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Battling the Bighorn or, The Aeroplane in the Rockies written by Ashton Lamar who was a newspaperman and novelist. This book was published in 1911. And now republish in ebook format. We believe this work is culturally important in its original archival form. While we strive to adequately clean and digitally enhance the original work, there are occasionally instances where imperfections such as missing pages, poor pictures or errant marks may have been introduced due to either the quality of the original work. Despite these occasional imperfections, we have brought it back into print as part of our ongoing global book preservation commitment, providing customers with access to the best possible historical reprints. We appreciate your understanding of these occasional imperfections, and sincerely hope you enjoy reading this book.
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Battling the Bighorn
or, The Aeroplane in the Rockies
Joseph Pierre Nuyttens
CHAPTER I. A FLIGHT BY NIGHT
CHAPTER II. A NEWSPAPER SENSATION
CHAPTER III. A UNIQUE PROPOSITION
CHAPTER IV. PREPARATIONS FOR THE EXPEDITION UNDER WAY
CHAPTER V. TWO INDUCEMENTS
CHAPTER VI. A CHAPTER ON CLOTHES
CHAPTER VII. CAPTAIN LUDINGTON TALKS OF BIG GAME
CHAPTER VIII. BOARDING THE TETON
CHAPTER IX. A DISH OF TROUT
CHAPTER X. KOOS-HA-NAX, THE HUNTER
CHAPTER XI. A MIDNIGHT INTRUDER
CHAPTER XII. THE END OF THE RAILROAD
CHAPTER XIII. HUSHA THE BLACK RAM
CHAPTER XIV. TUNING UP THE “LOON”
CHAPTER XV. SALMO CLARKII OR CUTTHROAT TROUT
CHAPTER XVI. LOST IN THE MOUNTAIN
CHAPTER XVII. TRACKING MOUNTAIN GOATS IN AN AIRSHIP
CHAPTER XVIII. A GOAT HUNT AT DAWN
CHAPTER XIX. THE SIGN OF THE CROSS
CHAPTER XX. A MONARCH TO THE DEATH
The Flight in the Storm
“Flash the light on the compass again, Frank. Let’s have another look!”
Instantly the ray of an electric hand-light shot over the shoulder of a boy and centered itself on a curiously arranged compass fixed between the lad’s feet.
“About a point off northwest—”
“But what good does that do?” exclaimed the one addressed as Frank. “It was dark when we came about and we didn’t know our course then. By dead reckonin’ I’d say we ought to head more to the north, Phil.”
“More to the north it is,” was the instant answer. At the same time there was a creak as if the speaker had executed some movement; the crouching Frank lurched forward and then fell back into a low chair behind the other boy. “Keep a lookout below for any lights you can recognize, but use the floor trap—don’t open that window again; the rain comes in like a waterfall. I’ll keep watch ahead,” added Phil, ignoring his companion’s tumble.
“You needn’t bother,” suggested Frank. “We’d ’a’ raised the town lights if we were anywhere near ’em. I tell you, we’re way off our course!”
“Good enough,” chuckled Phil. “What do we care? We wanted a ride in the dark and we’re gettin’ it, good and plenty.”
“The rain and clouds may be shuttin’ out sight o’ the town lights a little,” conceded Frank. “I guess you’d better keep your eyes peeled just the same. There are lights below, here and there,” he continued, “but they don’t mean anything; that is, I can’t make anything out of ’em. I own up—I don’t know where we are.”
“What’s the difference?” asked Phil. “We’re here, snug as bugs in a rug—”
“Listen,” broke in Frank.
A vivid flash of lightning had plunged into the horizon; the heavens seemed one long roaring roll of thunder and then—as if beginning anew—torrents of rain dashed against what was apparently an enclosing protection of glass.
“The rain’s comin’ from the east,” shouted Phil. “Open one of the ports on the left; it’s in the lee of the storm and it’s gettin’ too hot in here.”
Again the boy in the rear arose and, fumbling about in the dark as if turning a catch, at last shoved upward a swinging section of glass. As his companion had suggested, the new opening was in the lee of the rain. There was a welcome inrush of fresh, moist air but the two boys were completely protected from the downpour.
