Fingers in the Airport Fence Entwined

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In the Fall of 2007, I began writing a ballad to fill out a book that I was in the process of finishing up. I had been inspired in the mid 1990s by a ballad written by folk singer Mike Agranoff called The Ballad of the Sandman. You might have heard Sandman once or twice here on Airspeed. It’s the story of the apocryphal rock and roll radio DJ Paul Sandman in the wee hours of New Year’s Day 1970 when he barricades himself in the studio and puts on the kind of show that would make radio great if it would dare. And how his fellow DJs pick up his signal and relay it across the nation to the overnight hardcore rock and roll radio listeners.

Inspired by Heritage Flights that I had seen at airshows and by fly-bys that friends and co-workers had performed in honor of Will Hawkins’ grandfather, I put pen to paper and tried to come up with a waking dream that just might happen in a world as special as aviation.

The result was Fingers in the Airport Fence Entwined – The Ballad of Jimmy Short.

Fingers has loomed quietly but large in the Airspeed universe. The reverse of the Airspeed challenge coin bears the inscription around the edge, “standing with my fingers in the airport fence entwined.” Harper’s Field, the fictional rural airport that I made up as the centerpiece of the story, has become my own personal Lake Wobegone and has been the setting for stories such as my own treatment of O. Henry’s Gift of the Magi. And I’ve developed a strange attraction to Ray Community Airport (57D) over the past few years because it reminds me so much of the Harper’s Field of my imagination. More about Ray very soon, I hope.

I’ve maintained an irregular correspondence with Mike Agranoff since the late 1990s. A few years ago, Mike offered to trade me a recitation of Sandman for a reading of Fingers. I jumped at the chance. After one of his concerts, he and I sat down in the living room of one of his friends with a crowd of a dozen or so folk musicians and hangers-on and we made the trade. Mike went first (at my suggestion – the better to make it obvious how derivative my piece is of his). He recited Sandman from memory and breathed life into it there before my eyes. Then I did Fingers. I had to read most of it, not having the knack for memorizing epic poetry. But I got through it and I held up my end of the trade with reasonable aplomb. That was an unexpected and amazing opportunity and I’ll never forget it.

It occurred to me shortly after I put Fingers out in the feed that the episode in which it appeared was largely taken up by my lead-in commentary about the book. And that Fingers never really got its own episode.

As I’m in the process of editing a movie and putting out proposals for some really amazing coverage opportunities for the upcoming season, I though that this might be a good time to give Fingers its very own episode. The reading is the original one from 2007, but it’s at a slightly higher bitrate and, as long as I shut up pretty shortly here, it’s presented without much distracting lead-in.

So here, without further fuss or introduction, is Fingers in the Airport Fence Entwined.


Fingers in the Airport Fence Entwined
(The Ballad of Jimmy Short)

by Steve Tupper (

Harper’s Field is smallish strip a mile from the edge of town,
Parallel to the section lines with farm fields all around.
An FBO, two dozen Tees ‘mid green alfalfa hay,
And a battered sign on the county road: “Airplane rides this way.”

Sometimes, when I was back from school, I’d drive down to the field,
And park the car in the gravel lot to see what the sky might yield.
I’d stand there by the airport fence with a Coke or a Huber beer,
And while away the afternoon at the sky and ground’s frontier.

It doesn’t happen often, though there’re some who say it should,
That we get a glimpse of a fleeting thing that we thought was gone for good.
When zephyrs of the atmosphere meet dreamers on the ground,
And magic, love, and science merge in a roar of deaf’ning sound.

I’d watch them make their takeoff runs; their Continentals whined,
Standing with my fingers in the airport fence entwined.

* * * * *

Jimmy Short arrived in town in 1952.
He’d served in South Korea, but his fighting days were through.
He got a job and the stamping plant and married a local girl,
And made a home and family and his corner of the world.

Sometime in the spring of ‘56 a friend from his platoon,
Called to say he was passing through and might Jim have a room?
Jim met him down at Harper’s Field when he pulled up to the ramp,
And got his very first airplane ride in his friend’s Aeronca Champ.

Jim kept his friend up half the night and talked ‘bout how to fly,
Got another ride in the morning before they said goodbye,
And when his buddy dropped him off and taxied off to go,
Jim turned around and followed the fenceline down to the FBO.

So Jim began his training with a crusty world war vet.
They’d stay aloft on weekday nights ‘til the sun began to set.
And Saturdays and Sundays he’d be at the field at dawn.
His preflight done and the oil topped off; by seven, they were gone.

