled down that runway rapidly picking up speed as the aged aircraft leaped into the air and began a steep climb skyward ... Clarence yelled "you still okay Mister Hunnicutt?" ... Virgil waved then assured Clarence that "all was well" ... so Clarence began explaining the controls and the purpose of all the gauges in the cockpit as they sailed effortlessly through the calm air.

As soon as Sheriff Clarence A. VanMeter was satisfied that Uncle Virgil Hunnicutt seemed to be unusually at ease while floating ten thousand feet above the ground, he reluctantly asked the savvy centenarian "would you like to take the stick for a bit and get a feel for for what it's like to be a pilot Mister Hunnicutt?" with the knowledge that the old trainer could be flown either from the front seat or the back if need be ... "why certainly!" exclaimed Virgil, as Clarence relinquished control ... well Virgil did real good, held 'er level and steady ... then without warning Virgil flipped 'er over into inverted flight as a terrified Clarence held on so tightly his knuckles turned white ... then Virgil did a loop ... then an outside loop ... then Virgil did a roll ... then a barrel roll ... then a snap roll ... then Virgil went into a spin ... then an inverted spin ... then Virgil did a stall turn and a hammerhead ... then Virgil brought 'er around again level and steady as he said "you may take 'er back now Sheriff, that sure was fun!" ... ol' Clarence was now at an impasse, he didn't know whether to simply jump out or completely succumb to the shear surprise, shock and terror of this frightful ordeal right there on the spot ... when he had regained control of his beloved flying machine along with sufficient composure and breath to again speak he declared "I thought you said you didn't have a pilot's license Hunnicutt ... and that you hadn't been up in an airplane for several years!" ... Uncle Virgil then sheepishly confessed "I have never had a pilot's license sir ... and I haven't been up in an airplane for quite a few years ... not since I was an ace fighter pilot back during World War I ... highly decorated with twenty-two confirmed enemy kills!"


--sja

33 comments:

Pam said...

I just keep coming back for more and I'm never disappointed. You know that Virgil had to have already made up his mind, especially once he found out the type of plane. haha Pam @ Sallygoodin

PJ said...

-As Always, EXCELLENT POST! I would have probably had more than white knuckles! LOL!

God Bless!

PJ

Catch the Kids said...

My Dad used to fly one of these with his uncle. They rebuilt it when he was a young guy and use to store it in a shed in a paddock on the old farm. They used the paddock for the runway. He took me up a few times and showed me how he did victory rolls. White knuckles ain't half of it!!

Catch the Kids said...

My Dad used to fly one of these with his uncle. They rebuilt it when he was a young guy and use to store it in a shed in a paddock on the old farm. They used the paddock for the runway. He took me up a few times and showed me how he did victory rolls. White knuckles ain't half of it!!

sja said...

Indeed Pam, Virgil Hunnicutt prides himself on his wisdom and guile ...

sja said...

Thanks PJ, I would have most likely bailed out of that thing somewhere along the way rather than endure the entire experience!

sja said...

Catch the Kids -- you are doubly correct on that one ... thanks for dropping by!

Jireh Ministries Foundation, Inc said...

I can picture this happening! Love Virgil's mischievous side!

BOB said...

Mischievous? ... that for sure ... and what delight! Donkey done did it agin!

My guess is that Uncle Virgil took great satisfaction in besting Clarence ... maybe as payback for using the plane for rousting his friends what made his favorite corn squeezins.

I haven't seen an old biplane in some time ... nor a new one neither ... but they were always fun to watch at the air shows when I was a boy.

The last air show that I attended was WWII oriented in Harligen, Tx ... a real treat as Miss Carol's father had been a tail gunner and was then a member of the Confederate Air Force so it was an up close and personal experience. No biplanes but them boys had stories to tell and put on quite a show themselves!

sja said...

Jireh Ministries Foundation, Inc -- the cream always rises to the top, and so does Virgil ... Bob just could be right about Virgil's friends too!

nothingprofound said...

My stomach churned at the mere mention of those loops, but not at the wonderful way you told this story. Once, only once, did I fly in a small aircraft, and the effects on my body were not pretty.

sja said...

