Guns and planes don’t mix

One day I was working off my airstrip on Mr. Sidney Clark’s place, spraying W.P. Robinson’s cotton about two miles south of Duck Hill. I was flying an east-west racetrack pattern and in my pull-ups on the west end, I was turning over a house on a hill. Being on a hill, naturally I was a little closer than I would have been working the flat land of the Delta. On one turn, I happened to look down and there was a man standing in his front yard looking up at me. I smiled and waved to him. He “flipped me the bird.”

The next time I came over his house, I was looking down the barrel of a gun with a bore big enough to swallow a basketball. I did not make another pass and I did not go back to the house. Instead, I went back to my airstrip and called Jesse, “Big Daddy,” Strider, the sheriff. Big Daddy farmed about 900 acres of cotton. I sprayed every stalk of it and he always owed me lots of money. I figured he was somewhat beholding to me. He was also my friend, assuring me the matter would be taken care of. I continued flying, but in another area. About two hours later, Big Daddy pulled up in his patrol car. As it was, the man with the gun was a deputy sheriff in neighboring Montgomery County. He had been working the night shift. I had woken the poor fellow.

Big Daddy had explained to the deputy that what he had done was a federal offense. If I were a mind to press charges, he would be in world of hurt. The deputy apologized profusely and profoundly. Being the softy that I am, I let him off the hook, then promptly returned to my racetrack pattern.

A similar incident occurred about fifteen years later when I was flying an AT-401 Air Tractor in the Mississippi Delta for Mr. Jack Flautt. My good friend, Jerome Strictland, and I were working a large plantation near the town of Glendora. Near where we were flying, we had been warned not to fly over a certain person’s house. I guess we did not heed the warning sufficient to suit the man, because the next day as we were doing a pre-flight on our planes, Jerome discovered what appeared to be a bullet hole in his rudder. The law was called and we all paid the man a visit. As we were getting out of the patrol car, his wife, standing on the porch spontaneously erupted with, “I been tell’n him to stop shoot’n at them airplanes, but he don’t pay me no mind, and he jes keep on shoot’n and now he’s going to jail, ‘cause I been tell’n him to stop, but he jes keep on a-shoot’n.”

Apparently, thank God, he did not understand about “leading” a moving target. The man confessed and was taken before a justice of the peace judge. After conferring with the man, the judge explained to us that the shooter really did not have any malice of heart; he was, “Only shooting at the airplane and not at the pilot” (Duh!). He had no intentions of hurting anyone. Besides, it was only a 22-caliber rifle, not like a high-powered rifle, and he has promised not to do it any more. So the benevolent judge let him go. Jerome and I went back to see the man ourselves the next day. We had a heart-to-heart talk with him. Jerome had a way of explaining to the man so that he very clearly understood it was not nice to shoot at airplanes. So far as I know, the incident was not repeated.


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