FROM RECOLLECTIONS OF 1957 | Flying Backwards

{April 2016, Riley, Dad, and Mary Alice}

Ever so often, my dad sits down and shares a story from his childhood. With his permission, he allows me to post them here. Enjoy!

It was to be the last airplane ride for Mrs. McGillicutty. She was evidently someone special, as a youngster, I observed the bright red firetruck proceeding with its lights flashing and siren screaming and the ambulance close behind carrying Mrs. McGillicutty.

This was the beginning of about the first airshow for a new group at Mercedes, the CAF or as they called themselves the Confederate Air Force. Their mission was evidently to save as many WWII aircraft as possible as the United States Government was chopping up and destroying many of aircraft that these former pilots held in highest regard. Plus these pilots were having a bit of fun flying these old Jennys and a couple of hot rod WWII planes. Here in 1957 was Lefty Gardner’s P-38 White Lightning, Dick Disney’s North American P-51D Mustang, and later a couple of F8F Bearcats and a Republic P-47 Thunderbolt (that we called ol’ Jug) that had been purchased by the group from the Nicaraguan Air Force. My older brother and I as kids had carried the spare parts of this WWII plane off the old barge when it arrived from Honduras into Port Isabel. Today, this plane is stationed at the Lone Star Flight Museum near Galveston and is known as the TarHeel Hal.

This first day, on the runway was a yellow Piper J-4 SuperCub, all fueled up and ready to go. And with all the folks watching intently and standing to applause, Mrs. McGillicutty, with her long white hair, high topped shoes, old cane, and a long Sunday dress, was placed carefully in the passenger seat by a Colonel. (All members of the CAF were Colonels so that no one could pull rank on another.) The pilot, I believe it may have been Colonel Dick Disney, reached in and activated the ignition circuit, and moved to the front of the plane to pull the prop through and start the engine.

But surprisingly, the engine fired up nearly wide open, and the old J-4 Cub took off without the pilot! The crowd was screaming and hollering for Mrs. McGillicutty to pull the throttle back as Dick chased the nearly, airborne Cub down the runway. Wow!!!

Now, in actuality, this Ol’ Mrs. McGillicutty skit was brought by my father, Forrest Arnold Thompson Sr. He had seen this at an airshow in Nebraska as a kid. And Mrs. McGillicutty was actually my Dad all dressed up in a wig and outfit. But the report on the loud speaker was Mrs. McGillicutty did not know how to land the plane and was in grave danger. So in a WWII Army Green Jeep, they chased the old Cub up and down the runway trying to get the “Book of Instructions” on a long stick to Mrs. McGillicutty so she could land. Just great, great fun.

All was going well until one of those South Texas “cold fronts” came through moments later with a tremendous wind, and the last we saw of Mrs. McGillicutty and the J-4 Cub was she appeared to be flying backwards, unable to return to the field as the wind blew the plane south for Mexico.

I know now my Dad was able to land the plane on the old RioGrande River Road on the US side with the wind diverted by the tall willow trees that lined the river. I do recall being a bit concerned, but with all my school friends with which to play and other planes flying, we knew Mrs. McGillicutty would return directly. Return, if necessary . . .
Flying Backwards.

The hummingbird is known as a messenger of time. It is also a symbol of love, joy, and beauty. The hummingbird is able to fly backwards, teaching us that we can look back on our past. But, this small bird may also teach that we must not dwell on our past; we need to move forward. When the hummingbird hovers over flowers while drinking nectar, we learn that we should savor each moment and to appreciate the things God has provided.


The hummingbird is a symbol of Christ’s resurrection. They seem to die on cold nights, but they come back to life again in the morning.   With hummingbird awareness, we learn the truth of beauty. Our life becomes a wonderland of delights in flowers, aromas and tastes. We laugh and enjoy His Creation; we appreciate the magic of being alive. 

Hummingbirds teach us fierce independence and courage; however, they teach us to fight in a way where no one gets hurt.

Some Hummingbirds are known to wing their way as far as a thousand miles to reach their destination. This quality reminds us to be persistent in the pursuit of our dreams and to adopt the tenacity of the Hummingbird in our everyday lives. 

We have found the Hummingbirds are seemingly tireless; actively seeking the sweetest nectar, they remind us to seek out the good and the beauty in each day.   (Portions from A Light in The Darkness; by Matthew James.)  Flying at times backwards, I remain alway, John Kenton Thompson.

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, And all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33 


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