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 by Frank Shortt
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Dangerous Flight
        Young GI’s will sometimes go to very perilous ends in order to have a ‘little’ fun. I can speak from experience. Weekends on Mather Air Force Base were usually dull, hot and boring in the summer. Most men would do anything to kill time, even dangerous undertakings! We were young and our own worst enemies.
         I had a friend and fellow airman named Albert Doane who was one of the most fearless daredevils I have ever met. His antics never ceased to amaze me.
         “Hey fellows, let’s go swimming out to Sloughhouse. Who’s game to go?” Al Doane asked one Sunday morning.
        Several guys replied, let’s go, it’s better than cooking here.”
        Airmen from Mather used to go to a place called Sloughhouse near Sacramento, California to swim. There was a suspended traffic bridge over the river which must have been at least twenty-five feet in height. The river underneath was probably 30 feet deep having been dredged out by gold miners. The space between the bottom of the bridge and the river was at least another fifteen feet.
        Al Doane climbed to the top of the bridge and dived straight downward. The impact of his body hitting the water sounded like hitting a fat hog in the side with a sledge hammer. As he went down he arched his back and suddenly appeared on the surface. All present held their breath until he surfaced, me included. This was only one of many stunts that Al pulled in order to impress the rest of us. He would even dare anyone else to try the tricks he pulled.
        “You’re nothing but a bunch of chickens, awk, awk, awk!” was Al’s final decree.
         Thank God, we were not ready to commit suicide.
        One of the craziest incidents I was ever involved in began with an evening of carousal at a bar in Carmichael, California. Shorty Smitherman, who worked at Engle Flying Service in Fair Oaks, Ca. had invited me along with another friend to share and evening of bar hopping with him. Our host was local pilot, Tex Ramsey, who never left his share of shots left on the bar. He was a tall, handsome Texas transplant who always wore cowboy boots and fancy cowboy shirts. He was very generous with anyone in the service of their country. His constant companions were different blondes that he handpicked along the way. The one this night seemed much younger than Tex and after a few drinks was overly amorous. Tex didn’t seem to mind whatsoever.
        In my younger days I fancied myself being an up and rising Country music star. This evening was no different. I sang a few songs with the local band, drinking free booze in between songs. By the time we departed the bar my head was swimming and I felt as though I was walking on air.
        We left the bar, piling into Tex’s Lincoln-Continental for the next excursion. Suddenly Tex suggested:
        “Hey, why don’t we go over to Engle Field where my Beechcraft Bonanza is parked and take a little fly up to Reno?”
        “Why not?” We all replied in unison.
        The ride to Engle Flying Service didn’t take very long and we were passing the bottle all the way. As we lifted off the field I felt as though I was flying by my own power.
        “Hey Tex, can’t this thing fly any faster” Shorty asked.
        “Sure it can” Tex replied as he dipped down causing our stomachs to come up in our mouths.
         All the while the blond is kissing Tex, he responding in kind. We passengers feared for our lives as Tex would let go the rudder each time the blond kissed him.
        My seat was the ‘rummage seat’ or baggage compartment. I suddenly passed out somewhere in between nips at Shorty’s bottle
         As we began circling Reno, Tex found out he could not land due to heavy snow. In my stupor I stretched my legs out kicking the baggage door open! I never knew how long I was passed out.
         I barely heard Shorty say, “What the heck!”
         This is at ten thousand feet aloft.
        The pressure suddenly let go pulling me toward the open door. I sobered up quickly as Shorty grabbed me preventing me from being sucked out. We somehow were able to pull the door together but had to hold it shut until we reached Fair Oaks. By the time we reached our destination our fingers were literally frozen stiff. Tex did not know what was transpiring in the rear of his aircraft.
        Upon landing, Tex came around to get us all out. When we told him what had happened he gave Shorty a great bear hug, thanking him for saving my life as well as saving him a great embarrassment and possible jail time.
I also thanked Shorty, saying, “Shorty, I will never forget you for this, if you ever need me, the nights are never too dark nor the days too long, just ask.”
        I really meant this.
        Tex said, “Boys, I promise you here and now that I will never fly again while intoxicated. I have learned a great lesson tonight and I apologize to all of you for not setting a better example.”
         As far as I know, Tex kept his promise. Where the blonds were concerned, I doubt that he ever got over his fetish.