“You’re right,” said Frank as he left his chair and sank down by the open window or port. “As long as the Loon don’t mind it, what’s the difference?”
He leaned his head on his hands, his elbows braced in the open space, and let the cool air fan his perspiring face. “Keep her goin’; go anywhere; go as far as you like. I don’t care whether we—”
“Look at the barometer. How high are we?” interrupted the other boy sharply.
Frank crawled from the open window, flashed his electric light again and turned its rays on an altitude barometer hanging at the right of his companion, crawled closer to the instrument and then announced: “Twenty-three hundred feet! Keep her to it,” he continued. “It’s great. Everything is workin’ fine. The poundin’ of the rain on the glass with us as dry as bones in here, makes me feel mighty comfortable.”
“Like rain on a tent campin’ out when you’re half asleep on your dry balsam,” suggested his companion.
“All of that,” was Frank’s good-natured response. “Here, give me that wheel. I’ll take a turn. Crawl over to the window and stick your head out. It’s great.”
Without a protest Phil slipped from the low chair in which he had been sitting rigidly and Frank skilfully took his place. In another moment Phil was kneeling in the black darkness by the opening.
“It’s all right,” Phil exclaimed, “and I’m glad we did it. I suppose,” he added a moment later, “that it’s the first time anyone ever did. It may be a little risky, but it’s worth while. Yet,” he added after several moments, “I guess we’ve gone far enough. There isn’t a sign of a town light in sight and I don’t know where we are. Let’s make a landing and camp out in the car till the storm is over.”
“If we do that,” suggested the boy in the chair, “we’ll stay all night. We’ll never get up again out of a wet field—if we’re lucky enough not to straddle a fence, jab a tree into us or find a perch on the comb of a barn.”
There was a grunt from his companion.
“No use to figure on all those things,” was the answer. “We can’t keep agoin’ till daylight and since we’ve got to stop sometime, we might as well take chances—”
“Right now?” broke in Frank. “All right! Now it is, if you say so.”
There was a creak as of a straining wire and the boys braced themselves against an immediate lurch forward. The glass windows or ports rattled slightly as something above seemed to check the fast flight. Phil added:
“Stand by the barometer; it’s our only guide; I can’t see a thing.”
“Two thousand feet,” was the report almost instantly. Then, the two boys yet braced toward the rear, came additional reports every few moments until nine hundred feet was reached. “Ease her up, Phil,” suggested the lad at the barometer, “we’re doin’ sixty-two miles by the anemometer—”
Before he could say more the creaking sound as of wires straining came again. There was another check and once more the motion seemed horizontal.
“That’s better,” added Phil. “Now I’ll open the bottom port and keep a lookout for land.”
He threw himself on the floor, drew up a square door in front of the second seat and, tossing his cap aside, stuck his head through the opening.
“By gravy,” he sputtered as he pulled his head back, “that rain ain’t a lettin’ up any to speak about.”
“Rapidly gettin’ dryer no faster,” laughed the boy in the forward chair.
“Right,” commented Phil as his head again disappeared through the opening. For some moments neither boy spoke. In this silence, the rain pelting the glass sides seemed to grow louder, but this sound was dimmed by a constant whirr behind the glass compartment—a monotonous, unvarying sound as of large wheels in motion. Mingled with this was another tone—the unmistakable, delicate tremble of an engine or motor.
“Shut her down to half and hold your course,” suddenly came a muffled call from the reinserted head of the lookout.
There was a quick snap; an instant diminution in the tremble and whirr in the rear and Phil’s head was again far out of the trapdoor in defiance of wind and rain. The forward motion was lessening somewhat. When three or four minutes had passed, the boy on lookout drew his head in again, dashed the rain out of his eyes and crawled to the barometer.
“Eight hundred feet,” he announced. “That’s good. I picked up a light—some farmer’s kitchen, I guess—but nothin’ doin’; too dark. Drop her a couple hundred feet.”
Without comment from the boy in the chair the same creaking noise sounded once more and Phil, the electric flash centered on the altitude register, kept his eyes on that instrument.
