by Sherry Stocking Kline
February 4, 2012
Many thanks to Lorine McGinnis Schultz for her “Sharing Memories” 52 Week Challenge!
And this is the Week 2 Challenge so now I’m only two (2) posts behind!
I went for my first airplane ride when I was just twenty years old.
I was terrified. Terrified of heights, terrified of airplane crashes, terrified of flying through the air in something that felt no more substantial and not much bigger than a flying beer can with four people in it.
It all began during wheat harvest of 1969. Bill, my husband Norman’s cousin, was just home from Vietnam and came to Kansas to help my in-laws with wheat harvest.
Bill was also still very much in the middle of Post Traumatic Stress syndrome, though no one knew it by that name then, and that’s how we ended up in a pint-sized plane after harvest flying over the Kansas wheat fields.
Bill was a medic in Vietnam. He had just come back from hopping in and out of helicopters to go to the battlefront to pick up and treat wounded and he told us one story, or maybe it’s the only one that sticks with me to this day, about going out to pick up and treat some wounded soldiers.
Bill climbed down the rope ladder on a mountain top in Vietnam to help treat and pick up wounded soldiers. While he was climbing back up the ladder to the chopper the enemy fired on them, and the chopper took off, with Bill hanging on for dear life, dangling off the rope ladder.
Bill said that one minute he was just a few feet off the ground, then the chopper took off and suddenly he was dangling thousands of feet off the ground. Bill said that was scary enough, but even scarier than that was the knowledge that if they continued to receive enemy fire the men on the chopper would cut the ladder and let him drop to his death, sacrificing him to save the people on board.
That experience haunted him. Retelling it haunts me. I can see him hanging there, and I know that he’s terrified and praying they won’t cut the line and let him go. There were many other experiences he wouldn’t even talk about.
Bill wanted to see if he could handle just going for an ordinary plane ride. So when harvest was over, Bill rented a small plane, I’m pretty sure it was a Cessna 172 or 182, just big enough for four people to ride in, invited us along, and my husband and I found ourselves in the back seat watching the runway fly past and then suddenly watching the ground drop away.
Yikes! I wanted to shout “I’ve changed my mind! Stop! I want to get out!”
But by the time all those thoughts raced through my mind, the ground was far below us and I was trying to look ahead, look up, look to the side, look anywhere but down!
We flew around the county looking down at the farm fields multi-colored patchwork quilts of golden harvested and unharvested wheat, dark green milo, and the lighter green of pastures, all bordered by tan dusty roads and cut into crazy quilt patterns by creeks and rivers.
We flew over the small town we lived in, saw a birds-eye view of our home, and got close enough to Wichita, Kansas to see the planes going up and going down at the airport.
It was fun! It was scary! I don’t know, or don’t remember, if the flight helped Bill to heal any of the bad memories or not, but I know that he seemed to enjoy the flight as much or even more than we did.
To date, I have taken three small plane flights and one helicopter flight and have yet to board a big jet to go anywhere!