Baron - 4
Baron - 3
Baron - 2
Baron - 1
the Cassutt - 2
Up in WV
Rico - 2
on the Roof
when I was little and played on the hill,
evening, I dream of it still-
Mom called me to dinner,
impatient, I knew-
So I lifted my arms up and flapped
them and flew.
I lifted my arms up and flapped
them, and lo!
I was flying as fast as my short legs
The hill swirled beneath me, all foggy and
I lit by the yard fence, and no one had seen.
I told them at dinner, I said, "I can fly."
They laughed, not believing. I started to cry
ran from the table, and sobbed, "It is true-
need not believe me; I flapped and I flew."
told them next morning, I told them again-
For years I
kept telling; they laughed and I ran-
No one would
believe me; I ceased then to tell;
But still I
remember, remember it well-
One soft summer
evening up there on the knoll,
Before life had harried
the reach of my soul,
I stood there in twilight, in
childlight, and dew-
And I lifted my arms up and
flapped them and flew!
This was written
by Southern author and poet Louise McNeil, West Virginia's Poet
Laureate for many years. It was written late in her life and
while she was never a pilot or even so far as I know a passenger
in a small airplane, she speaks eloquently of the yearning that
lives in the breast of all humans, to defy gravity and soar
above the earth. In the volumes of work that she accomplished in
her life and the several books that she had published, this was
the only poem or story that had flying as its theme. She wrote
about the people and the land of West Virginia. She described
the mountains and the rivers and the characters of the
Appalachian Mountains who inhabited them and she made them come
alive as few authors have. But it was her 'First Flight' that
gave me a deep kinship with this woman, because I too had my
first flight at about the same age as her childhood persona. My
flight didn't end so well, however.
If you are to
understand this tale I must start at the very beginning and tell
you about Sue Proudfoot, since she was the cause of it. It was
It began the fall the big War ended, while
life was beginning to return to normal as the veterans came home
and picked up their lives. The mood was upbeat and Americans
were anxious to move on. Where we lived in Central West Virginia
the West Arden School, perched high on the side of a hill above
the Tygart River, had started its school year with a record
enrolment and a first grade class numbering about twelve. I was
a part of this class, along with my best buddy Murphy whom I had
known for all of the life that I could remember.
had decreed that also in this class was the girl that was
destined to be my first love and subsequently cause my first
broken heart. In fact I fell in love with her the first day, at
the very moment she came through the door of our one room
school. I should say at the moment she flounced into the room,
with the golden tresses that her mother had doubtlessly curled
that morning framing a perfect face that held the bluest eyes
I'd ever seen. I was so done with school. I wanted to get
Unfortunately, I was doomed to learn about
love triangles before I learned addition and subtraction. Alas,
my love had eyes only for Murphy, who for some strange reason
hated girls and steadfastly ignored them. So there we were, with
Sue staring moodily at Murphy, me staring longingly at Sue and
Murphy staring grumpily at me and wondering why I couldn't
concentrate on making paper airplanes to fly at recess.
recess Sue would gravitate to wherever Murphy was playing, and
in the meantime I had apparently become invisible, since nothing
I did could divert her attention from Murphy.
though, after being rudely rebuffed yet again by Murphy, Sue in
desperation turned her attention to me. Perhaps she thought I
could get her an appointment for a conversation with him. But
the reason didn't matter, because for once I had her attention
and I wasn't going to waste it. Frantically I groped around in
my cluttered mind for something that would make me interesting
to her. "I CAN FLY!" I heard myself blurt.
the heck did that come from I thought? It had worked though, I
definitely had Sue's attention, albeit her very dubious
attention. 'What do you mean you can fly?' was her skeptical
response. Well, I wasn't sure, because my synapses were firing
faster than I could keep track of, but I heard myself answer
that I had a cape at home with Super Man flight capabilities,
and that I put it on every night when I got home from school and
flew around the yard. I was astounded. Was this really me saying
The blue eyes bored into mine. "Prove
it", she said. "Bring it to school tomorrow and show
"Mom" I said, "I need a cape".
I described the cape that would need to look as much as possible
like the one Superman wore and she asked me if we were having a
play at school. 'Uh Huh' I said, while crossing my fingers.
remember walking the quarter mile to school the next morning
carrying Mom's creation in a brown paper sack. It was a proper
cape sure enough, but made of a turquoise material which was
probably an old curtain, and I recall it fastened around my neck
with a brown shoelace.
school I quickly stuffed the bag in my desk before anyone could
ask me what was in it, but the rumor had already gone viral. All
over the room you could hear grades one through eight hissing at
each other, "hey, Weaver's gonna fly at recess". Our
teacher Miss Stewart restored order, but she had apparently
broken the code and knew what was scheduled to happen at 10:30,
because I remember a lingering and somewhat amused appraisal
from her unlike any she had given me before. In fact I wasn't
sure she had even noticed me before.
lessons droned on while my mind buzzed with the important issues
of the upcoming flight. On takeoff I had to hold my hands just
so. Had anyone besides Superman ever done this I wondered? I
hadn't heard about it if they did. The cape was made right, so
it should work, shouldn't it? Should I just go once around the
school or maybe out over the river and back? I wondered why more
people didn't do this. I hoped I could do a stand up landing
the way Superman did it. The teacher dinged the little bell she
kept on her desk. It was recess.
During an ordinary
recess the school broke up into little cliques of playing
children. The sexes and the grades all had different interests
and they scattered as they came through the door, but not this
time. Lacking only lighted torches to resemble a lynch mob, the
school was united in watching Arden's first airshow, and perhaps
too they also smelled blood just a bit. Miss Stewart who
normally stayed at her desk at recess followed the students
outside and everyone clustered by the 'runway'.
counting on the very steep hill that the school was on to give
me the needed performance boost to becoming airborne. In
addition, the spot beside the school where the ashes from the
pot bellied coal stove had been dumped over the years had grown
into a sort of ramp, somewhat resembling a short ski jump, and I
had calculated that this would add to the slope of the hill and
hence my momentum.
Poised at the top of the ash dump,
I reached into my brown paper bag and pulled out the cape. My
finest moment of the whole affair came when Sue Proudfoot,
sensing her chance to be part of history and doubtlessly filled
with responsibility as the promoter of this spectacle, stepped
forward and tied the brown shoe string around my neck. At that
instant I felt that I'd been paid in advance for anything that
might happen to me.
A few years ago I was visiting with
my old buddy Murphy, and I asked him if he remembered the day I
flew. He smiled and said "You know Weaver, there for a
second I thought you'd done it."
There for a
second I did too. I held back nothing, and once I was horizontal
I did fly, hands outstretched properly to break the air. This
lasted until I caught up with the slope of the ash dump, and
then it was like the country song says, 'its funny how falling
feels like flying
. for a little while'.
there was ever another occasion when more laughter ascended to
the heavens from the West Arden schoolyard I don't know when it
was. I do remember one particular laugh that rang above the
juvenile glee though, as I was trying to unwrap myself from the
failed cape. It was the only time I ever heard Miss Stewart