When the shift let out and the bars filled up, he was at the field instead,
And mowers moved across the hay as he soloed overhead.
And by the time the leaves had turned from green to fiery gold,
His private chit was in his in his hands and twenty hours old.

Jim bought the Cub that winter, though it wasn’t much to see.
The tires were flat and the fabric slack and it sat there in the Tee.
The engine was in baskets, too, but Jimmy wasn’t fazed.
The A&P who signed it off could only stand amazed,

At the gorgeous Cub that Jim pulled out in the second week of May.
That winter in the hangar, Jimmy working night and day,
Had made a bond ‘tween man and plane, both glowed there in the sun,
As Jimmy swing her ‘round and poised to make his takeoff run.

Harper’s field was younger then and, just like Jim, it changed.
Its spirit kept the beat of time but scenery rearranged.
They paved it back in seventy-six and stretched three thousand feet,
And added in an NDB just past the white concrete.

In ‘85, the airspace changed and, though Harper’s Field was “G,”
They added on a speed ring and an overhead of “C.”
You had to stay three thousand or get on the radio,
But Harper’s pilots didn’t mind. They liked to keep it low.

* * * * *

The first time I met Jimmy Short was twenty years ago,
By the fence at Harper’s Field when he stopped to say hello.
He was in his fifties and I was twenty-three,
But that didn’t seem to matter when he stopped to talk to me.

“I’ve seen you here all summer, son, just standing where you are,
Sipping on your Coke and standing, watching from afar.
There’s more to this than what you see when you stand in the parking lot.
There’s a view, you know, there that gives you more perspective than this spot.”

“And what might that be?” I asked, and stood somewhat beguiled.
He hooked his thumb toward the ramp and turned, and then he smiled.
He said, “My name is Jimmy Short and I fly the yellow Cub.
It’s time to stop just standing here. It’s time to take you up.”

I followed him down the fenceline and he waved me through the gate.
I helped him pull the Cub out and he asked about my weight.
Some scrib’ling on an envelope, a finger in the wind,
Then he waved me to the front seat and he helped to strap me in.

And so, that day, I saw where I had stood there by the fence.
But I saw it from a thousand feet and I had a different sense,
Of where I stood in other ways and what I really wanted,
I knew that it would challenge me, but I set my teeth undaunted.

And when the Cub came back to earth (and later, so did I),
I turned around, asked Jimmy Short “Where do I learn to fly?”
He chuckled and took off his hat, ran his hand through his thinning hair.
“The next step’s at the FBO and, son, it’s over there.”

It seems I didn’t sleep much through the summer and the fall.
There were groceries to bag and lawns to mow and clippings left to haul.
And every cent I took to the FBO to rent the plane;
A beat-up C-150 but a perfect ship to train.

And, as I flew and talked to folks, before too long, I found,
That the name of the pilot Jimmy Short was known for miles around.
No job to small, he volunteered at every county show,
And went to every fly-in where the Cub would let him go.

You could put him on the flight line or in the parking lot,
And Jim would see that every camper pulled into its slot.
You’d see him folding tables and hauling Porta-Johns,
And many a warbird was marshaled with a wave of Jim’s batons.

You’d see him flipping pancakes and you’d see him cleaning up,
Or smiling as he showed the folks his yellow Piper Cub.
His dues were current in the EAA and when they called the roll,
Jimmy was a captain in the Civil Air Patrol.

And I found that my ride on that summer day wasn’t Jimmy’s first.
Many a pilot had Jim to thank for giving them the thirst,
For the smell of hundred low-lead and the sound of the takeoff run,
Or the landing on two-seven in a setting summer sun.

It doesn’t happen often, though there’re some who say it should,
That we get a glimpse of a fleeting thing that we thought was gone for good.
When zephyrs of the atmosphere meet dreamers on the ground,
And magic, love, and science merge in a love that’s newly found.

I’d sometimes watch as he gave a kid his very first airplane ride.
Standing with my fingers in the airport fence entwined.

* * * * *

Like I said, it’s been twenty years and I’ve flown for all that time.
I’m based right here at Harper’s Field and Six-Five-Six is mine.
I still saw Jim most weekends and we’d talk and hangar-fly,
And jaw about the weather as we watched the summer sky.

Until the day I saw him at his hangar, moving slow.
I gave him a wave, but he turned away and shuffled off to go.
The bounce was gone from Jimmy’s step and I stopped to look at him.
Then walked two down to his hangar door; called, “Hey, what ails you, Jim?”