Thanks again Nothingprofound -- I don't care for those small planes either, well the planes are alright - if I'm not in 'em ... I tend to agree with ol' Jerry Clower's philosophy when it comes to flying ... when offered a quick ride to his next show in a small plane Jerry refused ... said it was Biblical not to fly high up there in the air because the Good Book says "Low I am with you!" ...

BOB said...

Jerry Clower, lo and behold ... goodness!

Well, better a small one with Virgil at the stick than a big one in the hands of Foster Brooks, methinks!

sja said...

Indeed Bob -- and Jerry Clower was a great storyteller!

BOB said...

Raconteur, Grand Master methinks ... man, what a voice!

What I had written was "... better than high in the sky with Foster Brooks, methinks!" ... my sister called, interrupting, and I somehow lost my comment as well as my thought train.

sja said...

Well Bob it looks like the thought train made it to the depot anyhow!

BOB said...

Making it back to the depot is a noteworthy accomplishment these days ... derailed is the more usual outcome.

Like good friends, the fewer me thoughts, the more important they become to me ... more important too that they're quickly shared, lest they be lost forever!

That is to say, more important to me ... self indulgent delusion or much ado ... probably an unwelcomed burden to most others.

sja said...

No way Bob!

BOB said...

It rained a good one here today ... we need the rain, just to cool things off a bit, if nothing else.

I missed my turn, what with the rain and all. and before I knowed it, found myself in Georgia ... no, not a tall tale and not too surprising neither, it happens a lot.

See, we live just south of the ridge ... Missionary Ridge, maybe three miles from the Georgia Line.

The shortcut back to where I now live takes me along the ridge, a scenic view with nice homes, cannon and statues all along the way ... eerie too for it's mostly unchanged from when I first explored it on foot, close to 60 years ago.

At the foot of the ridge is a tall, 25 foot high monument honoring the Iowa 6th Infantry for their participation in the Battle of Missionary Ridge ... stopped there at the light, I heard a young man ask an older gentleman ... "What is that big statue about? I mean, this is Georgia, not Iowa ... why did they put a statue here?"

You could see the gleam in the old man's eye ... "You see all the old cannon? Why are they here?"

"That's because the Battle of Missionary Ridge was fought here during the Civil War ... I know that, we studied it in college history," the young man proudly replied!

The old man was still laughing as the light changed and I started up the ridge ... maybe that was one lesson which was a bit too hard for the young man to learn ... of course, it could have been the rain.

sja said...

Ain't it funny how hard lessons usually befall those who claim to know everything about everything? ...

BOB said...

Hard to find better sweetfeed than that, even in the finest stalls ... that's for sure!

You get that from Virgil?

Three bags!

Can't be too hard on them though ... after all, they were taught that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing ... another hard lesson and one that's subject to widespread misunderstanding!

It's written in the book that the harder you try to impress folks with your importance, knowledge and acumen ... the more obvious your
ignorance, ineptness, and insignificance become.

sja said...

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7

There's a bit of sweet feed worth chewin' on for a while ...

BOB said...

Ain't it funny how hard lessons usually befall those who claim to know everything about everything? ... those who so claim are one thing, those who so believe are yet another!

Unbelievable!

René Descartes suggests that such folks are but figments of our imagination, methinks ... "cogito, ergo sum" ... for surely they do not.

While I no longer trust me memory, it tells me that Descartes also proved God's existence!

BOB said...

I noticed on the Internet not long ago that an old friend was now the president a large Japanese company ... to me, he's just a friend, former colleague and golfing buddy!

In his late twenties, newly married and always with a smile ... everybody liked Kenji, especially Miss Carol ...

He seldom broke 100 but loved the game and took his golfing very seriously ... most do methinks. On occasion, he would take a mighty swing and hit what might best be described as an infield fly ... followed by something that, as memory serves, sounded something like "tempra!"

I once asked Kenji what "tempra" meant and he blushed a bit ... "sky ball" is what he said with a grin. He was one of the "D" players in our company golfing league and tried in vain each week to win a sleeve of Titleist golf balls, awarded for the best score for each of the divisions.

One morning, he came rushing into my office shouting "Bob, Bob ... I've got three balls!" ... it caused quite a stir!

Some years later, in the early nineties, I frequented a public course in Columbus, Ohio managed by my good friend Billy Collins ... then in his middle sixties, Billy could still hit my driver 300 yards, on a line ... in street shoes, no less.

