Tuesday, June 26, 2007

AV - Found in a Barn

More of a shed, actually. On top of a cabinet. Under a carton of magazines tossed up there about twenty years ago, now glued into a solid lump of water damaged paper.

It was a pad of fabric, at first unrecognizable as such. Like the magazines, it was glued together and I tossed it into the growing pile of trash. Later, loading the trash into garbage bags, a layer of the fabric came free revealing a brittle chunk of masking tape and the figure ‘15' that triggered a flood of memories.

It was the summer of 1968. I’d recently returned from Vietnam and was helping a friend recover his Cub. We were using Grade ‘A’ cotton because he’d been given a whole roll of the stuff. We were working in one of the old wooden hangars at Brown Field, under a bit of pressure because the space was borrowed, as were most of our tools.

He’d never done any fabric-work and my skills were stale at best but we got the job done, right through the final coats of Cub Yellow, a glistening black lightning bolt and twelve-inch hull number.

There was some fabric left over and Witt gave it to me. I rolled it around the tube and hauled it home. A couple of years later I took it to the local EAA swap-meet, tagged with the length: ‘15'. But no one wanted fifteen feet of Grade ‘A’ cotton and I hauled hit home again.

I forget how the tube got crushed, bent in the middle. I unrolled the fabric, folded it up and... put it somewhere.

The Cub is long gone, off to where ever old Cubs go. So too is my friend, his death in the mid-west discovered by accident long after the fact, too late for cards or condolences, remembered only as a laughing, smiling fellow Chief Petty Officer with whom I’d shared a couple of tours of duty. And a passion for flying.

I stood there with the hunk of fabric in my hand, the garbage bag waiting. But you can’t throw something like that away.

I washed the fabric carefully in cold water with just a dash of soap. It was pretty bad. The mildew had eaten holes and imparted a leopard-like pattern of stains. But enough of it remains to make a shirt or two; something good enough to wear while working around airplanes. And remembering old friends.


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