“My medical’s been touch-and-go for years and now, you see,
I’m creaky and my eyesight just ain’t what it used to be.
The family doc says I could go again and try my luck,
But I’ll never make it by this time. It’s time to hang ‘em up.

“So I put the Cub in Trade-a-Plane and I got a call last week.
And the buyer’s A&P came by and said he’d take a peek.
And now we’ve done the haggling and it’s time to sell the Cub,
They’re coming in tomorrow and they’re going to pick her up.”

He saw the look that stole across my face and said, “It’s fine.
I’ve flown her nearly forty years and, man, I’ve had my time.
I’d give an arm and a leg or two for another summer’s flight
But it’s time for me to pass her on. I think it’s only right.”

I departed on the downwind and I dialed one-two-two-eight,
And listened to the traffic at Big Bear and Applegate.
I cruised around the countryside with nowhere planned to go,
Just listening to the engine and the calls on the radio.

Now and then, I’d hear a voice I knew and key the mic,
And make a little small talk and ask about their flight,
But my heart just wasn’t in it, and soon enough I’d say,
“Jimmy Short has hung ‘em up. He’s going to sell the plane.”

Their thoughts were all the same as mine and somber grew the talk,
As word began to reach the general aviation flock.
I heard it on each CTAF and each rural UNICOM,
The sad refrain from plane to plane that “Jimmy’s moving on.”

And in the air that carried Jim in summers long gone by,
There grew a song of the mournful news that rose and filled the sky,
From two-two-eight to two-zero-five and up and down the dial,
Across the fields and lakes and on for mile on airy mile.

* * * * *

The morning dawned on Harper’s Field and the sky was clear and bright.
I was there to see the sunrise; only restless sleep that night.
For I couldn’t help but think of Jimmy Short as there I lay,
And figured I’d be near in case he needed me that day.

By nine o’clock, I’d finished cleaning my Tee for the second time,
And a Cessna 182 pulled to parking on the line.
Three men got out of the Cessna and walked to Jimmy’s Tee,
And the door rolled back and Jim stood there and waved to greet the three.

The all shook hands, then pulled the doors of the hangar open wide,
And then, a moment later, rolled Jimmy’s Cub outside.
One circled the Cub with a practiced eye ‘til his preflight was complete,
And, smiling, gave a nod to Jim; laid the papers on the seat.

Each of them in turn leaned in and signed, then passed the pen,
And stood aside to let the next in line lean in and sign again,
‘Til all was done. Jim shook their hands and handed one the key,
And turned away and walked across the ramp to stand by me.

Jim said hello to me, not with his voice, but with a nod,
His countenance inscrutable. His face was a façade.
I searched words to say to him to lend a friend’s support,
But words had all abandoned, so I just stood by Jimmy Short.

We stared out at the windsock as it dangled on the pole.
Neither spoke for a longish time; each searched within his soul.
Gone the resolve that buoyed Jim when I talked to him yesterday,
And Harper’s field stood solemnly in a veil of deep dismay.

Then slowly in the silence there came a distant song.
It wound along the hangar row and then continued on.
It played there in the parking lot, then scattered in the hay,
And rose to cover all the field as it doubled back our way.

Our eyes were turned of one accord, both us and the buyers there.
A J3 Cub on a low approach was floating through the air.
And by us flew the Cub midfield, he rolling left and right,
Then, straightening out and climbing high, he slowly passed from sight.

And ‘ere the song of the Six-five Continental bid adieu,
Came the drone of the N2Cs of a pair of C-152s.
They passed abeam the midfield line in tight right echelon,
Then powered up and, turning right, they climbed and soon were gone.

I looked at Jim, he looked at me, and all I could do was shrug.
The lineman stared and so did the men with Jimmy’s former Cub.
Now skimming low was an old T-6 with a Pratt & Whitney wail,
And close behind with a glint of blue was an F4U in trail.

I grabbed my handheld from my plane and quickly flipped it on,
Then punched in the frequency for the CTAF and UNICOM.
I could tell right away that something was up. The chatter was fast and thick.
Voices I didn’t recognize and mic click after click.

“Eight-Niner-One is clear to the north. Just don’t tear up the cement!”
I saw the Corsair banking right and wondered what he meant.
Until thirty seconds later, when came roaring o’er the trees,
A monster four-prop Air Force C-130 Hercules.

