Triplane Builder

Poems by Triplane Builder - William (Bill) Woodall

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Talk With The Lord

The night is falling softly --clouds block its setting disk;
Droplets on my goggles put my checkpoints more at risk.
It slowly comes into my mind; "this is not the place to be",
Flying an open Stearman--having less and less to see.

The final jolt, that wakes me up, is that car I see below;
Driving on some country road--its headlights all aglow.
The biplane I am flying has no chance to make a light
Batteries are not on board; "not needed for this flight"

The stream of bluish fire that pours from my exhaust,
(Invisible in daylight), drives it home that I am lost!
I tuck the useless chart, beneath the tail-wheel lock,
Time to think now how I stand- 'tween a "hard place and a rock".

The gas tank in the upper wing, I'd made sure to fully fill--
An off-field landing without lights-some gasoline would spill.
(I'd seen this in the Navy when a crack-up came their way);
Odds were high a gas fed-fire would somehow come in play.

It seems the only option that gives a chance at all,
Is to roll this plane upon its back-unbuckle--and to fall.
I fumble for the metal of the "D" ring on my chest;
Fumble, scrape and panic! It is absent from my breast!

There is no parachute filling up the bucket seat,
Instead, a pile of cushions, makes the thickness feel complete.
For my first time as a pilot I have nothing 'neath my rear,
That could save the situation;-- get me safely out of here.

I seem to be beside myself-can watch what I become;
Shudders rack my body-I'm not cold but somehow numb--
Cause the airplane to dance wildly, by my jabbing feet and hand;
Watch me turn the Stearman loose -relinquish all command.

Sitting, shuddering, feeling helpless, I at last begin to pray,
Ask that God forgive me, for what I've done this day.
Events that led up to this mess, were mine alone for blame,
I pray no innocent come to harm if I go up in flame.

Calmness settles over me and takes away my fright;
A flood lit tank of water intrudes upon my sight.
It seems to be important-- imperative to know,
If a name might be emblazoned on this tower down below!

Two times I circle tightly; zooming o'er a reaching tree;
But no name or other message has been placed for one to see.
I turn toward the darkness; feel now the time is ripe;
It's time to get this over with---- it's time to land the 'bipe'.

As my hand pulls back the throttle, and the speed begins to bleed,
A presence fills the front seat, and shouts out words to heed!
"You don't go blunderin' blindly when your engine's runnin' good!
You look things over proper!-I'd of thought you understood!"

I re-advance the throttle and hold the altitude I have;
Trees that pass below me proves my judgement sure was bad!
The voice that has saved me has a special Georgia drawl;
That of a Marine instructor who for me, began it all.

A squarish block of nothing seems to need a closer scan;
A pass flown low now lets me know-want no "fodder" in my plan.
A distant lighted window throws a beam into the night,
As a moth attracted to it, I circle round its light.

"Since houses face on roadways, and roadways all have wires";
(Store that gem of wisdom in my plan to plant my tires).
A small wood marks a boundary some way behind the home;
And a rounded hump of something cuts the lamplight with its dome.

If I have read this right, then this field's 'goshawful' small.
But running down a haystack's far better than a wall.
I circle round my "airfield" several times and think it through.
My shoulder harness will not lock!--regardless what I do!

The weight of my "instructor" makes the airplane not "feel" light,
But he's made no comment to me, so I must be thinking right.
'Midway on my downwind, turn the gas valve for a crash.
When the throttle's pulled to idle; brace my hand against the dash!'

So now that I'm downwind--- time to do as I have planned-
Clockwise twist the gas valve-close the throttle for to land.
When I sense the wood is nearing--cross control it for a slip!--
Continue leftward turning-keep those wings down through the trip.

As I know the ground is nearby and the window's dead ahead,
'Back off sideways pressures-let her swing to where I've led'.
With the stick now fully back-- hear the singing of the wires;
Wait what seems a normal lifetime for the jolting of the tires.

This ground is far, far smoother than I could fairly hope;
Do my 'two-step' on the toe brakes--cut the pace down to a lope'.
With the fear of speed behind me, now the engine starts to stop;
The gas valve brings back rhythm, to my slowly spinning prop.

With the "mound" now silhouetted between us and the light;
We taxi slowly toward it in the blackness of the night.
When fully by it--- 'stand hard upon right brake!'-
Open wide the throttle!---spin the tail into our wake!

With the nose now pointed "downwind" all the rituals come to mind;
Kill the engine with the mixture--Switch to "off" by groping blind.
The silence is deafening when comparing to the roar,
Somehow set control locks, as I have done before.

From the cushions in the rear seat, it is possible to see,
That the front seat's really empty-- this last was done by me!
With a hand upon the windscreen, and standing in the seat,
Left toe probes the wing-walk-(not a real athletic feat).

But tonight it's to be different, there's no strength for me to call;
My left leg buckles under-- there's no way to break my fall.
Lying limply in a heap on the stubble of the hay,
I think upon the miracle that's somehow come my way.

The odds are all against, for one to do what I have done,
Land blindly in the darkness; do no harm to anyone.
GOD has surely blessed me, HIS purpose still unknown,
HE calmed my spell of terror; gave a presence as his loan.

As challenges have faced me, in progressing through my life,
That special Grace so granted-- helped me better battle strife.
Since I know my time is 'borrowed'-- as I live from year to year,
My duties, loves and values seem to stand out loud and clear.

When I question, as I struggle with the problem of the day;
When some special burden bows me, while others go their way;
I have only to reflect on that fateful misty night;
And to think whatever happens-"just try to do it right".

Bill Woodall

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