My First Plane Ride

I have written a lot about my childhood. Today I am going to write about a part of my life that few people know any thing about. We all have dark corners and this is one of mine.

I couldn’t explain my first plane ride without going into a little detail about what got me there.

My life and I expect most other people’s lives are broken into chapters. The following events marked the end of a chapter for me. Still looking back it was funny and worth telling.

I didn’t change any names because none of us were innocent.

I hope you guys have a chuckle at my expense today.

I have always said that I was too stupid to be scared of any thing until I was almost 40 years old. That’s not true. In June of 1969 for about four hours, I knew fear more than any other time in my life.

I came home in late May of 1969 after a twelve-hour day of hanging sheet rock in a house that was close to a 120 degrees inside with no wind coming through the windows. I had not only accomplished making it all day. I had made it all day with a hang over and less than four hours of sleep.

As I stepped upon the front porch of the little duplex, I notice a brown envelope in the mailbox. I pulled the envelope out and noticed right off that it was from my local draft board.

I didn’t think much of it. After all, I was 3A. I couldn’t be drafted. In 1969 a married man didn’t have to serve and was listed as 3A. I casually sit down on the steps and opened the envelope.

Dear Mr. Simmons,
Your friends and neighbors along with the governor of the Great State of Mississippi have elected you to represent them in the arm forces…………….
Even after reading the letter in its entirety, I still wasn’t upset. It only meant that I would have to take an hour or so off work to go down town and get this mistake corrected.

Again, I got up and headed inside. I hollered, ” You want believe what the draft board just did. Is there any beer left? I have had one long bad day.”

My wife at the time with what I swear was a smile to this day on her face came out of the kitchen with two beers. This most likely wasn’t her first.

“The idiots at the draft board sent me a induction notice. They have me down as being 1A rather than 3A. You know like 1A in you aren’t married.”

“Well, they are kinda right. Now, don’t get mad and start screaming and stuff but I filed for a divorce a week or so a go.”

I was so shocked I couldn’t even take a sip out of my beer.

Finally, I found the words I was looking for. “Alright, but that doesn’t explain the draft notice.”

“Well, I thought we might need a little time apart so I might have dropped by and let them make a copy of the petition at the draft place.”

I know there are some real good Christian folks that read this blog so I will simply stop here. There is no reason in going into what was said or done next.

Thirty days to the day I was setting in a Grey Hound Bus looking out the window at my daddy.

I was ¾ of the way divorced and 100% drafted.

I remember setting in that seat scared half to death wishing Anne had come to see me off. If I could just simply give her the international sign of peace (the finger), I would feel much better about every thing.

Yes, I had known people that left on a bus just like this whole and returned missing limbs. I even knew one guy, God rest his soul that didn’t come back at all. Then there was the ones that left crazy and came back totally loony.

Just for the record, none of this scared me. What had my stomach in knots was the fact that in less than twenty-four hours I would be on an airplane.

At nineteen death is something that happens to other people. Being crazy has its up side. A man might be able to make it with one leg or missing an arm.

Being on an airplane was something totally different.

I was so scared that I had forgotten just how mad I was at Anne. I guess God has a way of helping us through things. By the next day, I was trying to cut a deal with God. “If you can fix it where I don’t have to get on a plane I want be mad at Anne for getting me drafted and I want never do any thing bad again as long as I live.” He had heard it all from me before and didn’t believe a thing I was saying. The next day I was on a plane.

I will never forget taking off at the Jackson Airport. I had been in car wrecks, beat a few times times, and even shot at once but none of these things could begin to explain the fear I was experiencing.

The plane made a bumping sound and then a jerk. The pilot got the engines going so fast I was sure they were going to explode. I thought to myself if they are straining this hard to take off and the plane aint’ even moving how in the world can they run fast enough to keep this thing in the air.

The girl up front was telling us about flotation devices and puke bags. Finally she explained the proper way to put on your seat belt.

