August 1, 1963. 6:45 A.M. Daylight was only so helpful. The fog was thick as pea soup.

How is it that I should be recalling this date, 58 years ago ? We all have a memory or two that will accompany us to the hereafter. This just happens to be one of mine.

With visibility at about three feet, I had managed to muddle my way through morning chores. At the tender age of 10, it was probably my first lesson in robotics. After all, I had just fed all of the heifers and the bull without seeing them.

Dad and my brother were still in the barn finishing the milking.

Curiously, an airplane could be heard laboring up there somewhere. What was with that ? Even in my ten year old stupor, I realized that to be a problem. It was getting closer to the farm, engine at a flat-out roar.

As I finished feeding some poultry, the plane sounded scarily close to where I was standing . Oddly, it sounded near ground level. Then there was momentary ripping of metal, then a very loud explosion.

The next second… silence.

I dropped my pail, wheeled around and made a beeline through the fog. The plane had obviously crashed, not far from the house.

A bit winded, I was at woods edge. There was a hideous gathering of smoldering, gnarled metal with little plumes of smoke arising from each of them. Immediately the whole scene had a disorienting, hallucinatory quality that defied a ten-year old’s sense of anything real.

Regardless, I wasn’t familiar with the movie. I stood for the first seconds and tried to get my mind around what was in front of me. A big engine smoldered on the ground.

I took a few steps. A big red blotch was on the ground, contrasting with all of the blue shrapnel around it. What was that ? It had no definition, just red. My further stare brought me back to reality. I could see three human fingers quite plainly there on the red ground. The hallucination had just magnified.

“Pete. Pete.”

My Dad’s yell was perceptible through my bewildered daze.

“Get up to the house. Don’t come back down here.”

This kid always did what he was told. Believe me. You would understand why.

The crash precipitated a day-long litany of traffic down the lane… alarmed neighbors, a cop or two, more neighbors, aviation officials, newspaper reporters and, of course, the undertaker. No, it was not just another day on the farm.

Investigation later revealed that the doomed pilot had no association or nexus with either of the two nearby airfields . Exactly how he had come to meet his demise on our farm apparently remains an unknown .

Beyond that and 58 years, it was a sad day at Tuckaway.


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