Billy Gearheart was milking the cows because his father had been called in by the volunteer fire departed to fight a barn fire. He didn’t mind milking Beulah because she was a gentle cow and Billy always fed the cows before milking them. But Bessie, she was mean, and always tried to kick over the mil bucket. He had tied her leg back and was pushing hard against her side with his head, but she still tried to kick the bucket. His cat, Tom, was watching him and asking fir a shot of milk, so ever so often, Billy would shoot a stream of milk into his open mouth. He finished the milking and turned the cows out into the barnyard. As he was carrying the two buckets of milk, Billy was thinking that two was his lucky number. He had two cows, he was carrying two buckets of milk, and he had two lucky charms, one in each pocket.
His mother looked him up and down, as she combed his hair. “Your white shirt is still clean, your overalls look okay, and your shoes are still shined. You didn’t get any of the mess in the barn on your clothes. So, here are two quarters, your lunch is packed, there’s your treat for the teacher, and off to school you go.” She gave him a fast kiss, slapped him on the butt, and he was off to school.
The children were running around the schoolyard and Billy joined in the fun and games. The teacher, Mrs. Press, rang the bell and they all went into the one room schoolhouse. After the children were in their assigned seats, the teacher said, “Let’s all stand up and recite the Pledge of Allegiance.” All the children stood and out their hand over their hearts and, in unison, recited the pledge. After they sat down Mrs. Press said, “Children, take out paper and pencil and write your name at the top. Then write the date as follows, August 20, 1914. Your homework will be to write about what you see and hear today. We will now assemble in the yard by two’s, little children first, then big children in the rear. Then we will march to the Miami River. Stay together, and stay behind the ropes that are strung out near the river.”
The sun was shining, not a cloud in sight, and the cool night air was warming as the children marched to the river. They were all assembled behind the ropes at the edge if the river, talking, laughing, and giggling. They got quiet when a 1912 Ford came through the trees towing a boat hull, mounted on two bicycle wheels. The car was disconnected and drove back through the trees. Then a large flat bed truck came through the tress hauling a double winged structure with a long boom that has vertical and horizontal fixtures on the rear. The children were excited and made all kinds of comments: “It is a boat?” “Its got two big fan blades!” “I see a motor.” And “Gosh, them are long wings.” The load was removed and the truck left. The bicycle wheels were removed and the men put the two pieces together.
The Model “G”Aeroboat was pushed out into the shallow part of the Miami River on the Miami Shores side. Then Orville Wright, wearing his hat backwards with goggles on forehead, climbed aboard and settled into the pilot’s seat. The co-pilot, a Navy Lieutenant, Kenneth Whiting, climbed aboard on the other side and settled in next to Orville. The men on the ground turned the two propellers over a few time and gave Orville the okay sign. The motor started and the props began to whirl. The children were really excited now and their comments increased: “Is it a flying boat?” “It’s like two large fans blowing air!” “Will it really fly? And “It is a flying boat!” The ground crew pushed the Aeroboat into deep water. The throttle was opened up and the Aeroboat sped down the river. Faster and Faster, the hull rose up on top of the water, and the “Flying Boat” was airborne. The children were amazed and could not take their eyes off the plane as it flew over the Miami Shores and all around to the upper part of the bend of the river.
The teacher and children had turned a full circle as they watched the Model “G” Aeroboat fly in a large circle and make a turn to come down and land in the river. “Look, they are coming down to land in the river,” one of the children shouted. Sure enough, the plane was on an approach to land in the river. “Oh no! It’s falling into the river!” another child shouted. Something had broken and part of a wing fell off as the Aeroboat plunged into the Miami River. “Are they drowned?” “I see one head pop up.” There’s another one.” The children cheered as the pilot and co-pilot swam out of the river and waded ashore.
Billy was happy as he played with his two lucky charms. He had taken two Gooseberry Crumbles to the teacher, they had marched in tow’s to the river, two men had flown a “Flying Boat” in a large circle, crashed into the river, survived, and now the two mules were being used to pull the wrecked plane out of the river. Two was certainly his lucky number and now he knew what he would write about today’s event for his homework. And he would have a lot to tell his mom and dad.
Editor’s Note: This is a fictional account of events that happened in the bend of the Miami River in 1913 and 1914 as Orville Wright and his employees flew several versions of seaplanes in and out of the river over 100 times. Orville’s flight log details each flight including the one where the wing broke and plunged him and co-pilot into the river. Read about this history on a bronze plaque at the Miami & Erie Canal Park on Marina Drive, West Carrollton, as you look out to the bend of the river where is all happened.
Moraine City Mayor Carl W. Gerhardt was thrilled, as a grade school student in 1914, when the teacher, Mrs. Madge Routsong Prass led the children to the river to watch Orville test his “Flying Boat” An article about this event was published by the Kettering-Moraine Museum and Historical Society. Mr. Gerhardt was mayor from 1970 to 1975.