After Sid learned to fly, he often showed up at Magnolia Airport for “hangar flying” — loafing around the hangar in case there was an opportunity to fly. One day while he was there alone, he had a bright idea that almost killed him.
The unpaved runway was covered with clover. “Once a year,” says Sid, “they’d reseed the clover. And in anticipation of that, Sicky [Mr. Sickafoose] had bought two big gunny sacks full of clover seed. They were sittin’ there, and we all knew what it was and what it was for, we just never got around to getting a group together to go out and seed the field.
“I’m all by my lonesome one day. He had horse-traded for a monstrosity — it was a Piper Cub that somebody had equipped for crop dusting. It was the last plane in the world you’d wanna use for crop dusting. It had two big bins in the back for the chemicals, about halfway back in the fuselage. Each one would hold, I found out, one bag of clover seed.”
The Piper Cub was the airborne equivalent of the Volkswagen Bug. It was slow, cheap, and very popular in its day. Unlike a Bug, the Cub had only two seats and no trunk. It was definitely not made for carrying cargo.
In an airplane, balance is just as important as weight. You want the center of gravity to be at the wing. Putting extra weight in the back of a plane is generally a really bad idea, because it can make the plane uncontrollable. Somehow, though, Cubs with pesticide tanks in the rear were apparently pretty common.
And did I mention that there was a huge tree at the end of the runway?
Sid continues, “So I thought, ‘Nobody’s here; I’ll just plant that clover seed.’ We broadcast it anyhow, this would be a great way to broadcast it. So I emptied the two bags into it and I’m thinking, ‘Boy, am I gonna be a hero.’ And I went out to the runway and started down, and I got to the rotation point, and nothing was happening. I wasn’t even getting the tail off the ground. And I thought, ‘Oooh, shit! There’s a big tree down there at the end, and I’m not gonna clear it.’ And at that point, I just pulled the lever and dumped the two bags of clover seed, and of course the plane shot up like a rocket and went through a couple twigs in the top of the tree. I escaped that one by the skin of my chinny-chin chin.
“I went back, and as soon as I could, I went down to the mill and bought two new sacks and put ‘em back so nobody would know what I’d done.
“And then, in about three months, everybody was saying, ‘Have you ever seen such a stand of clover as we have at the south end of the field? God, we’re not gonna have to do anything with that part of the field this year.’”
Sid just said, “You know, it’s prob’ly the good rains we’ve had or something.”