Years ago, all the little corner stores had section of toys. There were slingshots, crummy plastic gizmos and the best: balsa wood airplanes. The balsa airplanes were somewhat of a treasure. They usually didn't last long and were easily broken. If not lost in a tree, a neighborhood dog could destroy one in an instant.
There were two types of balsa wood airplanes: the glider, which was fairly simple and the rubber band powered glider with wheels. Both were inexpensive by today's standards, but at that time, they were a sizable expenditure for our young minds to consider. The glider meant finding five coke bottles; the powered version required thirteen, which could mean days of looking and not buying a Frosty root beer and a Zero candy bar. When the long barefoot walk down hot asphalt streets was added, the airplanes required measured thought before purchasing.
Late one evening, after a strong summer thunderstorm, my brother and I ventured out front to survey the aftermath. It was a perfect evening. The damp streets were still running water at the curbs. The trees dripped in the completely still air. Traffic was light and my brother knew it was the best opportunity to fly his balsa wood airplane.
He brought his plane to the street, wound the rubber band and let it fly. It made a short loop through the steam that rose from the street and crashed in a neighbor's yard. He did this a few more times and then had an idea: Wind the rubber band almost to the breaking point and see if the plane would take off. He tried his idea and it worked.
The light was fading and the brilliant orange of the dissipating clouds signaled that our evening was almost over. Soon we would have to go in. My brother wound his airplane extra tight to make one last significant flight. He carefully placed the plane on the ground, adjusted the tail fins just a tad, and let go of the propeller. After a few moments on the ground, the plane took off, made three lazy circles over the street, and made a perfect three point landing.
We both stood in silence for a moment. We had just witnessed an unforgettable moment in time. I don't remember what he said when he spoke, but it was pure joy. He couldn't believe what we just witnessed, and neither could I. He had to try again. He did, but his effort was in vain. I don't think he ever managed another three point landing, until he was getting his pilot license.
That was over forty years ago. A lot happened since that time and I'll never be able to share that moment with my brother again. He's gone, so I decided to share it with you.