Even as young as seven years old, the flame of flight burnt deep within. Somewhere there is a picture I drew in second grade of me in a space capsule heading to the moon. Through the remainder of grade school into high school I dreamed of piloting my own plane. Being a member of a poor farming family and with no airports nearby, this was far from a reality and I knew it. So, in my Junior Year of high school I applied to the Air Force.
It was a long shot. I wanted to fly. I wanted to honor my grandfather who honorably fought in WW II. My grades were marginally below their requirements but decided to apply, regardless.
About six months later there was a letter for me from the Air Force. I was tingling... This could be it! It was a thick manila envelope. Rejections do not come in large envelopes, do they???
ACCEPTED!!! Well, not completely. It was a letter stating that I had passed the initial criteria. The rest of the paperwork were forms and requests and agreements and requests for further information and medical release... Medical release. I read down the list of exclusionary medical conditions. There it was. Hypoglycemia. There would be no piloting for me any time soon.
At any rate, that left Western Illinois University, my primary college of choice. Field of study? Physics major, math minor. At the end of my freshman year, following my first ever failed course, pre-calc, there was some reevaluating to do.
After a few trips to my physics counselor, my major was changed to Computer Science with a dual minor in Math and Industrial Education - Electronics.
Oh, and yes, my first programming class did use punch cards. ...You smart-alec blog readers. :-P
I read this sometime in the second or third grade. While I am certain the full weight and meaning of the words were well above my understanding, it's power and beauty was recognized. The dream of slipping the surley bonds of earth became firmly entrenched.
High FlightOh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.
| Pilot Officer Gillespie Magee|
No 412 squadron, RCAF
Killed 11 December 1941