News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

I know who you are...

I found a sweet old 1946 wooden-main-spar Cub for sale at the Oregon City airport back in 1966. I was working for OMSI as the staff naturalist at the time and really needed the Cub to continue the golden eagle surveys I had started about a year after I rolled into Bend on my Harley in ’51.

My two older boys, Dean and Ross, were introduced to the sense of flying, and taking control in that Cub, which may have led to their becoming F-16 instructor pilots. It also made it possible for me to continue checking the eagle nests in Central Oregon.

One hot spring morning I took off from Bend to check Fort Rock, Cougar Mountain, and other breeding sites, and let myself get so involved with eagle-searching I didn’t notice the thunderstorms at all quadrants. By the time I was ready to head for home and landed at Christmas Valley for fuel, there was a dark curtain of thunderstorms between Fort Rock and points north, so I decided I’d stay in Christmas Valley.

My old pal, Shorty Gustafson, his wife, Echo, and their beautiful daughter, Judy, lived there and Echo made the best elk-and-cream-gravy there was on Earth. As we were chowing down, there came a sudden crash against the side of the house. Looking up in alarm, I asked Shorty, “What was that!?”

“The wind,” he replied. That sent shivers down my back, and I blurted out, “If that was the wind, I just lost an airplane,” and we all jumped into Shorty’s pickup. Sure enough as we pulled into the tie-down area the Cub wasn’t there — even though I had tied it down. Well, sort of…

There it was, the left wing down into the rocks and gravel, wingtip at right angles with the rest of the wing, and the fuselage caught under the goose-neck of an 18-wheeler flat-bed trailer. With the wind still howling, we hauled the grease-covered Cub out from under the goose-neck, got it back on two wheels and then tied it to the pickup and trailer house and Shorty rolled a big pile of heavy-duty high-tension wire under the other wing and tied it down tight.

Next morning was a sight. The Cub was where we left it; however the left wing-tip was crunched, there was a large slash of grease on top of the fuselage, and worst of all, the fuselage was twisted to the point where the tail-section was out of whack with the rest of the plane, and there big wrinkles in the fuselage skin.

I could see the task of taking the wings off, trailering it to Bend for repairs, and mucho bucks flying out of my pocket to fix my poor old broken Cub.

Shorty stood looking at the twisted fuselage, went to his pickup and came back with a flashlight, opened the doors to the interior of the Cub and crawled over the back seat into the so-called luggage area. He spent quite a while swinging the flashlight around, inspecting the framework.

When he returned from his cramped investigation he said, “I think I can straighten out your airplane.” I didn’t believe it and said so. “Well,” Shorty began, “I don’t see any breaks in the welding, or holes in the skin, so, let’s give it a try.”

With that, he untied his pickup from the Cub and drove away. When he returned he had a big pile of sleeping pads and blankets, along with a bunch of old harness from his horse-freighting days. He instructed me (and bystanders) to hold the pads and blankets and began to weave the old harness around the fuselage like a spider wrapping up a grasshopper.

When he was done we drove another pickup under the left wing and tied it down in several places, and did the same to his pickup. We then tied the landing gear and nose section to the tie-downs directly under it so, for all practical purposes, the airplane was stuck to the ground.

He told the bystanders to hold the wings, nose and front of the fuselage from moving as he tied Echo’s long clothesline pole to the harness and said, “Now, Jimmy, go behind the airplane and watch what happens.” And he began to pull down on the long jill-poke.

Slowly, the empennage (tail and elevators combined) began to come into alignment with the wings. As Shorty kept grunting and pulling on the pole things got better, the wrinkles came out of the skin and the tail was vertical to the wings. “You’re there!” I shouted, and then he gave the pole one more mighty yank.

I couldn’t believe it. Everything was lined up like it should be.

”You did it!” I shouted, and taking the flashlight I crawled into the rear of the fuselage and inspected the welded joints—every one of them. Not one was broken. I really couldn’t believe it, but it appeared the Cub was airworthy again. Then I looked at the broken wing-tip.

Shorty saw me looking at the wing tip, took a hacksaw off the front seat of the pickup, got up on a ladder, sawed off the wingtip at the wing rib. Then took a feed sack he’d brought with him and with the rolls of tape he’d also brought along, made a giant band-aid for the damaged wing.

After much hand-shaking and hugging to all who helped during the operation, I took off for Bend — first leveling off about three feet above the runway and shaking the Cub as violently as I could. I even bounced the wheels on the runway. Everything stayed where it belonged, so I headed north.

When I landed at Bend, I pulled up to the gas pumps to fill the tanks and a big guy I’d never seen before was leaning against a beautiful red Stinson Voyager, smiling. “I know who you are” he said; “you’re Jim Anderson.” And walked over to inspect the bandaged wing-tip.

“I don’t know you,” I replied, “so how can you know me?”

“Elementary,” he said, walking over and offering his hand, “I’m Dean Johnson.” As we shook he continued, “I know you’re Jim Anderson by the condition of your Cub.” I started to say something but he held up his hand and went on. “Look, it’s obvious. You got one of the eagles you’re always pestering very unset; it tried to tear your wing off, and smeared you-know-what all over your fuselage.”

We were good pals, and had many soaring adventures together, and someday, you’ll have to ask me about his book, “What I Know About Fly Fishing On The Rogue River.” You won’t find it in the library…


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