Who is your favorite of the Wright brothers?

Published 9:31 am Wednesday, October 28, 2015

I was at the Raleigh-Durham Airport in North Carolina,  waiting to be picked up by a friend and her Prius.

I was a bit early, so I watched others gather travelers into their vehicles. No one was happier to see a returning loved one than were dogs.

As I rode down the road to the Outer Banks, barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, my friend told me that she’d just bought a Tilley hat. She hadn’t worn it yet, but hoped to break it in while in her hotel room. I didn’t ask how.

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We ate at Darrell’s Seafood Restaurant in Mateo. Andy Griffith used to eat there. The food was good, and I ate hush puppies. No, not a pair of shoes. A hush puppy is deep-fried cornmeal batter. Legend says Southern fishermen and Civil War soldiers first made them from scraps to toss to barking and begging dogs with the command to “Hush, puppy.”

I put a pin on the big map on the wall that showed that no one else from my neighborhood had dined at Darrell’s.

A nice woman told me about a bizarre folk remedy for pain called “drunken raisins.” This was popularized by the late radio celebrity Paul Harvey, who spoke of the practice of soaking golden raisins in gin for pain relief.

I thought of that when I spotted a Brew Thru. You guessed it, a drive-thru beer and wine store. A place made for someone who wants a beer, but is too lazy to get out of the car. The Buds & Suds was a combination drive-thru beverage store and car wash.

The sun was hot in the Outer Banks of October. That was good. Without the sun, there’d be no shade.

I traveled the 2.7-mile long Bonner Bridge, the third scariest bridge in the country according to Jalopnik. This considered the bridge’s age, condition and the constant currents eroding the pilings. The Bonner Bridge, built in 1963, is obsolete, with a sufficiency rating of 4 out of 100.

I walked around the Lost Colony. In July of 1587, 117 English men, women and children came ashore on Roanoke Island with a commission from Elizabeth I to establish a settlement in the New World. Virginia Dare was the first child born in the New World to English parents. In 1590, when English ships brought supplies to the settlement, they found the island deserted with no sign of the colonists except “CROATOAN” carved into the an abandoned structure and the letters, “CRO,” scratched into the bark of a tree. Based on scant clues, some speculated that Native Americans killed the English colonists. Croatoan was the name of an island south of Roanoke, now Hatteras Island, home to a tribe of the same name. They might have tried to sail back to England on their own and been lost at sea. They might have been killed by hostile Spaniards who came north from their settlements in Florida. The settlers could have been absorbed into Native American tribes and moved inland.

The mystery of what happened to the colonists remains unsolved, but two independent teams found archaeological remains suggesting that some of the colonists might have survived and split into two groups, each assimilated into a different Native American community about 50 miles away.

I visited Kitty Hawk where Wilbur and Orville Wright, after four years of experimentation, achieved the first successful airplane flights on Dec. 17, 1903. I call them Wilbur and Orville because I normally hear them referred to as Orville and Wilbur. Wilbur deserves top billing on occasion. The Wright Flyer was the first powered, heavier-than-air machine to achieve controlled, sustained flight with a pilot aboard. Orville piloted the first flight of 12 seconds, covering 120 feet. Three more flights were made that day.

The brothers had begun their flight dreams in 1896 at their bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio. They selected Kitty Hawk as their proving grounds because of the constant wind that added lift to their plane. In 1902, they made more than 700 successful glider flights. Most of the flying experiments took place 4 miles away from Kitty Hawk at Kill Devil Hills. Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon, carried pieces from the original 1903 Wright Flyer with him.

Wilbur is my favorite Wright. He allowed Orville to go first. That was both kind and smart.

On my way back to the airport, a car passed us. Its Virginia license plate read, “SMILING.”

I was, too.

Good memories do that to a person.


Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.