There are times when airplanes remind me that they are more than a means to an end...

Yesterday, as I drove around the airport I happened to notice Vess' car parked in front of a hangar and the door open so I stopped in to say hello. Inside, to my delight, was a 1929 Fairchild KR-34 biplane. She instantly reminds you that there was a time when the things we didn't know about aviation outnumbered the things we did know by orders of magnitude. Somehow we still managed to defy our creator and spend time with the birds. Some would even say, and often I would be inclined to agree, that it was better then. That is for another day.

Underneath it was Vess, a steady stream of swear words, the mechanic's prayer, escaping his lips. Airplanes get that old by being stubborn and Vess has been tasked with helping to get her airworthy again after a slight mishap. Old airplanes are a weakness of mine, so I hung around for a while and helped out. Today I went back to the airport when I really should have been doing other things. I have papers to write, finals to think about. What am I thinking? I'm graduating in a month... maybe. I'm a fool for this sort of thing. Today while flat on my back I began to examine carefully the collection of wood, tube, fabric, leather and simplicity that 77 years ago was born into this world as the state of the art. As Vess almost lovingly pointed out, old airplanes are like snowflakes, no two are exactly the same. There are no books to guide you other than generalized acceptable practices, but then, what more do you need? We were disassembling some rudder cable turnbuckles that refused to turn, cleaning and oiling them and that's when the feeling I could feel building inside me came into clear focus in my mind. I could almost feel the faint echoes of history. I was connected with the long line of hands beginning with the ones that built the machine, following through to those who kept her safe throughout the years.

Our hands are the most recent in a long line of caretakers who merely borrow some time with history. If we do our jobs correctly we return it in better condition than we found it and hopefully the next pair of hands will do the same and 77 years from now, when this airplane is a century and a half old, I will connect with the next person who needs to disassemble the turnbuckles and oil them because they refuse to turn. And I can only hope that they feel my presence and smile. History will repeat itself and like those before us, we will live on.

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