Monday, April 23, 2007

And the winners of the Mr. Wrong contest are . . .

I got some really great submissions about romance gone wrong in the Mr. Wrong contest. Who knew there were so many truly awful boyfriends out there? (Well, we all did.)

Two stood out, and I'm going to publish both of them here on my blog. Today's entry is by Cathy Prescott. It caught my eye initially because it takes place in the same part of Wisconsin where I live. Then again, it's just such a good story, I couldn't resist.

So congratulations to Cathy Prescott, my first winner, who will get a signed copy of the book and a T-shirt just as soon as she sends me her shirt size and address. Read her piece for yourself (and weep? laugh?). Tomorrow I'll bring you another installment of MR. WRONG: REAL-LIFE STORIES ABOUT THE MEN WE USED TO LOVE.

By the way, you can still enter (see the link above). The deadline was April 15 but, well, I'm easy about this stuff. And did you know that you, too, can have your very own MR. WRONG T-shirt? It's true. Send me an e-mail and I'll tell you how.

Crash Redpath
By Cathy Prescott

My former husband, James Redpath, was a flying nut. Maybe it stemmed from his days as a Green Beret, or maybe it was because he was a type T personality-fearless.

He bought his first airplane, an EAA Biplane, kit-built, one seater, with money saved to pay our real estate taxes. One seater’s do not allow the luxury of a flying instructor. “I’ll learn by practicing alone”, he said. He crashed it, uninsured, into a shoulder-high corn field near Lone Rock airport while trying to do a loop-the-loop, unable to pull out of a dive. He flattened 20 rows of corn. The emergency room physician called in the local surgeon to stitch-up James’s lacerated nose. After pulling out pieces of green cornstalk from the gaping edges, the surgeon commented that he was trying not to leave any “additional scars”, thus bestowing on James a dubious honor. James was not destined to gain reputation for his face.

His next plane fared better—a J3 Piper-Cub, yellow and black, two seater, with wing struts, and only three dials to read in the open cockpit: altimeter, speed indicator, and oil pressure gauge. The gas level was measured by a floating dipstick on top of the engine. When it quit floating, you were out of gas. He loved the freedom that plane gave him. He could skim the landscape at 1000 feet, come in at tree-top level to say “hi”, and land on his own grassy hillside, in Black Earth Valley. Even Jack McManus (a Madison high profile criminal trial attorney) owned a J3. James knew he flew in good company. Views were spectacular from the passenger-seat, as well. People lining up for a “bird’s eye view” flight were not disappointed. Riders, usually patrons thrilled by flying tales at Club 14, would drive down the hill to the farm, climb in on the strut, and seat-belt themselves in while he spun the prop, to start the engine. A half-hour later, the tinny-drone of the J3’s big radial engine could be heard, and soon the rider would be back on the ground, grinning, impressively awestruck after viewing a 30 mile radius of their own house, including power and phone lines, cows and pasture, and the hills and valleys lining the Wisconsin River.

One sunny June afternoon at three o’clock, James had picked up my 15 year old daughter as a passenger and they departed to do the usual sky-cruising. The sky was perfect, big blue fluffy clouds, visibility unimpaired. After the usual 30 minutes, he decided it was time to start for home as the gas float was dropping. Taking a new route this time, he flew through the neighbor’s North-South valley, which required a left-hand bank to line up for landing on his usual grassy strip below the hillside. This made him forget the whereabouts of the East-West high power-lines running through the valley, a bad mistake.

Into the turn, he clipped that high power line with his prop causing the line to stretch, then break, flinging one broken end into dry grass, starting a grass fire, and draping the other end over the roof of our nearby barn to leave it sparking into space. Remarkably, he was able to land the plane, although the plane had wires wrapped around the prop, and a strut was broken. Miraculously, he and my daughter were uninjured. He picked a most unfortunate time and place to cause this accident, however, as he put out the electricity between Black Earth and Mount Horeb just at milking time, a memorable event to farmers. And the local volunteer fire department had to be summoned to put out the grass fire. As a result, area farmers were most interested to hear who had caused their miserable loss of electricity at that particular time of day, on a beautiful sunny afternoon. They remembered his name.
I’ll bet, if Club 14 were still open, you could walk in there any evening, approach the bar, and ask any farmer sitting morosely, with a mug of draft beer at the bar, if they knew ever heard of a James Redpath? “Oh”, they would say, brightening up, you mean “Crash Redpath. Let me tell you a story about one sunny June afternoon. ”