A View from Broadway

The forest through the trees

By Ken Burdick
October 2020

Yes Folks, it’s true.

The Trees watched as Buzz, Jeff and Kennyb drove onto the dry brown ground at the Arlington, Wash., field.
The field was originally an emergency landing area for the small airport there, but some of the Stunt guys had persuaded the powers that be to allow us control-line modelers to fly there.

The trees didn’t care. They had been there for many years before any of this happened, so they watched us with curiosity and some trepidation because they had seen us before and knew that nothing good might come from our visit.

This was 1999 and I was enjoying the plug 'n' play formula of F2D Combat. Screaming Redko engines and Wakkerman 3 airplanes were my favorite back then. I was fairly new to F2D, I hadn’t worked out all the bugs of securing a muffler to the whole mess, so now and then one would launch itself into the air and go where only the trees might know. It was on this very occasion that once again in the midst of doing square eights as close to the ground as I could, that the Redko let fly my last muffler. We all gave our thoughts as to where it might be, then we all walked the circle, then abreast separated by 10 feet — nada, no muffler. After a good 30 minutes of this I gave up, Buzz Wilson, however, was just getting started.

The trees noticed that Buzz was thinking hard and kept looking at his wad of keys. He would take them from his pocket, look at them and then put them back again, most curious and not tree-like at all.

“Ken” he yelled, “Watch where my keys go, or I’ll never get home again.”

“OK,” said I, and the trees and I watched Buzz walk to the center of the circle and take the keys from his pocket. He then threw his keys in an high arching toss, just beyond where the edge of the circle would have been when I was flying.  I spotted the keys and like a good retriever, brought them back. “Ok, now where did the muffler fly off?” he said. I pointed, and he once again threw in the same manner.

The trees were by then engrossed in this tossing of the keys, and all taking sides as to the merit of the idea.  The alders remarked, “Folly! He’s going to have to walk home,” while the Douglas fir said, “Let’s wait and see who is walking where.” The pines and cottonwoods remained profoundly silent and refused to comment even when asked directly, which is not like them at all.

I watched as the keys flew through the air, and we all three made a bee-line to where they landed. Buzz then exclaimed, “the muffler is near here.” Jeff Rein and I looked at each other, as did the trees, each one thinking that Buzz had gone round the bend, but we began to search — and we found the muffler 10 feet from where the keys had landed.

There was much commotion from the small forest and we all thought it was simply the wind and not the “I told you so” emanating from one tree to the next. We still (none of us) know why this method works, but have employed it many times with mostly success.

The trees, meanwhile, were settling down and although somewhat irritated at the noise, were glad for some entertainment the three of us provided.

It was then that Buzz and Jeff brought out two very smelly Vintage Diesel Combat wings. I was having none of it, and sat polishing my ultra-clean and odor-free Wakkerman.

Lines were run out, streamers attached and the awful concoction of ether, oil and kerosene fuel was decanted. Soon the sounds of sputtering diesel engines filled the air as the two pilots squared off into their match.  The trees meanwhile, were taking wagers as to who the winner might be in this strange pugilistic demonstration, when it happened.

One oily, smelly mess of a Combat wing had wallowed in due to lack of power and had completely cut through the lines of Jeff's equally slimy aircraft. Flying in concentric and odd shaped loops, the “terrible thing” as they remarked later, was getting ever closer to the horrified onlooking trees.

With more of a squish than anything else, Jeff's oily, smelly Combat wing flew into the Douglas firs and was lost from sight. The three of us gave chase but could not see exactly where the “terrible thing” had gone. We looked through the brambles and brush without any success. Meanwhile, a fir tree was gagging and hoping for a strong wind to rid itself of the foul-smelling model that had launched itself into its otherwise pristine arms.

The more we searched, the more confused we became. “It did fly in about there, right?” “Yah, it’s gotta be here somewhere.” “Maybe it’s farther in.” So we went farther into the woods, but no luck. Buzz remarked, “We should be able to smell it!”

The tree, meanwhile, had had about enough of this foul deed and on our way back out of the woods, we found the “terrible thing” on the ground at the foot of the large fir tree. We never heard the sound of the tree actually spitting it out, we never heard the cheers from the surrounding trees, but just a whisper of the word gone.

We had returned to that flying site many times after that day, and while I could never say for sure, iIt seemed to me as if the trees looked different somehow, like they turned their backs to us.

-- Kennyb

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This page was upated Oct. 20, 2020