Watching a boy and his father fly a radio-controlled plane in a park reminded me how much fun I had with planes when I was a kid.
Of course, I never had a radio-controlled plane as a boy. I was lucky to have a transistor radio.
What I had fun with were wooden gliders.
They could be bought at the five-and-dime store in Thibodaux for a silver dime. I don’t remember any sales tax or maybe the cashier took pity on me since a dime was usually all I had.
The gliders came in a long, skinny pack that included a fuselage, a main wing, a tail and a tail wing.
The naturally colored balsa wood had a few red outlines, including a cockpit and pilot.
When I bought a glider I was impatient for mama to finish shopping so I could get home and slip the wings into their slots.
If you pulled the main wing all of the way to the rear of its slot, the plane would fly in loops especially if thrown into even the slightest breeze.
If you moved the wing forward, the plane would fly on the long straight path I usually preferred.
Kids might get quickly bored with such a simple toy now, but I spent hours with my 10-cent purchases trying to make them fly especially long distances or zip between obstacles.
Most challenging was to pick out a distant landing field, which may be nothing but a patch of smooth dirt and aim for a perfect landing.
I learned not to play with a glider if Lady was out of her pen. Lady, a pointer, was trained to retrieve. She had a soft mouth for quail, but not so for the wings of a glider.
Another hazard was the big ditch that ran between my yard and the sugar cane field. A soggy glider was done for the day.
Worse were the tree limbs that seemed determined to snatch gliders from the air.
A gust taking a glider onto the roof was a temporary travail. The plane would usually blow off in one piece.
Nevertheless, gliders generally lasted only a few days before the patchwork began. Lost or broken tails could be replaced with a cut-out piece of a cereal box.
A broken wing presented a serious problem. If glue or tape didn’t fix it, the fun was over. I never could fashion a main wing light and sturdy enough to fly satisfactorily.
Parts of broken planes went into a box for future fixes.
The five-and-dime also sold propeller planes that worked by turning the blade enough times to twist a rubber band to make it fly. They even had wheels so they could take off from the ground. I really wanted one, but they were out of my price range.
My father finally bought me one, but for some reason I found it disappointing.
Maybe it was a first lesson that things don’t give more pleasure just because they are fancier or more expensive.
Sometimes simple is better, but that’s not to say I wouldn’t have gone crazy over a radio-controlled plane like the one in the park.
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