I thought to myself. There isn’t a ocean between here and Atlanta. Where in the world am I going. Have I done got on the wrong plane. I was beginning to feel wet all over.

I set as still as I possibly could gripping the only arm rest I had with one hand and pulling on the seat belt with the other.

It crossed my mind if I could only strangle Anne before I flew into what I was sure was my death. Then maybe things would be better some how.

This thought was interrupted by the plane beginning to move. The engines became even louder and we started down the runway. The plane was bumping around and gaining speed but even I knew it wasn’t fast enough to take off.

Now I worried about crashing on take off. The plane suddenly slowed to almost a crawl and began to turn back toward the way we started.

I breathed a sigh of release. They must have figured out that there was something wrong with the plane and they are going back.

No such luck. This time the plane shot off like it was thrown from a sling slot.

I bit my tongue and looked out the window at what I knew as the world. It  began to pass me by.

A moment later we lifted off and I left my stomach right there on the run way at the Jackson Airport.

By the time I found the barf bag I no longer need to throw up. I was simply to scared. In fact I am not for sure if I had even exhaled in the last two minutes.

The plane was now acting like a rocket and was heading what seemed to me as straight up. If this wasn’t bad enough it began to turn east at the same time.

I was now convinced that we were going to turn over. A little something the devil had cooked up for me personally for all the bad things I had done so for in my life.

After a minute or so it straightened up but kept its path of what seemed straight up.

Some how a stewarest managed to roll a cart down the isle offering people something to drink.

I thought to myself, this is a time for praying not drinking. At that point in my life, I wasn’t sure where I was going when I died. I knew I wasn’t going to show up there with a drink in my hand.

All  I knew for cerain was I was going To Atlanta and it should take a hour and a half to get there.

That is what the man behind the ticket counter had told me.

When I got there I was suppose to find another plane and go to North Carolina.

The pilot most likely announced it and I didn’t understand what he said but with in a matter of minutes the plane stopped going straight up and took what seemed to me as a nose dive.

I again began to pray. “Lord I really mean it. If this plane should crash don’t kill me.  I will become  a missionary and go to Africa . That is as long as I can take a boat there. Just let me live. I forgive everybody that has ever done me wrong  to me. Now please save me.”

I am sure the person that was setting next to me thought I was crazy. I didn’t care I just didn’t want this plane to burst open and me fall through the air to my youthful death.

Suddenly, I felt the plane level off and heard the wheels screaming out side. The fasten your seat belt light went off. I paid it no attention. Mine was pulled so tight I could barely breath.

Then I heard that little angelic voice say. Welcome to Birmingham. Thank you for selecting Delta today. All passengers going to Atlanta, please stay in your seat.

I looked out the window and I was on the ground.

All I had to do was get up and walk off the plane and start hitch hiking to Canada. It was true I would never see my family again. Still I would never again have to board another plane.

Some where the need to see home again over came the fear and a few minutes later I was in Atlanta.

Some how I found my next flight and a hamburger and I was off. By the time I landed in Charleston, I was a seasoned passenger.

Two days later I called home and told my mother I was never scared and the trip was a piece of cake.

I got through basic training and a divorce and finally out of the army in one piece.

I have never been able to hold a grudge and I soon forgave Anne for getting me drafted.

Now, she and the army are simply distant memories.

I have flown many times since those days in June. Still as I wrote this, just the thoughts of that first take off and landing brought that old fear back as if it was yesterday.

I will leave you today with something wonderful Abraham Lincoln wrote. I totally agree with this statement. You might want to ponder it a few minutes and see if you view your life like this.

Its not the years in your life that counts but the life in your years .

Abraham Lincoln

have a great day


Explore posts in the same categories: humor, March 2009, stories

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2 Comments on “My First Plane Ride”

  1. matt Says:

    This blog’s great!! Thanks :).

  2. Just stopped by and looked around. I like


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