Saturday, September 10. Dayton Ohio
Clouds and corn were our companions for the drive today. As we looked up, grey clouds in wisps and in huge, piled up thunderclouds kept us commenting on their beauty as we drove through Indiana and Ohio. At eye level, acres of corn were everywhere. You probably remember that corn is native to the Americas and was brand new to the European immigrants. Did you know that corn was originally a tropical plant? It took the native Americans centuries to develop strains of corn that could survive the colder climates of the Midwest. By that time, the corn plant was no longer self seeding but had to be individually planted by the Indians who frequently put fish or other matter in the corn hills along with the seeds as a fertilizer. (The first GMO product in the U.S.?) Also, (at least in MN) less than five percent of the corn planted is used directly for food for humans. The rest is used for animal feed, biofuels, and corn syrup.
Our journey to and from the Berkshires is likely to be heavily populated with ordinary persons who, with extraordinary vision and drive, went on to change the world. From Abe Lincoln the first two days to Orville and Wilbur Wright for the next two. After that, it is the homes of three U.S. Presidents;, women who lead the U.S.in finally adopting voting rights for women; an explorer of the unknown lands bought from the French through the Louisiana Purchase; and a female abolitionist and spy during the U.S. Civil War.
After another driving day, we will be spending two nights in Dayton Ohio, home of the Wright Brothers. Today we only had time for one portion of the Dayton Aviation Heritage Park in West Dayton. This location celebrates the time leading up to the two brothers developing the first flying machine; the childhood, early days as printers and bicycle makers, and the years of effort to necessary to begin the era of flight. Dayton at the time of the Wright Brothers was a hotbed of innovation. Dayton had more patents per capita than anywhere else in the U.S.during the time the Wright Brothers were here. The Wright Brothers fit right in.
Wilbur is the elder by four years and it seems the two of them had a spectacular chemistry together. They thought, and tinkered, and argued, each feeding the other ideas and suggestions-even before graduating from high school. They invented machines to fold papers. They built and sold kites. After joining in on the new bicycling craze, they repaired bikes for friends and soon had their own business manufacturing bicycles. They opened a print shop, even building their own printing press. And, they were intrigued by the idea of flight.
Never having gone to college, their work and play with bicycles and kites and printing presses gave them knowledges that stood them in good stead as they built a plane. Bicycle chains were involved in manipulating rudders and wings. Kite flying and bird watching helped understand lift. By not having a college education, they avoided relying on the assumptions then prevalent with other flight inventors. Through methodical note-taking and experimentation, they were able to make minor adjustments and understand the effect (positive or negative) each adjustment had on the finished product. They had determination, vision-and each other.
Their work with gliders was the first step,taking models to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina to test it and making modification. They came back from those succesful tests at Kitty Hawk in 1903 and spent the next two years making a glider into an airplane. By 1905, hundreds of test flights produced a fragile craft of wood and fabric that could fly for 40 minutes, making frequent turns and landing softly. It transformed the world. Then they took two years to file patents and get ready to turn invention into manufacturing. That story comes tomorrow.
Chris and Ed