This is a short story Dad wrote, some time in the 70s, I think. His manuscript for this story doesn’t contain a date, but I found this in the same file folder with his “One Man’s Opinion” columns, which I know for sure were written in the early 1970s.
Andy, The Old Airplane
by Paul Melvin
Once, in the United States Air Force, there was a huge cargo plane named “Andy.” You may think Andy is a funny name for an airplane, but the Air Force men called him that. They painted his name on his nose right under his pilot’s window. Andy was very proud of this.
Although Andy was big and slow, the Air Force men considered him very important. He carried men and equipment to far off places. Sometimes they would open Andy’s side door and jump out with parachutes. Other men would shove large cases of food, tents and other equipment out the door and Andy wold sneak a look down to see where they were going, and what was happening. He seldom did this though, because he had to keep his nose straight ahead and keep him mind on his flying.
Every so often airplane mechanics would take Andy into the hangar and clean and check him all over…something like the check-up your friend, the doctor gives you. They would take his motors out and overhaul them completely. His wires and struts were checked and replaced where necessary. His propellers were cleaned and checked. Andy liked his check-ups because he felt so good when they were through. He was able to fly through the air easily and lift heavy loads with no effort at all.
But, best of all, while they were working on him he was able to loaf around the hangar and swap airplane talk with other airplanes also getting their check-ups. There were sleek, fast jet planes, important looking transport planes, busy training planes and there was one lone Piper Cub. He was used by the general. Because of this he didn’t associate with the other planes much and he was always kept fresh and clean and always full of gas and ready to fly.
One day, Andy was rolled into the hangar for his regular check-up; but this time, instead of beginning work on him right away, they just let him sit there. Andy began to wonder what was in store for him when the Colonel and a sergeant came into the hangar. They walked right over to Andy and looked up at him. Andy lowered his landing lights and waited for one of them to speak.
“This is the plane l was telling you about, Colonel.” said the sergeant. “I wouldn’t let anyone ride in it any morel It’s unsafe! It’s too old!”
Andy was stunned! No one had said anything like that about him before! He had flown with all his might when he was in the air. He had never stalled on the runway like some of the other planes when they took off or landed. He might have sneaked a look at the soldiers parachuting out of his cabin, but he just wanted to see how they were doing. He thought he was as safe as he could be!
The Colonel spoke, “Leave this old bucket of bolts right here in the hangar ’til I figure what to do with it. Maybe we can use it for spare parts.”
Andy’s wheels almost crumpled under him. He looked sadly around at all the other planes in the hangar. They were all looking at Andy. They looked as sad as he felt. They were sorry for their good friend…that is, all but the Piper Cub. He was over in one corner having his fuselage wiped clean. He just snorted and turned away. Andy felt very sad.
The Colonel turned and walked out of the hangar slowly, shaking his head. The sergeant remained behind. He had a tablet in his hand and walked around and around Andy marking down all of Andy’s parts that could be taken off and used on other airplanes. As the sergeant circled him Andy watched him out of the corner of his landing lights. The other planes just stood watching the sergeant and Andy.
Soon the sergeant was finished. He sat down on a barrel and began to check over the list of parts that could be taken from Andy and given to other younger planes. Finally he spoke to another mechanic who was working on a jet plane nearby.
“We might as well tell the Colonel this heap is ready for the junk pile.” He pointed at Andy’s nose. A tear squeezed out of Andy’s left landing light.
Just then the hangar door burst open and another mechanic hurried in. He walked straight over to Andy and looked him all over. He stood with his feet far apart, his hands on his hips. He nodded his head from time to time. Andy looked at him through tear-clouded landing lights.
The second mechanic spoke, “Hey, Jim, do you think this old cargo carrier would make a good playhouse for children to play in?”
“What do you mean?” asked the other mechanic.
“Well, we could unhitch all the instruments, take the motors out, wheel it out to the play area and block up the wheels. The kids would have a swell place to play and they surely would be safe in old Andy’s cabin!”
Andy almost leaped out the hangar door! He liked the idea! If he couldn’t fly any more, he could provide pleasure for little children. Next to flying, Andy liked playing with little children best.
The sergeants left to talk to the Colonel about it. A few moments later the Colonel and the two sergeants returned. They looked Andy over from nose to tail. Finally, the Colonel nodded. The sergeants leaped into the air, shouting for joy. Andy knew he would soon be turned into a playhouse for children.
The very next day Andy was wheeled out of the hangar. Once outside the door he was surrounded by laughing, jumping, shouting children. They pressed close to Andy’s sides and patted him. Some tried to twist his propellers. They twisted so hard that it almost made Andy sneeze!
Other children looked on with their mouths wide open as Andy was slowly wheeled into the play area. Mechanics swarmed all over him. They cleaned his windows. They secured his propellers so they wouldn’t turn and hurt anyone. His wheels were blocked up. His cabin was outfitted with games, blackboards, blocks, crayons, paper and lots of other things little girls and boys like to play with. They even lowered his door handle so the smaller children could reach it. Andy began to feel like a new plane again.
He looked around him. The job was done. Little children waited impatiently for their fathers and mothers to let them scamper up the ramp into Andy’s cabin. The Colonel made a short speech complimenting the two sergeants for thinking of using Andy as a playhouse. The people all clapped their hands. The band played and the children trouped up the ramp into Andy’s cabin, shouting and stamping. They stamped so hard that it tickled Andy’s sides. Andy laughed out loud, but no one heard him because the children were making such a joyful noise. Andy swung his landing lights from side to side and up and down. Everywhere he looked he saw children and he was very happy.
Today, if you’re looking for Andy, you’ll find him as busy as he ever was during his flying days. He’s busy entertaining children. He has plenty of friends, both young and old and is making new ones every day.
The ramp up to his door had to be replaced because so many children came to see Andy they wore out the first one. Andy laughs and laughs. At night he sleeps peacefully, thinking about all the little girls and boys he will see the next day. Yes, Andy is an old airplane, but he’s as happy as any new one could hope to be.