One day back in the 30’s, the oat field out front of the house became, for one afternoon, a landing strip for a real, honest-to-goodness biplane. The pilot, out of gas spied the field just in time to land. As the plane sputtered down, John Allen ran to meet it. Years later he’d recall the lightweight canvas wings and two-seater open-air cockpit. The lever and gauges, and the cavalier pilot at the helm.

Big John gave some gas to the pilot…who by way of thanks offered John Allen a ride. Engine roaring, wind whistling, they did slow rolls and loop the loops in the clear blue skies over Casa Piedra, John Allen having the time of his ten-year-old life… till his Ma, Lucy Elizabeth, returning from a grocery run, caught sight of the circling plane. She sped to the house, fast as those country roads would allow, to find Big John standing in the yard. “Where’s John Allen?”she demanded. He just smiled and pointed up.

Before that plane so much as rolled to a stop, she was out in that field. “Son,” she, pleaded, wringing her hands,  “don’t EVER do that again!” But who could blame him? How often does a plane land in the front yard?

John Allen grew up to join the Air Force and fly P-51’s at the time of The Korean War. That unknown pilot had kindled a lifelong love of aviation…in exchange for a gallon of gas.

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