When I was about 11 years old I pitched a real fit. It is the only time I ever remember throwing a fit and certainly the only time it worked.
But this was beyond the pale. Daddy was going to visit Grandpa Downs and planned to go alone.
Since Grandpa lived with us for a year when I was six, we had been good buddies. He'd taught me to use the Dewey decimal system, and I used it to fetch his reference books for his grand
opus, the HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN PRESIDENCY. Since Grandpa moved to Evanville, IN and we had moved to Rochester, MN I had not seen my pal. We had spoken, and written occasionally, but had spent no time together at all and now Daddy was going to see him and leaving me home! They were going to go to some race in Indianapolis and Uncle Gene and cousin Jimmy were going, too.
It was SO unfair that Jimmy could go see Grandpa and see the race and I was being left home. Somehow this argument worked.
We were hitching a ride with a pilot who was delivering a 3 seater to it's new owner. I do not recall what kind of plane it was, certainly not the usual Cessna 140 or 170...for one thing it
did not have a tricycle landing gear, which interested me. How my father ended up in the pilot seat I do not know, but we took off into a beautiful blue yonder, and sailed past cotton puffs
and through rays of warming sun. I was small enough to fit in the single passenger seat in back, but I was crammed round with dufflel bags and luggage and barely had room to turn the
pages of my book. I must have drifted off, and when I woke we were circling the airport at Joliet. The familiar sinking feeling in the stomach told me we were losing altitude quickly. Maybe too quickly? Daddy kicked the rudder, nearly standing on it, pulling the stick so hard I could feel the constriction in my knees.....he was trying to turn the landing into a touch and go, but the plane was having none of it. The nose refused to lift and with a sickening thud the left landing gear crushed in on itself and the right wheel circled around it in a neck wrenching ground loop. The sudden halt threw me hard against the seat belt I still wore, then smoke drifted up from the overheated engine. Hands were pulling on me,
jerking at the belt latch, dragging me roughly through the hatch, over the wing and onto the tarmac. Under the boiler suit, I defined a woman's figure, stocky and strong enough to hold
all 110 pounds of me in her arms. She set me down, patted me over, checked me out thoroughly and asked if I would like a cookie. I've never turned down a cookie in my life, so I said
yes, of course. Behind us the crunched plane was being sprayed down with fire retardant. I have no idea where my father was in all this time. Not by me.
We took a train to Indianapolis and met up with Grandpa, Uncle Gene and Jimmy. We got to Indy, spent the night and got up early the next morning to get out to the track. Grandpa did not go.
Even then, the Brick Yard was an amazing sight. We climbed nearly to the top of the bleachers. It was sunny and hot, and I was soon fried and miserable. After an eternity Bill Vukovich won.
After dinner I was abandoned in the hotel room with a radio and a Gideon Bible for company while the "men" went out. I didn't
even get to spend any time with Grandpa. The following day we took a long slow train ride back to Rochester.
I spent most of the time wishing I'd lost the battle to attend the 1954 Indy 500.