Recap: The Aron family moved into Ezra’s house, and it is challenging for Ezra on top of all of his other problems right now, dealing with a bully and trying to find a topic for the writing project.
When we were back at the camp, and Orville and Wilbur were discussing each step of the flight, I waited for a chance to tell them about the man with the camera.
“I think the engine worked perfectly,” Orville said.
“But the glide – the landing was too bumpy.”
“Did you get the shot of the plane going up?” Wilbur turned to me.
“Yes.” I hated to spoil their happy mood, but I had to tell them what I’d seen.
“There was a man there with a camera. I tried to get your attention.”
Wilbur’s blue eyes instantly clouded. “A man with a camera! We don’t allow that.”
“I told him to leave. Charlie Taylor was the one who grabbed the man’s camera away.”
“Phew, that’s a relief.”
“He was pretty mad, that man.”
“We’ve got to keep our work secret. Unscrupulous people are out to steal our ideas and take credit.
“Sender, come see this,” Orville motioned me over to the glider. “Our adjustments are way off. The curvature or camber of the wings from the leading edges to the rear was too great. It has to be changed. We need to create the ideal curve of the wing from its leading to its trailing edge – that is what gives the wing the most lift against the pull of gravity.” We’re going to put gliding on hold for a few days until we rebuild. We have to flatten the wings back to a camber.”
After the wings were adjusted, Wilbur took a few more test flights. There were a few days that followed where the wind was too strong, so the brothers didn’t fly. On the fourth day, I helped them drag the glider four miles to Kill Devil Hills, which was a cluster of high sand dunes. There were no trees or bushes in sight but mountains of sand. The view from the top of Big Hill was spectacular. The Atlantic Ocean swelled, unfurling its blue-green beauty, and the sand hills stretched on and on.
It was a miracle, this flying, I mused. I thought of something my Aba had taught me about eagles. “They carry their young on their back because they aren’t afraid of other birds snatching them from above. They soar the highest. Hashem carried us out of Egypt like on the wings of eagles. We cling to Hashem, knowing He is protecting us. I’d always thought that was so wonderful!
Then, Orville boarded the plane. He winked at me. He removed the rope that was restraining the flyer and it headed forward. It seemed to hesitate because of a strong headwind. Outside of the flyer, Wilbur had his left hand on the wing, steadying it. Once it started moving down the track, Wilber let go of the wing and the flyer with Orville steering it, lifted into the air, soaring like a bird. It soared and dropped and bounced and dropped. It was moving up and down like an ocean wave. I kept shooting photos. My hands trembled with excitement. The plane was sailing through the air! I was witnessing history! What did it feel like to be up so high? I couldn’t imagine doing it.
Then suddenly the glider disappeared from view.
My heart thumped. Where was the glider? Where was Orville? I remembered Orville telling me that this was dangerous work. The brothers never flew together, so if one was killed the other could continue their work. I started reciting T’hilim by heart.
Just then, the mockingbird appeared and seemed to be beckoning me to follow. The bird stayed in one place, cawing loudly, and then it flew ahead. It circled back towards us, cawing. It did this a few times. Then it soared ahead. It seemed like it was trying to tell us something.
Wilbur yelled to me. “Come on. That bird knows where to go.” I followed Wilbur. We both ran behind the bird. We were out of breath, running as best as we could through the heavy sand. The mockingbird cawed more and more loudly and then it stopped and perched on top of a dune.
It took a few minutes to reach the crest of the dune. I wiped beads of sweat from my brow. Could this bird be leading us to Orville? We reached the spot and there, beneath the dune, was the flyer nose plunged in the sand like a shot-down bird. The mockingbird flew over to Orville. It perched on the downed glider, and it began singing. Orville slowly extracted himself from the bent glider. The wings were damaged, and miraculously he slid out only with a bruise over his eye.
“Were you scared?” I asked him.
“I didn’t have time to be.”
The bird cawed at Orville and flew off.
“That bird led us to you,” Wilbur said.
Orville shook his head. “Strangest thing!”
Wilbur immediately began problem-solving, even as Orville had just dusted himself off from the accident. Wilbur turned to me. “We are finding out that the calculations and tables prepared by Lilienthal, Langley and Chanute are wrong. Those accepted tables are useless.” He explained that they were all people who were working or had tried to work on a flying machine. “It’s discouraging. We have to start on square one.”
Shortly after this last test flight, they asked me to help them pack up their glider and we all headed back to Dayton.
To be continued…
By Susie Garber