Why Dora Didn’t Fly

27 Jan

My Take

DiVoran Lites

Piper Cub, Aircraft, Propeller, Yellow

Early in 1947 when we moved to Westcliffe,  Colorado. Ivan decided to learn to fly and by the beginning of summer he was determined to buy a plane, so we planned ahead. Our café and bar business was good, so we decided to save all the silver dollars and all the hundred dollar bills that came in. One man, a successful carpenter, came in every Saturday night throughout the summer and cashed a hundred dollar bill.  By September we had saved 512 silver dollars and 7 one hundred dollar bills so we went to Salida and bought our plane. It was a two-place, 65 horsepower yellow Piper Cub named Dinty Moore. Now Dinty was a fine plane for the low country, but he couldn’t always make it over the mountains.  

 To begin with, I hadn’t thought of learning to fly, until my husband, Ivan began taking lessons under the G. I. bill from a very competent instructor, Art Hibbs, who lived in Westcliffe and had also fought in WWII. He was familiar with mountain flying, but Ivan hadn’t never done anything like it. One of the things Ivan liked best was when Art stocked the high mountain lakes with fish. 

We lived in the town of Westcliffe, Colorado (population 300) near the heart of the Rockies. Our “Min’s Café,” was on the two block Main Street. The valley which held our tiny village was 20 miles wide. The Sangre de Christos Range sat to the west and the Greenhorns to the east. In order to fly over either range we had to go up to at least 10,000 ft. By this time, Ivan thought he was an expert at flying  so he persuaded me to begin lessons with Art Hibbs, too. Art was a jeweler who mostly repaired watches and had a shop one block up from the café on Main Street. He and his dear wife Helen who was a teacher had their home in the back.  All the school children loved Mrs. Hibbs and she loved them.  

I began to grasp the fundamentals of flying in the air and using the stick that directed the ailerons..left bank, right bank, all the while being very ground-shy though I enjoyed looking  down at the  the hay stacks in the valley which looked like miniatures. My lessons continued. Meanwhile we took many jaunts out of the valley. I recall one trip we made to Monte Vista to see Ivan’s brother Lowell and his wife Genny, along with some other friends. The other pilots told us that it was a 55 minute flight so we flew to the lowest place in the range, which was Music Pass. We were fully prepared to fly over the top into the San Louis Valley, but as we reached the crest of the pass we hit a downdraft and the plane began to scream through the air, down, down, down. It looked like we would crash into the mountain. I was so frightened that my red corpuscles were looking for a place to hide. We turned away just in time and flew to the opposite range where we gained enough altitude from the up-drafts to lift over the range and reach our destination in one hour and 55 minutes.

 Another time we flew out to the east over the range and down to Southern Colorado to visit friends. We dropped a note in their barnyard to the effect that they could pick us up in Ordway. When we couldn’t see them, we dropped another note and as we flew away from there we heard a terrible racket.  The tachometer had come loose and unwound like a spring .I thought of our two orphaned children at home with their grandmother. 

After the third try, we landed in mud at Ordway and let er set. Next day, Ivan used a hay field to fly from and took all but our fat friends for a ride. The field was too short to take off with them. 

With many similar adventures , we progressed into winter.

On January 21 Ivan took his friend Sweck with him to fly to Denver in Dinty Moore. They had heard of a good buy in a car and Sweck could drive it home. As I finished my usual twelve hour shift at the café, some insurance salesmen came in to sell me insurance. By then it was dark and I was in no mood for anything even insurance on a husband flying in a low powered plane in mid-winter and three hours overdue.  I just sat down in a booth and prayed. 

When the phone finally rang it was Ivan’s Mother calling from Canon City to tell me that Ivan and Sweck had a plane crash on Pike’s Peak. Ivan had a broken heel, but Sweck had only bruised his ribs. Dinty Moore was quite dead, having lost a wing as it shirred down through the trees.

 As I heard the story later, Dinty had done it again, just couldn’t make it over the mountain from the down-draft side and again they had headed into the side of a mountain.  Ivan had turned away and had given it full throttle with a dive, but instead of coming out they dove swiftly and directly into the trees.  

The temperature was falling fast and with Ivan’s broken heel he was unable to walk. They divided the matches and Sweck built Ivan a fire and left wood nearby so Ivan could keep it going . When Sweck got half way down the mountain he saw two roads. Time was running out. It would be dark in half an hour and down to 20 degrees below zero. Soon after that, he looked at the two roads to make a decision which could mean life or death. Finally, off in the distance, he saw what could be smoke from a house, so he took that road and came to a ranch house. The phone worked and the folks there called for help from a nearby town. They went back up to get Ivan and took both fellows to a hospital. You might say I lost my nerve or you might say we lost our plane. I had five and a half hours  of flying to get a license.   I had learned to go up, but I never did learn how to land.  Some of the men from the town hauled Dinty Moore down the mountain and brought the plane to the small airport in Westcliffe where it stayed for the whole seven years we lived in that town.  

A delightful video about Piper Cubs. 

Author, Poet and Artist

DiVoran has been writing for most of her life. Her first attempt at a story was when she was seven years old and her mother got a new typewriter. DiVoran got to use it and when her dad saw her writing he asked what she was writing about. DiVoran answered that she was writing the story of her life. Her dad’s only comment was, “Well, it’s going to be a very short story.” After most of a lifetime of writing and helping other writers, DiVoran finally launched her own dream which was to write a novel of her own. She now has her Florida Springs trilogy and her novel, a Christian Western Romance, Go West available on Amazon. When speaking about her road to publication, she gives thanks to the Lord for all the people who helped her grow and learn.  She says, “I could never have done it by myself, but when I got going everything fell beautifully into place, and I was glad I had started on my dream.”

2 Responses to “Why Dora Didn’t Fly”

  1. robertawrites235681907 January 28, 2020 at 12:23 pm #

    This is a great story. I have also had some interesting experiences in a small plane.


  2. Daniel Kemp January 28, 2020 at 10:30 am #

    What a fantastic story. Thanks for sharing it.


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