It was a warm summer evening in the summer of 1961, and our parents were away. Hans was at Uncle Ansel’s and heard the story on the local news along with Ansel and Doris. Dick and Linda were home with Holly and me. Our neighbor, Osborne, came to tell us that our dad had crashed his crop dusting plane and had been taken by ambulance to the hospital. At first, I didn’t believe it. Then I was so scared I might never see my father again. I can still smell the warm summer twilight and newly mowed hay. I can still feel the little pebbles between my toes standing in the driveway as he delivered the news. It had been such a beautiful evening. The scene is still frozen in my mind’s eye.
The rest of the night is a blur – I was so little. I remember our Dad was gone for a long time. When he came home it was autumn and he was in a body cast. He had broken his nose and his back. He spent months in traction in the hospital. The neighbors rallied together and helped to bring in the harvest. Only one asked for reimbursement of his gas money. This was a tight-knit farming community, and they all loved our folks.
My dad could not move from his neck to his waist all winter, but he slowly built a wall unit in our living room consisting of a brick gas fireplace with bookshelves and cabinets on both sides. He would sit on a little stool in front of the fireplace and Holly and I would carry bricks one at a time from the kitchen sink where our mother was washing and drying each one by hand. When it was painstakingly finished, I remember it was golden oak and a thing of beauty.
Our mother had also been in the airplane when it went down, a secret they both kept well into their 70s. She had broken her tailbone but could not go for medical help since he was certain to lose his pilot license if word got out that she was illegally a passenger in his crop-dusting plane. So, she suffered in silence, except when sobbing into a wet washcloth as she soaked in an Epsom Salts bath. As I say, she, like many pioneer women before her, would do anything for her family. That little airplane and her husband’s pilot license were their tickets off the farm, and she was not going to mess that up with a trip to the ER.
My dad lived for another several decades flying small aircraft for a living. He didn’t let a little thing like crashing an airplane stop him from enjoying his dream job!