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Mon. July 19

In chapter 11 of my upcoming novel, A Spent Bullet, a Grasshopper scout plane crash lands into the Reed family okra patch.  It’s nose and propeller bury in the ground, and Mr. Reed (Poppa) brings his plow team to pull it loose.

This brings on a conversation between the pilot and the old farmer about the values of “horsepower.”

This passage is told from the POV (point of view) of our main character, Elizabeth Reed.

A special thanks to Mr. Riley Martin of Grant/Soapstone, LA for telling his boyhood story of a similar plane crash during the Army maneuvers.

The horses strained, the nose broke free of the ground, allowing the tail section to become horizontal. With a triumphant look, Mr. Reed tipped his hat. “All of that new equipment’s good, but when it comes down to it, horsepower still gets the job done.”

The pilot grinned, “Thank you, Sir.” Brushing the dirt off his plane’s propeller, he said, “But there’s more than one kind of horsepower.”

Poppa wiped his face. “I reckon there is, but I still trust my kind better than yours.”  He nodded at the sky. “What are ya ‘ll looking at up there?”

“We’re tracking armor movements. Seeing how the tanks are holding up on the roads and trails. That’s one of the main purposes of these maneuvers:  seeing if the tanks can do better than horse cavalry.”

Poppa kicked at the dust. “I wouldn’t be too sure of that. When this dust turns to Louisiana gumbo mud, any vehicle will be useless. But I’ve never seen a horse bogged down yet.”

The pilot said, “Horses didn’t help in Poland against the Germans.”

“Well, this ain’t Germany.” Poppa nodded at the ground. “It’s the home of mud that’ll suck a vehicle under. I bet y’all will be leaving tanks buried in the mud.”

Louisiana gumbo mud Can you identify the make/model and year?

A man “swore” this weekend to me, “… a tank was left buried after the ’41 maneuvers. It was years later before the Army came and dug it out.”

The pilot was obviously enjoying the banter with Mr. Reed. He opened the door of his plane. “The best way to cross Louisiana swamps is from the air.”

Elizabeth knew her father’d get in the last word.  He glanced up at the sky before nodding at the grounded plane. “If you can stay in the air, that is.”

I’m open to all feedback on horses, tanks, grasshopper planes, soldiers, and country folk in the mid-20th century.

If anyone with military experience (esp. WWII vintage) would like to help with military accuracy, I’m always committed to improving and being accurate. Let me know.


About Curt Iles

I write to have influence and impact through well-told stories of my Louisiana and African sojourn.

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