“Six hundred feet,” he called in a few moments. “Keep her there while I have another look. We—”
Before he could finish, a flash of lightning turned the sky into the inside of a phosphorescent sphere. But it was not the gorgeous display of the wild tangle of silvered clouds that the two boys saw. Before the flare ended their eyes were fixed on what was beneath them. There was no need of an order from Phil. In the blaze of light it could be seen that Frank’s feet rested on two lever stirrups. Even before the light died, his right foot shot forward, there was another sound of a straining wire and the glass enclosed car instantly shot to the right and slightly downward. At the same time Frank’s right hand, already clutching a wheel attached vertically to the side of his chair, drew swiftly back and with it came a renewed jarring, checking motion above. Almost instantly the car, while it continued its flight to the right, became horizontal again.
“Got our bearin’s anyway,” was the operator’s gasping remark.
“If you can bank her and get down right away,” said the other boy as he sprang to the open hatch again, “we can make it in one of those fields. We’ve cleared the woods by this time,” he added with no little relief. “The way we’re headed, it’s all clear forward for a mile—”
“Except fences,” interrupted Frank. “But we’ll try it. Look out.”
“Bank her and when you’re right, I’ll give the word,” was Phil’s answer, his head disappearing through the floor opening.
The illumination had shown the two boys that they were directly above a wide stretch of timber land. Where this disappeared in the distant west was blacker low ground, which a winding stream told plainly enough was a marsh. To the right lay a straight road and beyond this miles of cultivated land in fenced fields.
Again the glass compartment lurched; this time on an angle that made both boys brace themselves securely.
“Not too much,” yelled Phil over his shoulder and through the roar of the storm. “Be sure you clear the trees.”
“She’s well over,” called the operator. “Look out for fences!”
The boy on the floor was apparently looking out as well as his two straining eyes could pierce the gloom.
“Not too much,” he called again, warningly. “It’s black as your hat down there. I can’t see a thing.” By this time his head was inside once more. “You know we’ve had that wind behind us. You’re quarterin’ now, but you’ve got to allow for the wind; she’s a stiff one; you’ve got an awful drift and it’s right over the trees.”
“We’re clear of ’em by a mile,” persisted the boy at the wheel. “Get back there and keep your eyes peeled,” he shouted. “We might as well come down here.”
The compartment was now inclined forward and to the left. Phil, only partly convinced, turned his head toward the opening in the floor when, with a crash of thunder, the clouds opened again to release new torrents of rain and the world below lay exposed beneath the flash of more lightning.
“Up!” yelled Phil. “Up!”
The warning was not necessary. Both boys caught their breaths at the sight below them. They were still skirting the edge of a pine forest and now the jagged trunks and branches of dying trees just below seemed reaching out to grasp them. Frank did not even think. As Phil’s alarmed words reached him, both his feet and hands acted. There was a racking tremor—a shock—and then the car righted. It seemed to pause and then, like a relieved spring, shot forward. As it did so there was a new shock; the car curved forward as if held by something; a cracking snap below and then, as a new cry of alarm rose from Phil at the lookout door, once more the car was in a new equilibrium and making new headway.
“The port landing wheel caught a dead tree top,” yelled Phil. “I told you to look out for that drift.”
“Is the wheel gone?” was the only answer of the disgruntled Frank.
Phil dropped to the floor again and flashed the electric light below.
“Seems bent,” he answered, “but I guess she’ll work if we ever get a chance to use it.”
“Well, don’t get sore,” was Frank’s answer. “We learn by experience. I’ll land in the softest wheat or cornfield that happens to be below. But we won’t try it till the lightning flashes again.”
For some moments after the car had again been headed northeast and quartered on the gale once more, the boys waited anxiously for a new flash. When it came they were well beyond the trees. Frank put the car toward the widening fields beneath and Phil lay with open eyes, apprehensive of the dreaded fence, trees or buildings.
“Now—!” yelled Phil excitedly, as the vague surface of a green wheatfield caught his eye and he saw that they were clear of fences and other obstructions. “Put her down.”
