Every Thursday morning in HopeTown, locals, cottagers and cruisers meet for the Writers’ Circle. They read and share what they have written: poetry and prose, memoirs and fiction, musings and rants, happy and sad. A delightful and interesting way to get to know each other. We learn about families, childhoods, adventures, fears and hopes. Then we have lunch and talk some more.
In late February, selected readings are presented at the Writers’ Read. The announcement poster features a drawing of Adelaide, one of the founding members and a published poet, who is now 102. Sadly, this was the first year she did not travel to Hope Town in over 50 years. We all miss her, but were delighted that she sent new poems to share.
The Read is held in the Hope Town Lodge, a beautiful tropical setting. Before about 75 friends and visitors each night for two nights. This year, about 18 members of the Writers’ Circle performed what they had written, including Nancy:
Others entertained with stories of sailing adventures, childhood memories about Christmas, hiking and learning to dance, and poems about loss and beauty. Vernon Malone, a Hope Town native, enchanted us with glimpses of Hope Town past. A nine-year-old Hope Town primary school student shared his fascinating poem about the light houses of the Bahamas. A booklet of the readings will be published next year – it takes awhile.
Below is what Nancy read – some of you will remember a slightly different version.
Meanwhile, the weather has changed and it’s getting warmer.
Here is the moon setting in the early morning light, taken off the back of our boat just after sunrise.
My sister was 17 and I was 16. We were flying back home from our grandparents’ farm in central Michigan. My sister was sitting directly in front of me because that’s where the pilot sits in a two-seater J-5 Piper Cub. And she was the pilot, having just earned her private license — 17 is the legal minimum. I was the passenger – the only passenger. Our plane, the J-5 Cub, was a fabric-covered, high-wing, tail-dragger, so-called because the back of the plane slopes down to rest on a small wheel under the tail. The pilot maneuvers it, not with a steering wheel or yoke, but with a control stick that comes straight up from the floor. Even back then it looked like an antique.
Our dad, a licensed flight instructor – my sister’s flight instructor – was ahead of us in a four-seater Cessna 180 with our mom and two little brothers, aged 13 and 10. We were about an hour out when Dad, who had been watching an approaching front, decided we should land. We were still 35 miles or so from home and near the only airport on our route with a control tower and paved runway. He tried to communicate with us by radio, but ours didn’t work. Then he had the airport’s control tower rotate its green beacon, the signal that we were cleared to land. We saw the green light, but we didn’t know what it meant. So finally, Dad landed and we followed him down.
The Cessna 180 had just turned off the runway onto a taxiway when the front hit – it’s opening blast a full 40 miles per hour. The wind whipped our Dad’s plane around – it was even airborne briefly – and the brakes didn’t catch until the plane had settled onto the grass next to the concrete taxiway.
But my sister and I were still in the air, over the runway, about 30 feet up. And we could not get down. She would push the stick forward and down we’d go, but the wheels would barely graze the runway and UP we’d bounce. The wind from the front and the speed of the plane on landing were evenly matched. We were hovering. She pushed the stick forward again – down, then bounce; another try – bounce. One more time: finally the plane stayed down.
But just as it touched, we started rolling backwards. Then I felt the wind lift the starboard wing. Instinctively, or possibly because my sister shoved me, I jumped out and grabbed the strut to try to keep us from flipping over. Which is exactly what our dad thought would happen. He’d sent our little brothers racing down the runway to help us.
Meanwhile, a commercial airliner started circling overhead because the control tower had had to close the airport. Our little tail-dragger was at a full stop right in the middle of the main runway, my sister still at the controls, with three kids trying to keep it upright. Once the front passed and my sister got the plane under control and on the apron, she had to go talk to the FAA, the Federal Aviation Administration. So did my dad and brothers. It was not a fun meeting, but no one lost their license.
Postscript: We all took flying lessons from our dad in that J-5 Cub. It was eventually sold. Decades later, my brothers tracked it down, found it in Alaska, and brought it back to Michigan, where the daughter of the 10 year old also learned to fly it. But only my sister ever got it to hover.