Tag Archives: a moment’s indecision

Joining a Murmuration (or) Bud Cowart’s view

8 Jun

Here is this week’s submission for Madison Woods’ FridayFictioneers. I knew what I would write about the moment I saw the picture below. Blimps, airships, dirigibles, Zeppelins; silent, imposing, and fantastic, have figured large in my life. More on that in my next post. This one must go out now. The link to Madison’s story is here. Join in the fun by reading, commenting and posting a link to your story.

The airship rose, lifting us all into the sky. I scrambled up the thick brown rope, then slid down and sat on the wide wooden toggle. Gripping the line hard with both hands, I took stock and only then realized everyone had let go except Bob and Nigel, who each dangled, white knuckled and ashen faced from two of the tethers.

Far below, my frantic shipmates looked like a murmuration of starlings swooping to and fro above the dusty floor of the mesa.

 After a while, unable to maintain their purchase on this life, my friends took flight to join them.


(You’ve read the 100 word story inspired by the photo. Now here’s a slightly longer tale from another perspective and some information to put everything in its proper place. If you’re pressed for time (WordPress joke?) please comment and drive on, but if you have a few minutes, please add what follows to your thought process. Aloha, D.)

Wednesday, May 11th, 1932.

 We were just forty boys picked for an easy detail toward the end of boot camp at Naval Training Center, San Diego.  We stood to morning quarters, ate chow, then boarded a bus that took us the ten miles out to Camp Kearny. Scuttlebutt was that we were going to be ground crew to help the Akron land.

 Orders were to grab hold of the bow lines and hang on. Sounded like fun and kind of was until the ballast system gave up the ghost. Those in the know cut the main mooring line to keep the huge airship from doing a headstand and when they did there was no stopping her ascent. Wish they’d told us that.

 We really tried to do our job, but things got way out of hand. I was one of the seven you can see in the newsreels who let go early enough to live and be forgotten. It was no big deal; I’d jumped out of haylofts higher. Bob and Nigel waited too long and then couldn’t secure themselves. When their strength gave out they fell for what seemed like forever, legs and arms wind-milling to their dusty impacts. Bud Cowart hung on like a limpet and lived to tell the tale. Even got himself a tour after they hoisted him in.

 The Akron eventually landed and thirty-eight of us returned to base that night as men.

 I’d been thinking about striking for Aviation Metalsmith but airships had pretty much lost their luster. Too risky. Besides, I knew a yeoman who said he could get me orders to the battleship Arizona in the Pacific Fleet. Magazine tender. Sounded like easy duty.

(Thanks for making it this far. Thought you guys and gals might like to know about the Akron and the heyday and hubris of the big airships.)(Skip the ad right away–sorry about that–it’s a content driven world, alas.)