Frank’s work was guided by chance and Phil’s stream of instructions. The tremor and whirr behind the boys had been stopped and at last, with a plunge as of a body being dropped into a bed of mortar, the car came to a jarring stop. The operator dropped his wheel, his face wet with perspiration and his hands trembling. Phil sprang from the floor, his hair water-soaked, but his electric flash light aglow.
“Well,” he began with a half laugh, “here we are. Where? I give it up.”
“Safe in a muddy wheatfield,” answered Frank. “But,” he went on, “what’s the odds? It’s rainin’ cats and dogs; but the car seems all right.”
“Almost afloat,” commented Phil, “and we couldn’t get out of this mud to-night if we tried.”
“Therefore,” added his companion, regaining his composure and good nature, “we’ll make the best of it. There’s no risk of an accident now and we’re as dry as toast. It’s half past eight,” he went on looking at his watch, “and as we can’t leave her here alone, let’s make a night of it.”
“Talk about rain on the attic roof, and a dry bed beneath,” added Phil, who had also regained his spirits, “I don’t believe it’s any better than bunkin’ in the closed car of an airship.”
“Particularly when it’s anchored safe and tight in a wheatfield,” suggested Frank, laughing.
Fifteen minutes later the two tired but happy boys, despite the still heavily falling rain, were fast asleep on the hard floor of the strange, glass enclosed car.
The two boys sleeping so soundly in the glass cabin were Frank Graham and Phil Ewing. The car was a part of their novel monoplane airship, the Loon. And Frank and Phil had just made what was perhaps the first night flight in an aëroplane—certainly the first flight of a heavier-than-air sky craft through a nighttime storm of wind and rain.
Both boys lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In the suburbs of this town they had their aërodrome from which, on an evening early in June, they had ventured on this flight. The Loon had already made many successful flights by day; but Frank and Phil, not satisfied with these, had at last carried out a flight by night.
“It’s goin’ to rain,” Phil had predicted that afternoon. “Hadn’t we better wait? It’s bound to rain after such a muggy day.”
“Well,” conceded Frank, “we’ve figured out that rain can’t hurt us. The plane is waterproof and curved so that it can’t hold water. We’ve put holes in the flat planes on the rear. Water can’t collect there. And, as far as personal comfort is concerned, our glass covered car ought to give us plenty of that.”
“All right,” answered Phil laughing, “but if we do go up I’ll bet we don’t get back home to-night.”
How his prediction was fulfilled has just been seen.
The boys met at their aërodrome, erected in a corner of a lumberyard owned by Frank’s father, soon after seven o’clock in the evening. Not until nearly eight o’clock was it wholly dark; then the sky grew suddenly black. Phil was still somewhat skeptical but neither had ever stopped when the other led the way and, a few minutes before eight o’clock, the monoplane shot out of the shed and was instantly out of sight—had there been spectators.
The yard watchman, Old Dick, fast friend and open admirer of the two boys, stood shaking his head and lantern for some minutes. Finally, when the rain began to fall and the wind broke into a half gale, he hastened to his shanty ’phone and called up Mr. Graham.
“Misther Graham,” reported Dick, “thim byes is off ag’in in that flyin’ machane.” Evidently there was some excited comment or question at the other end of the ’phone. “Yis,” Dick continued, “they’ll be not over five minutes gone, but ’tis rainin’ somethin’ fierce an’ I’m seem’ nather hide nor hair o’ thim since.”
By the time Mr. Graham reached the aërodrome in his automobile, Frank and Phil had arrived at the southern end of their flight and turned for their return. They had not been running at top speed and were not over twenty-five miles from home. This was partly due to the fact that they had been climbing to the two thousand foot level.
When they came about, carelessly neglecting to note their precise compass bearings, they were in a position to make a rapid glide. This for a few moments they did, reaching a speed of sixty-two miles an hour for a short time. Then they discovered that they were not sure of their course.
“The trouble was,” explained Phil later to his mother, “that you can’t tell anything about your real movements in an airship when you are flying in a heavy wind and have no landmarks. You’ve got to remember that you don’t feel the wind at all—except that caused by your own flight. In a heavy wind, you move with it; the airship vessel is buried in the fluid of the wind, and moves with it, just as a submarine in a deep river wouldn’t feel the current. It would be a part of it.”