I walked toward the taxiway to get a better view,
And a conga line of growing dots was on approach in queue.
I keyed approach on the radio to listen overhead,
And voice on voice fell on my ears and this is what they said.

“Turn left to one-six zero. That’s the best I can provide.
Lots of traffic over there, so keep your eyes outside.
Hey, what’s with all this traffic? You guys got some soiree?
I guess there’s something going on at Harper’s Field today.

“Approach, this here is Viper Six. We’re inbound over ROCHE.
We’d like to head for Harper’s field and make a low approach.”
“You’re cleared to the field, please say your type and report when you’re abeam.”
“Viper Six is a two-ship flight and, sir, we’re F-16s.”

I strained my eyes to the eastern sky and there they seemed to crawl
And, sure enough, on the UNICOM, there came the Viper’s call,
“Harper’s Field, this is Viper Six, approaching from the east.
Two-ship flight for a high-alpha pass; and we’re going to drag our feet.”

And in they came, with their noses high with the gear and the junk all down,
And the thunder of the engines kept them fifty off the ground,
‘Til at the midfield turnoff point, the gear came up and then,
Their afterburners thundered as they rose to fly again.

When the ground had ceased its shaking and the jets had disappeared,
I keyed the radio, said “Hey, what’s all the traffic here?”
“Four-Mike Fox on final,” came the crackling report.
“I though that everyone had heard. We’re here for Jimmy Short.

“I heard it at the restaurant last night at Stony Creek,
From a guy who was in from UPS and another one from fleet.
And then a guy from Kansas who was on the frequency.
The news sure seems to travel fast and I’m in good company.

“The word is out that Jimmy’s hung ‘em up and sold the plane.
Approach is all abuzz with talk and Center’s just the same.
Therere folks who owe Jim big time and it bothered them, you see,
And the word went out that we shouldn’t let this go so easily.

“It started in the pilot talk on a website board or two,
Then cell phone text and traffic calls and, hour by hour, it grew,
‘Till someone had a brainstorm that solidified from whim,
A low pass over at Harper’s Field and wag your wings for Jim.

“The message passed from field to field and it picked up steam all night,
And it made the Center chatter thanks to a red-eye Northwest flight.
And an F-16 maintainer passed the word to his command.
They remembered Jim from the air shows there when he came to lend a hand.

“So I fired her up this morning and I took off VFR.
I fly a Baron Fifty-Five, so Harper’s field ain’t far.
But I used to be a groundhog, see, when I was just a pup,
‘Til I got my first Young Eagles ride and Jimmy took me up.

“So I’m here to dip a wing for Jim and let him know I’m here
He’s the reason that I started and he’s why I persevere.”
And, sure enough, the Baron came in low and came in hot,
He wagged his wings amidfield; tracking down the line he shot.

Jim was standing next to me and he overheard the call.
A faraway look stole across his face as he listened to it all,
As each new plane passed the midfield line in flashing, proud review,
And the radio told of a first flight ride or a guy in Jim’s old crew.

Then down by the fence they began to arrive; drawn in from the town,
Drawn to the stately dance o’erhead in droves from all around.
They filled the little parking lot, then the access road further away,
And out to the sign on the county road that said: “Airplane rides this way.”

Faces upturned and spellbound, they knew not how or why,
Or whence this grand ballet had come to fill the summer sky.
But came they did and they gathered near and watched each passing plane,
And each was touched by a fleeting dream that none could quite explain.

Jimmy saw the cars pull in and he watched them for a while.
The stricken look of earlier was gone and now a smile,
Crossed Jimmy’s face as the last plane passed and, in the wake of the fading sound,
He grabbed my elbow, cleared his throat, and, grinning, turned me ‘round.

You see them there? They don’t know why, but still they’re drawn to see,
The miracles we daily work, just guys like you and me.
It’s time to pass the torch to you. The telling’s your job now.
The magic is within their reach, you just have to tell them how.

He smiled again, then shook my hand and turned and walked away.
And joined a knot of Harper’s guys who’d gathered down the way.
The buyer and the other guys all turned around to leave.
My eyes were slightly hazy, but I wiped them on my sleeve,

And turned and walked across the ramp toward the fence by the FBO,
Where the crowd still stood in silence, some with faces still aglow,
As they stood and contemplated what had just now filled the air,
And wondered at its meaning all along the fenceline there.

It doesn’t happen often, though there’re some who say it should,
That we get a glimpse of a fleeting thing that we thought was gone for good.
When zephyrs of the atmosphere meet dreamers on the ground,
And magic, love, and science merge in silence most profound.

