Most people, me included, would think it was big folks, adults who had some engineering expertise or at least experience, like the Wright Brothers, who would do such a thing. But it wasn’t; it was kids and they really did fly.
So, once upon a time in a small town in Texas there were 4 kids who were bored at what they could find to occupy their minds. The oldest, Walker Jagoe, was 14 and the youngest 12, was Robert Storrie. The year was 1910.
The small town was Denton, Texas, and the boys were friends and occupied their fertile minds with the building of gadgets for their own enjoyment. Remember that in 1910 there were no movies and very few ways for teenagers to be entertained.
The boys obtained a copy of a book by Leonardo De Vinci that contained drawings for a wondrous machine, a glider. Walker Jagoe and Robert Storrie were always inventing gadgets. This was no different, just larger. They collecting materials and figuring out how to make a working model of Leonardo’s glider.
They built it and set about to fly it. The first idea was to launch the plane from the top of a building at the local college, now named Texsas Womans University, TWU, but they got caught and were ordered not to attempt such a foolhardy thing again. That was fortunate because they might well have badly injured or killed the pilot, launching from 30 or 40 feet in the air.
Not to be thwarted, they decided to launch it on the hill beside the building they envied. It was a downhill run, but they needed a pull. They got a horse (or a mule; the stories vary somewhat on the “engine”.) After a short pull the animal stopped, or the operator of the animal got distracted and turned loose of the rope, again the stories vary. Whatever the mechanism, the propulsion stopped and the glider crashed. The others ran up to the craft yelling for young Storrie. He is reported to have replied, “You can’t talk to me, I’m dead.”
The area where the flights took place is now filled with the buildings of the TWU campus, and there is no marker noting the event. That is unfortunate, but who at that time paid any attention to the antics of young lads. It just wasn’t viewed as an historic event. Now, in 2013, some of us think it was.
To be sure there is a lot more to this story, but space is limited and the saga is to be continued, at intervals shorter than a year, I promise.
By the way, the lads all grew up to be leaders and businessmen in the developing city that now has a population of over 100,000 and a very fine airport that is watched over, in part, by the Texas Pilots Association.