“I’d think you’d tack just like you do in a sailboat,” suggested his mother.
“That’s what every one seems to think,” Phil explained, “but you can’t. You are carried away just as rapidly as if you were directly in the teeth of the wind. The best way is to head right up in the wind. If your engine is stronger than the wind, you’ll advance; if it isn’t, you’ll go back.”
“I hope this cures you of your venturesome ideas,” commented his mother earnestly.
“Not at all,” answered her son. “It gives us just the experience we need. We were over the trees when Frank tried to tack. He drifted back more than he moved sideways. But we know now.”
This conversation occurred the next day. That evening, Mrs. Ewing did not become alarmed until a late hour. Then, in her concern over Phil’s failure to return home, she telephoned to the Graham home. Mrs. Graham could only tell her what Old Dick had reported; that Mr. Graham had gone to the aërodrome and failed to get any information; that her husband had hastened back and telegraphed to the authorities of several towns on the probable course of the boys and was now, with two friends, scouring the country roads to the south.
At two o’clock Mr. Graham returned assuring his wife and Phil’s mother that the boys were undoubtedly all right. For the next two hours Mr. Graham sat in the office of the Herald and then, no word having been received of the missing boys, he drove home for breakfast and a renewed search.
“Now,” he said with assumed confidence to his wife, “we’ll soon have ’em back. It’s daylight and they will soon reach some town and a ’phone. I’ll get the automobile out and be ready to go for them.”
Mr. Graham had just left the house on his way to the garage when his wife called him excitedly.
“They’re at Osceola—they’ve been asleep in that thing all night,” she screamed, bursting into tears; “but they’re all right.”
“Is he on the ’phone?” called back her husband in a peculiar tone.
“No,” she answered, “they’re coming in on the electric car.”
“There’s no car till six o’clock,” exclaimed Mr. Graham. “Osceola is only twelve miles out. I’ll have ’em here in an hour,” and in a few minutes his big roadster was humming south toward Osceola.
It was fortunate that Frank had walked two miles to Osceola in the early dawn, for scarcely had Mr. Graham started on the rescue of the castaways, before Mrs. Graham saw the result of her husband’s two hours’ vigil in the newspaper office. The newspaper carrier even ran up the walk to hand Mrs. Graham the Herald. Alert journalism had quickly turned Mr. Graham’s apprehensions into an almost certain tragedy.
Under a two-column head the disappearance of the boys was narrated in detail. The failure to hear from them; the violence of the wind and rain, and the conceded risk of all aëroplane flights, were all used as justification that the boys were undoubtedly dead.
Old Dick, the watchman, had been called by ’phone and his description of the start was made the foundation of a graphic story. Then followed an interview with Mr. Graham. Next came a promise from the Herald that the bodies would be found if every river, lake and forest in Michigan had to be searched.
“No cleverer, more intelligent or better liked boys were to be found in Grand Rapids,” the article read. “And their reputations are not confined to this city. The ill-fated airship on which they have probably lost their lives, was the product of their own hands and minds. It has been described in aëronautical journals, and the last number of the English ‘Flight’ draws attention to its novel features.
“The airship was the outgrowth of an ordinary aëroplane built by the two young aviators last summer, and its construction occupied the entire winter. This ascent, which is probably the last and fatal flight of the new monoplane, is the tenth ascent made by the Loon this spring. It is needless to say that Mr. Graham, the father of one of the young aviators, is shocked beyond description. Former successes of the two boys allayed his fears as to the dangers of their experiments. The grief he expressed last night, over the fact that he had freely and amply provided funds for the construction of the Loon, is easily appreciated.”
The article finally concluded with a description of the Loon taken from “Flight,” the English aëro-journal. This was:
“The Graham-Ewing monoplane adds to the efficiency of previously built machines by development in accordance with the changeable factors in the ‘law of the aëroplane.’ These are the speed and the angle of incidence to the line of flight.
“In this machine the plane is mounted so that it may be moved to any angle, adapting itself to speed and lifting at will, and offering opportunity for use as a steady device. It avoids longitudinal oscillation by means of a large nonlifting tail surface, and the front of the fuselage is enclosed with glass to protect the aviator.