I reached the fence and smiled at them gathered up and down the line,
Standing with their fingers in the airport fence entwined.


More information about Mike Agranoff is available at

The full text of Sandman is located at

Mike’s recitation appears at

The Magi of Harper’s Field

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The following is from the special holiday episode of Airspeed for 2008. Airspeed starts its fourth year next month and we have big plans for 2009 and beyond. Thanks for listening for the last three years and we’re looking forward to bringing you more of the best in aviation and aerospace!

(With apologies to O. Henry.)

Leila looked at the stack of bills on the left-hand side of the kitchen table. Her gaze then fell on the check register on the right-hand side of the kitchen table. One hundred eighty-seven dollars. Yes, they’d make the rent and have the store-brand groceries and put gas in the battered pick-up trick for a few more weeks, but doing so would leave them a grand total of one hundred eighty-seven dollars.

Leila stood up and walked to the window and stared out at nothing in particular as the wind played with a few wisps of snow up the street.

Let’s leave Leila with her thoughts for a moment. If we were to look at Leila from the other side of the window, we’d see her dressed in jeans, a blouse, and a fleece vest. The vest partly for style, but partly because the thermostat that had remained at around 60 since October so as to avoid weighing down that left-hand side of the kitchen table. At 24, she is half of the relatively new enterprise of Mr. and Mrs. Jack and Leila Whitmore, and so says the index card taped to the mailbox at the bottom of the stairs that run from the second-floor flat above the hobby store at the edge of town.

The flat is timeworn and even a little flea-bitten, but it’s cheap and it’s only a couple of miles from Harper’s Field, the local airport down the county road. Which is good, because Leila spends much of her time on, or above, the field, where she daily climbs into the right seat of Cessna 152s and Piper Warriors and does her best to teach the art and science of aviation.

The flat is a waypoint on a grand adventure that Mr. and Mrs. Whitmore have charted. The destination of this grand adventure lies in places and situations and in persons yet unborn but, to the extent that it is a place, it is a number of acres that lie a mere 20 minutes from the flat, just outside of the lateral boundaries of the Class C speed ring. Inherited from Leila’s grandmother, it is mostly open and gently sloping. It drains well. And one of the locals mows it several times each summer and pays Leila a few hundred dollars for the timothy grass that he hauls away for cattle and horses.

She had received several offers from neighboring farmers to purchase the land. Offers at fair prices. But none had interested her.

Leila loved Harper’s Field. It was there that she learned to fly and there she build her ratings until she was one of two instructors at the local FBO. But it remained undeniable that the parcel was perfectly suited as a grass strip around which a little airport might be built. A place where Piper Cubs and Aeronca Champs and all manner of small craft might visit and where pilots might be made of pedestrians – in taildraggers on grass. And where she and Jack might resurrect some piece of the golden age of aviation there amid the hayfields.

The plan was to put up a pole barn on the property sometime soon that would one day be the first hangar for the field. But it seemed a faraway thing at the moment for she and Jack.

Jack. Jack walked onto the ramp at the flight school and into her life two years ago.

“Is this a good place to see the airplanes?” he had asked.

“Sure,” she had said. “Look over there at midfield about 800 feet up. When planes come in, you’ll see them enter downwind right there.”

“Downwind,” he had said, letting the term sink in “I’ll watch downwind, then.”

Later in the summer, she had walked out to the line to meet a new student to find Jack standing next to the 152. All thumbs through the preflight and clearly uncomfortable through the first few lessons he nevertheless became her most determined student, even if not her most skilled.

It was in a fit of hubris on the day that he held his new temporary private certificate in his hand that he told – rather admitted – the reason for his perseverance. He walked her down the hangar row and pulled aside the doors to reveal the Champ. It had started life as an L-16A serving the US Army. In 1956, it had gone the Civil Air Patrol and then through several sets of hands before landing in Jack’s. He had not known at the time why he had purchased the dilapidated aircraft. He had never flown an hour in his life. Not even commercially. But the Champ had captured his imagination immediately when he had seen it while visiting the airport with a friend, who was an A&P.

The few thousand dollars in his savings had more or less matched what the owner was willing to accept for her and he had managed to wrangle a deal on the remaining lease for the hangar. And, by the time he had drawn aside the hangar door to show Leila, she sat there in glorious Civil Air Patrol livery just as she had been in 1957.

