Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Going on, Going forward


Marie and Lewis; Left to right Rose Mary, Irma (my mother), and Minerva
about 1928

Oh, Bobby!  My Bobby!


Those words were never spoken aloud, by Lewis and Marie Cardiff.  They knew if they did, they would never stop crying.  And all the parents in their small town, who had lost babies and children to diphtheria, would never stop either.  The streets would run with tears.

Minerva was a baby when Bobby died in 1922.  Marie hugged her tighter than a tick, afraid to let her go.  Lewis took her and rocked her through the late hours at night.

Another child was born in 1925, Rose Mary.  Marie and Lewis had silently prayed for a boy, but those words also were never spoken aloud.

Life on a farm is about life and living.  Crops were planted in spring, harvested in early fall.  Cows birthed calves, giving milk for them and the Cardiff family alike.  Horses, hogs, gardens:  all were life and living.  Going on, going forward.

Cars were now on the streets, “…dirty nasty things,” Marie Cardiff said some seventy years later.  Electric lines were appearing and some folks had phones.  Going on....

Lewis and Marie with last child,
Vada 1940
From his field south of the town, Lewis heard a sound, one that he prayed he would never hear again.  World War…bombs…planes…sounds that still froze his being.  

A plane wobbled from the south, its wings near to breaking off.  The nose dipped down and landed in Lewis Cardiff’s field.

Marie carried Rose and dragged Minerva to the field. What is that?  A plane? 

The entire town poured into the field and surrounded the plane.  They had never seen one, read about them, but now, here it was.  A plane in Lewis Cardiff’s field.

Robertson Aircraft Company lettered the side of the crumpled plane.  The nose was in the mud and the tail was up in the air.  One wing was punctured and the rudder was askew.

Next thing people knew, the pilot leaped out of the plane with Don Robertson, the owner’s son.  “I tol’ you this heap was a piece of shit, you knew it and I knew it.  You bastard!  Coulda killed us both!”  He stomped to the road and roared, “Where’s the goddam train!” 

In unison the silent townspeople pointed to the station a mile away, and the pilot stomped all the way there, raising his fist at the plane and shouting a variety of obscenities.  Some gasped, some roared with laughter, and the more holy ones smirked inwardly.

Mr. Robertson waited for a second train heading to St. Louis, Missouri, pulled into the station.  The tightly packed crowd moved with him, over one hundred souls.  Like yellow ducklings with their mama, they followed the poor man, who was wondering what the hell his pa would say when he heard about this.

A day later another plane circled the field, where the crumpled wreck sat.  The new plane chose to land in the Cardiff pasture next to the house.  A pale and defeated Don Robertson exited the plane, followed by the new pilot, Charles Lindbergh. 

His name whispered through the re-gathered town.  Daredevil Lindbergh? Air mail?  

early flying years

The town had foreseen that Don Robertson would drag his tail back to the damaged plane. En mass the ladies brought out boxes of fried chicken, pies, more fried chicken and more pies.  Tables were lugged by the men unwillingly straggling after them. The men also set the rusty table up around the crumpled plane. The tables would later be moved to the replacement plane.

Don Robertson and Chas. Lindbergh examined the plane wreck, determining that it was useless. 

Then Robertson shouted to Lewis Cardiff so that all could hear, “This here plane is simply broke.  But,” and he looked at the chicken-eating crowd, “We’re fixing it up.  And, there’d better be every last piece o’ metal and the like.”