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Tuesday, July 01, 2008


I had the opportunity recently to view an aerobatics display at an outdoor festival. (If you've never seen one, click on the short video below for a small taste.)

I found the display hard to watch because I had all those news reports about stunt planes crashing into fairgrounds running through my head, but, at the same time I could NOT stop myself from watching. If nothing else I had to admire the stomach of the pilot who flew the plane. One minute up, the next down. I get queasy just thinking about it!

Watching the aerobatics show reminded me of a book I read last year by Vermont's Howard Frank Mosher, On Kingdom Mountain [F MOS]. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it has stuck with me for almost a year (my memory for book plots is practically nonexistent).

The main character, Miss Jane Hubbell Kinneson, was a middle-aged spinster who had lived her whole life on Kingdom Mountain. She had been a teacher, but had lately been running a small library/bookstore. Her hobbies included woodcarving at which she was quite proficient. A complex and fiercely independent woman, Miss Jane one day went ice fishing. As it grew later in the afternoon, a storm came up and she saw,
...a bright yellow biplane, racing directly up through the notch between the mountains, attempting to outrun the oncoming blizzard.

Miss Jane could see the aviator plainly now, hands dancing over several levers, desperate to keep his craft aloft. The plane's wings, just a few feet above the ice, tilted wildly back and forth.

Miss Jane pointed to a possible clear spot and the plane made a rough landing. The injured pilot managed to crawl from the battered plane and spoke
"Henry Satterfield at your service, ma'am. With thanks for your navigational assistance. I do believe you saved my machine out there. Not to mention my life."

And thus began a relationship between Miss Jane, Mr. Satterfield, and, eventually, the biplane!

To learn more about exhibition flyers of the era of Miss Jane and Mr. Satterfield (1930), borrow the photo-illustrated book in our children's collection, Barnstormers and Daredevils by K.C. Tessendorf [J 797.5 TES]. Another title, Women Daredevils: Thrills, Chills, and Frills by Julie Cummins [J 920 CUM], includes several women wing-walkers.

One of our adult aviation books, American Aviation: An Illustrated History by Joe Christy [629.13 CHR], has a chapter called "The Barnstorming Era."

Here's that video I promised:

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