Billy was a Southerner who had a pet squirrel; liked his country ham, fried corn and beer ... and more importantly, put up with me and my foolishness.

The course was usually crowded, especially on weekends, but I seldom needed a tee time or had to wait long to play ... when Billy had a difficult twosome or threesome to fill, he'd say "Where's Bob? He can play with anybody" ... never was quite sure if that was a compliment or just payback.

I arrived at the course one Saturday morning to find maybe 30 groups lined up waiting to tee off ... thought it was a tournament and decided to hit a few practice balls and then go home.

Billy handed me a beer and said, "you ready to play? The second group up is a threesome ... Japanese, they seem to understand a bit but speak no English ... nobody wants to join them."

That was okay by me ... as you might expect, they were polite but as Billy said no English, just Japanese.

On the fourth hole, one of them took a mighty swing, hitting the ball high in the air ... it landing just beyond the ladies tee, to which I shouted "tempra" ... why, I'll never know!

The silence was deafening ... for about 10 seconds ... it broke them up ... they laughed and laughed! We had to let the group behind us play through ... it took us over 30 minutes to play that hole!

The rest of the round was uneventful ... well, I guess you could call it that ... we had a great time and all the conversation was in English.

Well spoken, I might add ... and when it was over, they insisted on paying for everything ... food, drinks, etc ... it was their last day before heading back home.

BOB said...

Apologies for the length, donkey ... but "A Lesson Hard Learned" somehow pulled that old memory to the fore.

After they left, I returned to Billy Collins' office ... "How did it go?" he asked with a sheepish grin.

He was honestly taken aback to learn that they spoke English ... didn't believe me at first ... "Those guys didn't speak English, only Japanese" ... "Well Billy, there's a difference between not speaking and not being able to speak"

sja said...

Bob -- no comment on TheSouthernJackAss is too Brobdingnagian! ... no matter how big it is ...

BOB said...

Thanks Donkey ... you may come to regret having said that!

A lesson hard learned, perhaps.

Oh my goodness, the National League won Bud Selig's marketing contrivance known in some quarters as the All Star Game!

I see few movies or plays these days but of the currently active actors, I think Alan Rickman is me favorite ... "brilliant" comes to mind.

His Sheriff George of Nottingham in Prince of Thieves was truly that!

He also starred as Elliott Marston in Quigley Down Under ... one of Detroit Tiger Fan Tom Selleck's best.

I don't remember the exact quote but Rickman once said that he took his work very seriously which demanded he not take himself too seriously ... another hard lesson learned, at least for some.

Quigley includes a duel between Selleck and Rickman ... the dialog somewhat remindful of Uncle Virgil and Clarence ... well, it is to me.

As Quigley is being readied for the duel by Marston henchmen, Marston says "I seem to remember you're not too familiar with Colonel Colt's revolver, so this will be your first lesson. Don't worry. Mr Dobkin and Mr. O'Flynn will ensure that it's a fair contest.

I'll just back up a few paces... And to your left a bit, that's it... Now you're right in front of my old pistol target.

Some men are born in the wrong century. I think I was born on the wrong continent. Oh, by the way, you're fired!
"

To which Quigley responds "This ain't Dodge City and you ain't Bill Hickok" shooting all three before they can even aim their pieces!

He then walks over to the dying Marston and adds "I said I never had much use for one. Never said I didn't know how to use it"

Another hard lesson learned, nicht wahr?!

sja said...

True indeed mon ami ...

BOB said...

Donkey, whenever I go back and read the many wonderful musings emanating from your magical and prolific pen, it always strikes me that most all include one or more hard lessons ... learned or no being an open question, methinks.

I was wondering if the Doolittles ever talked about cousin Amos, a patriot of Revolutionary War fame ... that was some time back and he may be long forgotten but as Uncle Virgil comes from a long line of genius and near genius centenarians, he probably has heard something of him from his kin.

sja said...

As a matter of fact Bob ... Uncle Virgil did make some mention of Amos DooLittle ... as you can see in my new post!

Gardeen said...

What a great atory! Just discovered your blog and love it already! Keep writing.

sja said...

Thanks Gardeen ... visit often!

Marla said...

You really remind me of Garrison Keillor. Love your stories!