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Photograph by Frank E. Caldwell A WRECKED MAIL PLANE ON THE MOUNTAIN SIDE The pilot was unharmed and the mail forwarded intact. Planes have been forced down in the winter in such deep snow, in almost inaccessible places in the mountains, that they have had to be left until spring, as in the case of this plane. In every instance, however, the mail has been salvaged and forwarded.
day-flying. Then he made a few runs take advantage of a strong upper wind, while one of the pilots was off on Christ- and he could see a glow in the sky over mas leave—and he's been at it ever since. Chicago, 150 miles away; seven of the
“At first Page used to swear that each 25-mile beacon lights along the course night flight would be his last. He'd run were all visible at once. into a cloud or a patch of fog, lose sight “Sometimes, in bright moonlight, you of every light in the world, and then he'd can actually see the shadow of the plane hit a bump and the engine would sputter against a black cornfield; and then again, , and backfire—everything inky black-it when there's a ground haze, the moon made his hair crawl around under his shining on it makes it look like a blank helmet, he said.
wall—like flying into a damp blotter.” "After a while the big searchlight at I remembered a fight of my own at Omaha would show up, with the field night, over the Alleghenies, when a cold boundary lights shining like jewels in the gray haze lay sleeping in the long, narrow dark ground. Then he'd relent a little, valleys, and the lost beacon markers set
, decide he had imagined most of his trou- on the intervening razorlike hills winked bles, and agree to try just one more run. their tiny eyes of flame at me as if in
“He's been doing that now for more derision. In flying, as in life, it is not than a year and has over 100,000 night- what we see, but what we cannot see, that miles to his credit. Claims he can smell we fear. his way into Chicago at night by the big A sense of utter solitude took possesstarch factory on the canal bank.
sion of me, an illusion of disembodiment, "Lightning flashes close by blind a pilot while I seemed to float through the veltemporarily, straining his eyes in the dark vety sky like a lost soul, beyond the conto make out vaguely familiar landmarks; fines of a three-dimensional world. but on real clear nights there's no trick to There is an indefinable something about it at all.
a cross-country flight at night among "Hopson reported he was 11,000 feet the wandering stars and phantom cloud above Davenport, Iowa, on one trip, to shapes, where illusion and reality are
Photograph by Captain A. W. Stevens THE AIR MAIL FIELD AT CONCORD, CALIFORNIA This is the main western terminus of the transcontinental Air Mail line. Eastbound mail leaves from this field. Westbound, the Mail plane fies directly to Crissy Field, on the edge of San Francisco (just inside the Golden Gate), unless prevented from landing there by bay fog (see, also, illustration, page 56). From Concord Field to Crissy Field is only about 20 minutes by air.
hauntingly intermingled, that may well It is one of Pete's delightful weakcolor one's whole "sentiment of exist- nesses to succumb under the naïve promptence" forever.
ings of confiding strangers, and to enter
tain them with the most picturesque and MAIL PILOTS TAKE WEATHER AS IT COMES
admirable yarns. For his sophisticated The Mail pilots, of course, must take
air-mates he usually reserves only dull the weather as it comes, and be prepared
and ineffectual facts. for the worst. They must know at an
"SAN FRANCISCO OR BUST" instant's glance every hill and house, every road and river, every "one-limbed On this night, however, I had broken cottonwood and obscure woodpile” along through his restraint. He warmed to his a track from 10 to 20 miles wide and subject and wandered off into impossible nearly 500 miles long.
tales of his feats as an aërial dare-devil. And they must know them under all My quiet warning to consider Mark the confusing conditions of which one Twain's injunction about dressing his can possibly conceive-forward or back- facts in tights and not in ulsters fell on ward, wrapped in haze or fog, swept bare deaf ears. Hair-raising climax was piled or buried in snow, under the trembling on climax. light of the stars or transformed by the “Enough!” I cried out at last. “Tell occult power of the moon.
that to the grease-monkeys! We both Like that vanished race of Mississippi need sleep for our flight to-morrow. ReRiver pilots, they must learn their long member—it's ‘San Francisco or bust!'” course as "you follow a hall at home in That last was an ill-chosen slogan, for the dark”; and like them, too, they are at high noon the next day we very nearly as picturesque a type as in those old "busted” landing at Elko, Nevada, 200 steamboat days when “every man was miles west of Salt Lake. A shallow, unhalf a horse and half an alligator." marked ditch lay hidden under the June
Pilot “Dog" Collins once remarked that grass at one end of the field, and into it he had so much to remember it made him we rolled, breaking the undercarriage. stoop-shouldered.
As an "office flyer” I may have some Nor are all their troubles confined to points, but as a ditch jumper I am a disthe air. On stormy, threatening nights, tinguished failure! (see page 45). when the clouds hang low over the hills, Nor was it any consolation to find the it is the custom to telephone to the emer- "bones” of three or four other planes gency fields for last-minute advice on the whitening near by, under the scraggy weather. But the local, nonaëronautical sagebrush. Still, the damage was far caretaker often fails ludicrously to supply from irreparable. A radio to the Army what is wanted.