The Champ lacked only a proper engine. The engine in the aircraft was shot and it remained a challenge to identify a worthy Continental C85. But there remained time for that. And it would look great there on the grass field some day. In the meantime, it was the envy of all of the old timers at the field. And even visitors who knew nothing about the aircraft seemed to understand that it, and aircraft like it, were somehow important.

Leila and Jack grew ever fonder of each other until, that Christmas Eve almost two years ago, Jack had summoned Leila to the ramp just before the FBO closed.

“Thought we might hang out and watch the downwind to see what comes in,” he said.

There was the red Pitts that Jack had arranged to arrive about then and it duly dropped the small parachute that Jack had supplied. And there was the ring in the box that depended from the parachute. And there was the wedding the following spring and the flat and lots of time at the airport. She busy instructing and he training when he could get away from his job at the tool and die shop. And both, as often as they could, sitting in the grass just off the ramp talking about nothing in particular and watching the downwind to see what might arrive.

And so we return to the flat, where Leila seems no happier than when we left her a moment ago.

“Five days to Christmas,” she says to no one in particular. “Five days to Christmas.”

It’s not necessarily sudden when she turns to walk across the room, but she half surprises herself at how quickly she finds herself at the little bulletin board near the door. And pulling out her mobile phone to dial a number that’s been there on the board for some time.

Suffice it to say that that phone call led to several others and a trip downtown over the next couple of days and that we now find ourselves at Harper’s field on Christmas Eve.

Leila wheels the truck into the parking lot of the FBO, relieved to find the delivery truck still there. She finds the driver inside and offers to lead him down the hangar row.

When they arrive at the hangar, Jack is just locking the door.

“Hi, Baby!” she calls. “Done for the day?”

“You could say so,” he says.

“I wondered if you might have a moment to do Christmas a little early this year?” she says.

“Always,” he says. “Do you need to take care of your buddy there in the flatbed first?”

“Well, it’s actually you who’s going to have to help him out,” she says.

She walks him around to the side of the truck and cocks her head toward the large crate chained to the flatbed. Clearly stenciled on the crate are the words Continental C85/C90.

“Merry Christmas, baby!” she says, here eyes gleaming. “It’s newly overhauled and it has the C90 conversion. Bet you can have it in the Champ and signed off before spring. And I can give you your tailwheel endorsement in it as soon as you’re ready.”

“And before you ask, I sold the property to get the money. The grass strip and our little version of Gaston’s was just out of our reach for now. There’ll be other times and other chances, I’m sure. Besides, it’s Christmas and I love you and I want the Champ to fly and I want to see you fly it.”

Jack stands there somewhat stunned. Not that this is an inappropriate reaction, but the reaction lasts a little bit longer than expected. Finally, he speaks.

“Don’t get me wrong, hon. Landed gentry or no, you’re mine and I’m yours. But if you’ll look at this, I think you’ll understand why I’m fumbling a little for words here.”

Jack reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out a yellow sheet of paper folded in quarters and gives it to her. Leila unfolds the sheet, which says “Grover’s Lumber” at the top and “Customer Copy – Delivery Date January 2nd” at the bottom. In between – in a series of neatly-numbered lines that speak of lumber, metal, concrete, and hardware – it said, for all intents and purposes, “pole barn.”

Leila looks up, wondering.

“I’m sorry, hon, but you’ve caught me a little flat-footed. Joe Baxter was by a couple of hours ago and it’s all done. I sold the Champ to buy the stuff for the pole barn.”

They stand looking at each other for what seems like a long time.

“Y’know,” says Leila, “I think our presents are too nice to play with just now. Let’s help the poor delivery guy unload the engine and let him get home.”

When the engine is placed along the wall of the otherwise empty hangar and the delivery truck has rumbled away down the hangar row, Leila turns to Jack and says, “You want to just hang out here and see what shows up on downwind?”

There seems nothing else to do but embrace. Whether against the cold or to steady each other, it doesn’t really matter. This they do for some time as we take our leave of the scene as the snow eddies and floats down the taxiway.

Along the county road and in town, people’s attentions drifted variously to songs and stories of the season. Some of the stories evoking magi – wise men who travelled far to give gifts that have become symbols of the season. Being wise men, the gifts of the magi were likely wise as well. Perhaps even being susceptible to barter or to exchange for a different size or color.

Here, you have taken some moments of your life to hear me relate this tale of two young people who foolishly sacrificed for each other the finest treasures of their newly-constituted marital estate. But as you celebrate the season, remember them. Because, in their foolishness, they are yet the wisest of all. For they are the magi of Harper’s Field.