Letters Home: Neal Tells of Flying

May you find something you love that makes you “as happy as a kid with a new red wagon.” From the June 13, 1918 Skidmore News, page 1:

Neal Tells of Flying

Love Field, Dallas, Texas
Sunday evening.

Dearest Folks: —
Well, my dream has come true, I’m actually flying. I had my first ride Friday and another one Saturday. From now on it’s an everyday occurrence, that is, every day that is fit for flying.

You know, sixteen out of my bunch went on flying Wednesday, while 9 of us had to do all the dirty work for the bunch. Personally, I and two other, had to go over to the kitchen and relieve three men who went out to fly. That was far from encouraging, but we smiled as much as possible, knowing it was only a matter of days before we went on flying.

We proceeded to do all the dirty work Thursday and still the good word didn’t come, and then, Friday, they had me down in the latrine with orders to clean it thoroughly and I was certainly sore. I got to ___, I was about to strike, when the other 8 came running in and said, “Monty, drop that broom, we’re on flying.” Well, those were the sweetest words I ever heard and I dropped that broom on the way out.

We went over and drew some leather coats and helmets and goggles and got assigned to classes and went over to the flying field on the double time. I drew a civilian instructor, by the name of Brooks, and he is a wonder. He took me up and did some sharp banks or turns and some other simple things, and every time he did anything he’d look at me to see if I liked it. Well, a blind man could have seen, by looking at my face, that I was having the time of my young life. I was as happy as a kid with a new red wagon. We flew over Camp Dick and I was able, to my intense delight, to look down on the poor cadets carrying their young cannons around the parade ground and executing “Squads East and West.”

That was one of the happiest moments of my life. We were up about 2,500 feet and the next time looked around I made a motion like a loop and at first he shook his head, but he finally asked me if my safety belt was on tight, and it was, and he said, “Well, here we go.” And away we went and I got to look up at the old earth. It wasn’t very successful, as the motor quit for a minute at the top, but we got out all right. When we came back he spiraled down 2,000 feet in one spiral and, if my stomach was the least bit that way, I’d have thrown all my breakfast to the winds for fair. but it stayed with me, altho I felt rather sick all the rest of the day. When we got down, he said to me that I’d had the best joy ride that any cadet at Love Field had ever had. That ride lasted 45 minutes.

Later, he took me up for 20 minutes and let me have a try at the controls. Of course, I didn’t have much luck, but there are so many things to watch, and that was my first try. You have to keep the ship level both ways, you see it isn’t so easily done at first. The ship responds to the slightest move of the controls.

I was up yesterday (Saturday) for 30 minutes and had a lot more luck with the controls. Took it off the ground and made a landing with the help of Brooks; he did the most of it. When we landed, he looked around at me and said, “You like to fly, don’t you?” I hastened, most emphatically, to assure him that I did and he said, “That’s the kind of fellows I like to teach,” so I guess I’ll get along all right.

We fly from 6:30 a.m. till 1 p.m. then have classes the rest of the day. Believe me, there is nothing I’ve hit yet that can compare with flying. It must be great to _____ in those fast planes. These we have here are mighty slow compared to those on the front. Those won’t go over 50 miles per hour in still air.

Well, it’s time for lights to go out and I’ll have to stop.

Love to all,
Neal.