Reserve station at Salt Lake quickly “Some of them were so green at first,” brought a new undercarriage by airplane, exclaimed Pete, “that they didn't know a and late the next afternoon we were in propeller from wild honey! We called the air again, headed joyfully toward up a chap one night and inquired, 'How Reno. high is your ceiling?' He must have taken By train the distance is more than 300 a quick glance around his office, for after miles; but beyond Beowawe we deserted a pause he said, “About 10 feet, I think ; the tracks to follow the shorter air trail but if you'll wait a minute I'll measure it'! over Carson Sink, thereby saving 70
“Last winter I put through a call to a miles. caretaker at one of the Nebraska fields. This land is all part of that vast inland 'How's the weather?' I asked. “Not so plateau between the Wasatch and Sierra bad for this time o' year,' was his answer. Nevada ranges. Cut by a hundred minor
“But the worst problem is on the East- mountain groups that rise several thouern Division. The only caretakers that sand feet above the general 5,000-foot could be found for three of the Allegheny level, and draining to neither sea, it lies fields speak nothing but Pennsylvania silently aloof, in ashen baldness, wrapped Dutch-and this within 100 miles of in an ominous neutrality, in a solemn susPhiladelphia!"
pense of waiting
There is a man, a stranger to me, who ought to make a Aight over this country.
He is the one who is reported to have said that if he owned Hades and Texas, he would rent Texas and live in Hades. At one place on our course, so "Tex” Marshall declares, it is 50 miles by trail to the nearest sheepherder's hut or miner's cabin and no trail !
Almost every range between Salt Lake and Reno has made its bitter comment upon the progress of the mail, though, happily, no fatalities have resulted.
Photograph by MacGregor and Vallin
Colombia and Australia, and the remaining 69 per cent in Europe, with 31.9 per cent in France, and 13.9 per cent in England.
ALKALINE SALT GLISTENS LIKE GOLD
One winter morning Scott was hugging the Southern Pacific tracks, tearing along through the Aying snow, when his ribbony guide disappeared in a tunnel and the wall of the mountain rose up sheer before him.
It was too late to turn. Pulling back hard on the control stick and jamming the throttle wide open, he just managed to zoom over the saddle. As he scraped the top, his tail skid uprooted a large clump of sagebrush; and there it hung under the fuselage, all the way to Salt Lake.
Still, this land is not wholly devoid of beauty. As the Arabs say of the Sahara, "There is heaven above."
Some of the scarred desert hills are marvelously tinted with all the colors of autumn woods; and once, as we detoured around a heavy rain squall, I thought we had discovered the pot of gold that lies at the end of the rainbow. On drawing closer I saw that that which glistened there was only alkaline salt.
Across the whole length of the western sky, in the glow of the sinking sun, hung the white crown of the Sierras, “the eastern wall of the land of gold," while in the fertile Truckee meadows at its base we made out Reno, the last stop between us and our goal.
Then came the great day. Straight toward the mountains we headed, following Truckee Canyon. As we
climbed higher and higher, fresh beauty and found him hanging over the side of streamed into view and the grand, massive the fuselage, lost in wonder and amazeuplift of the Sierras spread out in all its ment. His Cheshire grin relaxed only ineffable glory.
for an instant, as he leaned forward to I wonder if in all the world there is shout exultantly above the roar of the another range so sublime and yet so ac- engine, "California, we are here!" cessible.
In a brief hour our long-dreamed of Deep in a girdle of snow-mantled peaks goal lay spread before us. The vast basin lay the broad blue expanse of Lake Ta- of San Francisco Bay, beaten with dry hoe, its distant shore hidden under the sunshine, glistened and sparkled in its hilly dense shadow of a thunderstorm. The crad'e. Little ferryboats scampered across towering columns of the clouds pressed the water, trailing tiny white streamers of forward in noiseless tumult, dragging foam, and through the Golden Gate came their rain-drenched skirts across
floating long, lazy wisps of fog. mountain tops, while we fled westward, At the foot of the Presidio hill, beseeking the pass before the storm should yond a thick carpet of buildings, lay the intercept us.
field. As our wheels touched the sandy
ground, Pete gave a mighty shout, and OVER "THE HUMP” OF THE SIERRAS
the plane had scarcely stopped rolling beJust in the nick of time we slipped fore we both rose in our cockpits and, through a 9,000-foot saddle into Rubicon leaning across the windshield, solemnly Canyon; and, as we passed, a great forked shook hands! arrow of lightning crashed into the moun
THE MAIL PILOT'S VISION OF AMERICA'S tain side near by, throwing out a weird violet light, as if in sullen rage at our
HERITAGE escape. We were over “The Hump” at Such a vision of America as had been last !
accorded us! Such an overwhelming Below us Rubicon River leaped in wild revelation of the wonder and majesty of abandon down the rocky steps of its our national heritage! With it our faith canyon, while the pinnacles of the Sier- in perfection had passed into vision. ras receded eastward, sharply silhouetted We had trailed the elusive West to its against the storm. A glorious, iridescent last retreat, and had found that the West rainbow ring formed in the spray at the is not a place only a stage of progress: head of a cascade and, plunging over the everywhere one people, one civilization, ledge with us, slid down the waterfall to one spirit, one all-embracing sense of navanish in a deep pool at its base.
tionality. Far ahead, beyond the dark forest zone, We had followed the Mail to its farwe could see a yellow, hazy belt that thest outpost; had shared its joys and marked the broad valley of the Sacra- some of its dangers; and we felt, after mento, the “Grand Central Garden," as the manner of the Romans, that perJohn Muir called it.
chance we could join the Mail pilot in his I squirmed around in the cockpit to proud boast, Civis aerius sum—“I am a point out some fresh marvel to Peter, citizen of the air !"