As a promotion, this past week I offered a free copy of one of my “longer” short stories, “Riley’s World Famous Flying Circus” to anyone who wanted it. I enjoyed writing that story, which deals with a group of barnstormers in the 1920’s who fly around the country selling “aeroplane” rides to country folk. I’ve always admired those daring young men in their flying machines. That had to be an exciting and very hard way to eke out a living. I’m sure it seems glamorous now, when looking at that era from afar, but it had to be a stinky and dirty, not to mention dangerous, way of life. Remember, that was only about 25 years after the Wright brothers invented the first man-carrying heavier than air machine.
And that got me to thinking of Charles Lindbergh. Today it is nothing to climb aboard an airliner and cross the Atlantic in a few hours. But take a minute and think about it: A solo flight of the magnitude Lindbergh attempted had never been done before. And It was all over water, in a single engine plane with only a magnetic compass to show him the direction he was flying. He had no option to land on the ocean if his engine failed, the plane had wheels. He flew 3,600 miles in 33 hours and 30 minutes. Lindbergh was the first man in the world’s history to be in New York one day and in Paris the next. It was, when you consider it, a life or death situation. He had to succeed, or he would have most assuredly died. How many people do you know today, who would take on that challenge?
For that period (1927) what Lindbergh did was comparable to man’s first flight to the moon. And while that moon flight in the ‘60s had far more sophisticated equipment than Lindbergh used, it had never been done before – and it was very dangerous. But it was a team effort. Lindbergh was all alone doing something that had never been tried before.
Lindbergh returned to the U.S. as the hero he was, but he was ill equipped to perform as a hero. He was a loner whose nickname was “Slim,” and he was hounded by the media. He married, settled down, had a baby – which was kidnapped and found dead after the ransom had been paid. Later Lindbergh was an outspoken isolationist who made speeches against America entering WW-II. However, when our country did join the allies in that conflict, Lindbergh who was in the military reserve, served as a test pilot, and actually flew some fighter missions in the Pacific.
America needs heroes. We’ve had them from the beginning of this wonderful nation until the current generation. They were a part of what I call the “American Spirit.” But where have they gone? It seems that today all we have are politicians. Can you name one on the current scene who would attempt a daring, never been done before, life or death challenge like Charles Lindbergh? Just one?
No, I didn’t think so.