The Way It Was

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Editor’s note: This is another column in Bill Boyd’s new series, “The Way It Was,” about growing up in Marysville. Bill continues to work with the Union County Historical Society to obtain information for his stories. With Marysville and Union County celebrating Bicentennial anniversaries in 2019 and 2020, respectively, these articles help depict what life was like in those early years.

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The aviator

One of the first people I met when I started working at Scotts in the late 1950s was Don Nicol. Don, whose nickname was “Slippery,” was 10 years or so older than I was. He was born on his family’s farm south of Marysville. He graduated from one of the 10 small school districts that were scattered throughout Union County before the days of school consolidation, a school called Chuckery Darby.

As a teenager, Don liked things that went fast, things like motorcycles and “souped-up” cars. During World War II, he was in the army, stationed in England. He was part of the supply chain that provided supplies to the troops in Europe. It was an important job, but it wasn’t very exciting for a guy like Don. So he found his own excitement.

He had a friend who was an Army Air Corps pilot who flew bombing missions over Germany. Don asked if he could go along on one of those bombing missions. Don was single with no dependents, and he just wanted to see what that would be like.

His pilot friend agreed, and Don became the only person I ever knew who went on a bombing raid just for the fun of it. He could see the flak explosions near the plane, and a couple times, he thought the whole thing might have been a mistake. But in the end, he was glad he did it.

Don’s flying days were not over, for when the war ended, he decided to take flying lessons himself. They were available as part of the benefits of the “G.I. Bill.”

He took lessons at a small central Ohio airport. They went well, and he spent hours practicing takeoffs and landings. When his “solo” day finally arrived, he passed with flying colors, and he received his pilot’s license. Then he started planning his first flight.

When he finally made that first flight, it was a beautiful sunny day. He flew to Marysville, and flew low over the courthouse. Then he flew over his family farmhouse and dipped his wings. Next he headed south, over the Darby plains. Flying was a good way to relax.

Don listened to the muffled sound of the plane’s engine. It was a pleasant sound. So he sat back in his seat and enjoyed the view. Yes, flying was even better than he ever imagined.

Then, without any warning, that pleasant sound stopped. The only sound was the wind whistling outside the plane’s cabin. As he looked outside, he could see that the propeller had stopped. The plane had lost all power, and without power there was only one way it could go … down!

Oh man, what was he supposed to do now? He could remember everything he was told about takeoffs and landings, but he couldn’t recall anything at all about how to fly a plane without an engine. So he just concentrated on keeping the plane level and on a straight glide path.

As he gradually lost altitude, he spotted a large pasture directly in front of him. It might be a place where he could land. He hoped that field was long enough to make an emergency landing. But then, he had no other options, so he gave it a try.

The plane touched down in the pasture as softly as a runway landing. He used the plane’s flaps to slow it down, and it stopped about two feet from a fence … without a scratch on Don, or on the plane. He took a few deep breaths and sat alone in the plane for several minutes, until someone knocked on the side door.

It was a farmer who had been plowing in the adjacent field and had witnessed the whole thing. Once it was obvious that Don was not injured, the farmer pointed to his house. He told Don to go there, and his wife would let him use the telephone. Then the farmer said, “I’ve got work to do,” and he headed back to his tractor and resumed plowing.

Some time later, Don did some heavy-duty thinking. He had been pretty lucky when he went on that bombing raid over Germany. And he might have been even luckier on his first flight as a licensed pilot. He didn’t want to press his luck any farther. Besides, the responsibilities of fatherhood were in his future. So he let his pilot’s license expire. I think that may have been a good idea.

Those wishing to contact Bill Boyd can e-mail him at bill@davidwboyd.com



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