The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

The Wisdom of Barnyard Bruke: The Stearman's Fly-In, Flight Of The Phonies

Greetings ta ever one in western Illinois and all readers of "The Quill."

Saturday, Mrs Bruke and I drove up ta the 46th Annual National Stearman Fly-in at Galesburg. I wanted ta have me a ride in one of them rotary engine bi wing planes. The Mrs. only wanted to watch. It was "Great fun" with over 100 planes.

Flight of the Phonies

The schedule of events up there started Monday, September 4 and ended Sunday, September 10. Whilst up there I discovered the follow'n enterest'n article on "Flight of the Phonies" by Steve Bill Hanshew at You might find it amuse'n as well:

"Flight of the Phonies"

The Kearney Boys lived down the road from me about an eighth of a mile. Their names were Bub and Dake.

They lived in an old farmhouse with windows so cloudy and dark you'd think they were tinted but it was just the coal stove they used to heat the place.

Oh, they had electric as witnessed by a barely visible single light bulb hanging by a cord that lit the kitchen up but for water; it came from a hand pump on the porch.

Growing up I would ride my bike past the place and they would wave to me wearing bib overalls while standing barefooted in the grass.

I think they had shoes but I rarely saw them wearing any except in winter. I was high side of 12 and they were probably in their thirties. My dad said the were "tetched" as in fell out of the haymow on their head.

Their father had died and left them a fair-sized spread and even though they looked like two poverty-stricken hicks, they were sitting on quite a stash having made a bunch on logging alone.

They loved auctions and would hit every one within three counties. They would buy anything going cheap. They didn't care.

My love of aviation was already well planted and I distinctly remember a farm pilot who up and died leaving a 1946 Aeronca Champ hangered in the barn. He used to fly off a strip at his place. As most farm pilots, he didn't have a license.

Heck, the planes they flew hadn't seen legitimate maintenance since they rolled out of the factory, having been pieced and patched together by barnyard Edisons' used to fixing water pumps, furnaces, tractors, trucks, and even corsets. If it was a machine they knew how to make it run. However, the only ace in those airplanes was Ace Hardware.

It wasn't like the FAA was going to show up. The only Fs' and As' around was the FFA- " Flying Farmers of America". So it was to no surprise that the Kearney Boys were suddenly interested in this old guys' plane when it came up on auction.

The farm was packed with stuff of real interest to farmers such as tractors, combines, grain trailers, hay rakes, and the like but as for airplane; most thought it would make a great lawn ornament next to the whitewashed tractor tire planter.

Not the Kearneys. They wanted that plane and wanted it bad. But it had to go cheap...and it did. When the hammer dropped at $250 they owned an airplane.

Now what? Well, they sized up the old farmers strip and reckoned they could bootleg one like it into a fallow tobacco patch they had on the north forty. That was the easy part.

The next hurdle was learning to fly it. They sat in the thing, looked at each other and looked at the gauges like two dogs staring at a nuclear reactor.

There was an old barber up town by the name of Deke Boonshoft with a shop right next to the feed store; a favored haunt of old farmers replete with a 'Liar's Bench' out front.

Old Deke had been a flight instructor in the war (the Big One) having taught in the Cubs and WACOs' in the CPT (Civilian Pilot Training) program.

He was too old to go to war and by my time, too old to cut hair having left me with an impromptu and unrequested Mohawk one time when going off on a rant about Nixon.

It was only natural that Bub and Dake would seek him out since he cut their straggly hair twice a year whether they needed it or not.

Deke was game even though he thought the two were crazy as bed bugs. He taught them how to prop it which made sense to them. It was just like an Armstrong starter on a Farmall H.

He had them take an old feed trough and mount it on a wash stand. He then instructed them to take a piece of rubber pipe joint, screw it to the floor of the trough and jammed a steel water pipe into it. Voila stick.

For rudders he used two boards with piano hinges at the bottom. Thus the Kearney Boys had a FFS - not a full flight simulator but a 'farm flight simulator'. They would sit in it and Deke would rock it back and forth; all the while explaining stick and rudder positioning.

Dake would on occasion make engine noises and when Bub fell out of the trough in a steep turn, Deke proclaimed him qualified to bail out.

Next came the real thing. The Kearney's forte was taxiing which they did well until running through a barbed-wired fence.

They stripped the guest bed sheets and took some horse glue and patched the damage; the plane now having a bright floral print for a rudder.

High speed taxis were especially exhilarating with mules braying, chickens running for their lives, and chopped tomatoes squirting through the air.

They were fearless though and when Deke declared them unfit for anything to do with flight and high-tailed it back to the barber shop; they took it as a personal challenge. Two months before fellow Ohioan Neil Armstrong took off for the moon, Bub and Dake took off for the Buckeye skies. I don't think they intended to fly but just taxi some more.

However, the wind fortuitously shifted into a headwind and the next thing they knew they were 100 feet off the ground going heck-bent for leather westward towards Indiana, their grimy bare feet dancing on the rudder pedals like a down home Hootenanny.

Screams of delight were heard from Bub while screams of terror came out of Dake. Remembering the trough and Deke's coaching Bub somehow managed to stagger around to a heading of east and back to the farm.

Needless to say, landings were never a part of Deke's farm flight school syllabus. Bub lined up on the runway as best he could while Dake broke out "speaking in tongues". He was Pentecostal don't you know. Approach was long, slithery and resembled a Cedar Point Roller Coaster. Bub was afraid to throttle back and drop out of the sky until they were halfway down the runway at which point he chopped and pulled for all it was worth-logical since a slat -wood corn crib was dead ahead. Whack.

Fortunately, they were pretty slow by that time and the gear took the brunt. Dake fell out of the cockpit, praised the Lord, and took off for the house ranting in Swahili. Bub raised his welding/flying goggles over a nice goose egg courtesy of the instrument panel and crawled out, smiled, spat out a tooth, and danced a jig for a good landing-one you walk away from.

It made the news, local that is, and the two became sort of famous or infamous depending on whom you ask. As for me, all I remember is that forlorn Champ tail sticking out of the corncrib and as each year passed, less and less fabric until all that remained was the tube truss.

Long about 1975 the Kearneys started selling vegetables from a truck patch and ever the market minded entrepreneurs, hung a sign from the tail: "Beats, Toematoes, For Sale".

Heck, for another buck they'd pose for a picture, smiling under the corroded tail, bibs, bare feet and all.

Well, There ya have it then. Thank you Steve.

Hope'n to see ya in church this weekend. Remember, wherever ya are, what ever ye be do'n' BE A GOOD ONE!

Keep on smilen

Catch ya later

Barnyard Bruke