Interview with Lincoln Beachey
Exclusive Interview with the Birdman
Keep your seats, friends; we are going to have a heart to heart talk with Lincoln Beachey, the greatest aviator the world has ever known. Beachey sat alone in his mother's modest home, and it was with considerable shyness that we entered the presence of this great man. We had heard so much about him, about his wonderful flying, his daring feats, his death-defying stunts in the air, that we almost imagined he would be far from an ordinary man. But he wasn't. He was just a plain, everyday sort of man, of common tastes, and thinks he is no better than anyone else. And he smokes 5 cent cigars which retail at only one jitney apiece! We could hardly believe it, but he showed us the brand. They were--well, no free advertising for any cigar firm, but we assure you they were 5-cent cigars. Beachey is short of stature, but by no means bad looking, and with a smile and a hearty handshake that would put an office-seeking candidate in the shade. He extended his hand and we grasped it. "I'm certainly glad to meet you," he said. "Won't you sit down?" We accepted the invitation and proceeded to look the great man over. He smiled at our apparent display of awe. "Now I want you to feel right at home," said Beachey. "Here, have a smoke and tell me just what you want. I'll be glad to give you any information you may desire." We accepted the smoke with considerable alacrity. Cigars are somewhat of a luxury to a poor newspaper man, who, as a general rule, can smoke nothing better than a pipe, and we were about to light it when we were struck with a bright idea. At times an idea really does strike us, and this was one of those times. Why smoke this cigar? Had it not been presented to us by a truly great man? Therefore, was it not a fitting keepsake? Indeed it was, and so we stored it carefully in an outside pocket, and it will repose for years to come with other relics we have gathered in past years. Finally we mustered up sufficient courage to speak. "Well, Mr. Beachey, our readers would like to know how it feels to soar up into the clouds." "All I can say is that I like it," said Beachey. "What! Do you mean to say, Mr. Beachey, that there is any pleasure in such a display of recklessness?" We could hardly believe our ears. Again that broad smile flitted across his features, and somehow we felt more at ease. "Call it what you like, my friend, but don't call it recklessness. Yes, indeed I like it. I am always careful. I always thoroughly overhaul my machine before every flight, examine every wire, test the engine, and get everything into shape so that there is practically no danger. No, I am not reckless, as many people believe." We took his word for it. "How does it feel, Mr Beachey, to fly thousands of feet in the air in this manner?" "Well, it is a pleasing sensation that I cannot describe. You know when a man's in love? A feeling something like that." "Is it that pleasing?" we exclaimed. And right then and there we decided that flying must be all right. "You see, there is always a chance that you might fall; you are always in some danger, just the same as when you are in love. That's why I make the comparison. Many an aviator has taken a hard fall, never to recover-and so has many a lover. "A great scientist once told me that I had the bird instinct in my being. As a boy, I was a great lover of birds. Their song did not appeal to me as much as their superb dips and dives and other feats of flying. I often wanted to emulate them. Now I can do things the birds cannot do. I can loop the loop and fly upside-down. "You ask me how it feels," continued the great aviator, "to soar in the heavens. Well, as you go up, up, up, you seem to be standing still with the earth rapidly moving away from you. And as you mount higher the air becomes cooler. Far below you can see the world stretched beneath, and the cities look like toy houses, the people look like midgets. It is a pleasing sensation; makes one feel free and happy and helps to drive away your earthly troubles. "It is simply the dancing along life's icy brink and the attendant excitement that makes life worth while. Chance-taking is not a business with me. It is a delightful diversion, and no music lover ever is more charmed by listening to the inspiring strains of his favorite opera, superbly sung by a great artist, than I am charmed by the hum of my motor when I am sailing in or out of a loop and upside-down flight. Some hunt lions and tigers for thrills. But I love the sky and answer its call because my whole life centers around the sensations of flying.
Lincoln Beachey: The Man Who Owned the Sky
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