Flying high like Amelia

Published 6:14 pm Friday, March 9, 2012

Amelia Earhart was my kind of gal.

I read story about her in one of those orange biography books when I was in the third grade and I decided long before I reached “The End” that I was going to be just like her when I grew up.

Why, Amelia Earhart climbed trees, socked boys in the nose and hunted rats with a .22-caliber rifle. She had it going when she was a little girl.

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Daddy told me the rest of the story – how she really got it going when she was a big girl. He said she liked to fly airplanes and flew across this big ocean all by herself. He said she was trying to fly around the world but her plane crashed and she died.

I wanted to be just like Amelia Earhart, except for the dying part.

Daddy was in the Army Air Corps during World War II. He was in the Ferry Command and flew airplanes to Alaska. He had a huge trunk filled with all of his Army uniforms and equipment.

He had these big, heavy jackets. Some of them were made of rabbit’s fur. He had boots and gloves that were lined with rabbit’s fur. He had an aviator’s cap and a soldier’s cap and a radio with speakerphone. And, he had a parachute.

Daddy let me play with all of his stuff except the parachute.

“If you take the parachute out of the pack, you can’t get it back in,” he said. “So, leave it alone.”

Mama warned me over and over to “leave the parachute alone.” She said it was made out of pure silk and, when I got married, she was going to get someone to make my wedding dress out of the silk parachute.

I was not interested in getting married and certainly not in a wedding dress. I was interested in playing Amelia Earhart.

My airplane was the highest limb on the big oak tree that had been blown over during a windstorm. I’d put on my rabbit-fur jacket, my rabbit-fur lined boots and gloves and climb out on the limb, plug in my radio and take off across the big ocean.

I’d fly down close to the water and shoot sharks and jelly fish with my .22-caliber rifle, just like Amelia Earhart had shot rats with hers. Sometimes my airplane would run out of gas and I’d have to land on the water and let the waves carry me to shore. I was brave and daring, just like Amelia Earhart.

Come to think of it, I was more daring than Amelia Earhart, unless she did like me and did what her Mama and Daddy had told her not to do.

My grandmother’s chicken house was right near the little shed where Daddy kept his trunk of Army stuff. It was a tall chicken house. So tall, that if I jumped off with Daddy’s parachute on my back, the parachute would open and I would float down like a feather off a chicken’s back.

Daddy was at work and Mama was in the house giving our neighbor a home permanent, so I was home free.

It wasn’t easy getting up on the chicken house dragging that heavy parachute along. It was hot with all that rabbit fur on, and it kind of weighed my down. So, I took off the rabbit fur jacket and the rabbit fur-lined boots and gloves. Stripped down to my shorts and t-shirt, I felt as light as a feather. I opened the parachute pack and started pulling out the pure silk parachute. I pulled and pulled until the whole top of the chicken house was covered with pure silk. I was in trouble.

I had to abort the jump and get that pure silk back in the pack.

I started stuffing but I could only get a little bit of the silk in the pack. The wind started blowing. The pure silk fluttered and flapped. It puffed up and the air got sucked out. I tried to wad up the pure silk and sit on it until I could get it stuffed back in the pack.

Then, I heard Mama calling me, long and loud.

What happened next, I won’t say.  What I will say is that Amelia Earhart’s mama probably didn’t swing as mean a switch as my Mama did. Daddy never did get his parachute back in the pack and my wedding dress was not made of pure silk.

Editor’s note: March is National Women’s History Month. This column is in recognition of all the brave and courageous women, who dared to “get it going.”

Jaine Treadwell is features editor of The Messenger.