“When starting, a large angle of incidence is essential to get more lift and rise. Then, one wants a small angle to fly fast enough to dodge through the air eddies. With the Graham-Ewing monoplane this can be done. If the machine tips, the main planes can be tilted to correct the trouble. They also can be used as a brake.
“Putting the center of gravity below the center of lift has always caused trouble in this manner: If a puff of wind hits the craft head-on the wings were retarded, while the small weight below was not, and its momentum carried the machine ahead, making the rear end of the plane whip down. This has been corrected by putting on a long tail with large tail-surfaces which check this movement. It adds to buoyancy, since the unmovable tail causes wind puffs to raise the whole machine in the air. The low center of gravity, at the same time, helps keep the machine level from side to side.
“Here is a description in figures of the airship:
“Breadth of wing, 39 feet; length over-all, 44 feet; chord of wings, 8 feet; center of gravity, 7 feet below the center of pressure; wings mounted on framework above front end of fuselage, which is enclosed in glass and aluminum; enclosed car has room for pilot, passenger and motor; two 8½ foot propellers driven from gearing at 800 revolutions per minute; nonlifting tail surface of 50 square feet, in addition to a plane lifting surface of 546 square feet; rudder, 25 square feet; the car is 4 feet high, 30 inches wide and 14 feet long; beneath it an aluminum boatshaped body is arranged to enable the operator to alight in the water; two wheels in front and one in the rear form the running gear.”
Of the two boys, Frank was the son of J. R. Graham, a wealthy furniture manufacturer. Phil Ewing, a few months older than Frank, was employed in Mr. Graham’s factory. Frank, always a great reader, was of a romantic turn. He had a love of adventure which ran to distant lands, hunting and wild animals. This he had from books, the stories of Du Chaillu, Stanley, Selous and other great hunters. His actual experience extended little beyond books and he owned neither rod nor gun.
Phil was just the opposite. He was a fly fisherman, had shot his deer in the northern Michigan woods, was familiar with camp life and was a young naturalist. He owned his own gun, had made his own split bamboo rod, could tie a trout fly and, with a talent for drawing and coloring, could skin and mount birds and animals.
In the factory, Phil assisted in the machine carving department. His familiarity with tools made him the chief worker on the airships, but it was Frank’s digging into aviation history that produced many of the advanced ideas of the monoplane.
The first rays of the sun pouring through the glass of their cabin roused the boys to early activity. Apparently the monoplane was uninjured, but its big pneumatic landing wheels were deep in the mud of the field and the nearest house was a quarter of a mile away.
“Whatever we do,” said Frank, “I’m goin’ to get word to the folks.”
“Go to that house,” suggested Phil. “Maybe they have a telephone. You can buy something to eat.”
When Frank reached the farmhouse he saw, around a bend in the road, a village about half a mile ahead. This was Osceola and, from the biggest house in the place, he called up his home. He did not care to tell of his plight and, when he set out to rejoin Phil, he did so breakfastless.
Reaching the bend in the road at the farmhouse, he forgot his hunger. An unmistakable sound had fallen on his ear—the engine of the Loon working at half speed—and he hurried forward on a run. Phil wasn’t thinking of breakfast. He was attempting to get the monoplane to the edge of the field. Tugging at the car, he was using the engine at half speed to pull the airship through the mud. That he was succeeding, was shown by three deep tracks stretching out behind the Loon.
At Frank’s breathless approach Phil scarcely looked up. Much less did he ask for food. The trousers of each boy were encased in black mud to the knees. Phil had discarded his shoes and having fallen on the oozy ground, he had an individual coating of mud.
“Gimme a hand here,” he ordered. “If we can get this thing to the road, we’ll get home for breakfast.”
“Isn’t that landing wheel bent?” asked Frank.
“I’ve fixed her,” grunted Phil. “Get busy.”
The small addition of Frank’s energy seemed all that was needed, and the Loon was slowly forced toward the edge of the field.
“How you goin’ to get her over the fence?” panted Frank.
“It’s a stone fence,” was Phil’s answer. “The
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