By Jerry Lips
With a big red cross painted on the tail of the Beech 18, the president of the American Red Cross landed in our grass field just north of our farmhouse. It was 1955, and it seemed like every hunter in the world had descended on central South Dakota to hunt ringneck pheasants.
Four or five single-engine aircraft, along with the twin Beech, were lined up in our field. It was one of my first encounters with general aviation. Actor Fred McMurray of “My Three Sons” fame, several New York Yankee ball players, one of the Lever brothers, and the top brass of Encyclopedia Britannica were among the guests at our farm for the first week of pheasant season.
The president of Britannica had a matched pair of 20/12 gauge Superposed Browning Lightnings. Jack Chapman, from Detroit, had a crown grade Charles Daly. My single-shot, hammerless Savage 410 was a novelty to these guys with their fancy, high grade guns. It was before anyone had heard of hunter’s safety, and although my dad would give a little lesson on gun handling before we got started each day, invariably there were holes in the roofs of new Cadillacs and pellets to be plucked out of blockers before the week ended.
Being transported from field to field in the back of trucks and hay wagons provided opportunities to shoot from a moving vehicle. Road hunting on our way back to the farm at the end of the day was my favorite hunting. After all, it was better than all that walking, and much more gratifying to hit a flying pheasant while standing in a truck going 30 mph.
Later, in my early 20s, I would hunt on the weekends with Cliff Foss, Joe Foss’ younger brother. He said that he and Joe always enjoyed shooting from moving vehicles. Their favorite hunting was hunting coyotes from their J-3 Cub. Cliff said, “How do you think Joe became an ace so quick at Guadalcanal?”
He had already perfected leading a moving target while flying. Although shooting from a moving vehicle is no longer legal, nor practiced by this hunter, I find myself explaining to my wife the similarities of my old hunting tactics and of driving a sports car. I explain to my occasional backseat driver that it’s all about “time and distance.” Just like shooting from a moving vehicle, when you’re passing someone, you judge their speed in relation to your speed. Lane changes, occasional speeding to leave the crowd, or other driving techniques that are considered aggressive by some are, in fact, just simply “driving talent” and make driving fun! Needless to say, she doesn’t often ride with me when I’m driving my 1972 Porsche.
Wally Obermeyer of ski wear fame flew his Cessna 414 from Aspen to Centennial to introduce Airport Journals to a remarkable young man, Barrington Irving. Barrington grew up in the “hood,” a poor black neighborhood of Miami where crime, drugs and despair are commonplace. As a young boy, Barrington became fascinated with aviation and determined he would become a pilot. He realized he would need to do well in school and he would need to do what seemed impossible. But determined he was, and now with more than 600 hours flight time, he’s involved in setting several aviation world records.
You would think that anyone that was so determined to break out of such circumstances wouldn’t look back. But young Barrington Irving has gone back, and using aviation, he ignites a spark in impressionable youth and is making a big difference among those that need it the most. Read about the historical flight Barrington has planned for the spring of 2007 on his website [http://www.experienceaviation.org].