A Sudden Chinook

What’s up? The sky. Sometimes there are amazing things in it. Last Friday, I saw an enormous double helicopter fly low over my house, and then pass back by a few minutes later.  I jumped, the dogs barked, birds were all in a tizzy. Then I forgot about it, and went about my day. On Sunday, my son and I took a bike ride out to the Sewanee airport, and as we were having a little picnic, I asked one of the guys out there about it.  He didn’t really know anything, but a minute later, a woman came out.  Here’s what she said, as I recall.

ch47_chinook_2“Did you just ask about the helicopter? It was incredible. It was a Chinook. I don’t know where it came from, I’m assuming the base. I was here on Friday morning, and all of a sudden I heard it, it was like ‘Incoming!’  I was taken totally by surprise. There was nothing on the radio, no information, just Boom, there it was.  I mean, this is a military highway … Do you fly? No?  Well, they have a right of way through here, so they don’t have to radio to let you know … Anyway, I was just sitting here, and all of a sudden this huge sound of whirring blades and it was RIGHT THERE.  It was HUGE. Like a battleship. I though it was going to land, but it didn’t, they just sailed along the whole airstrip there, from one end to the other, about maybe a foot or two off the ground?  It was amazing.  And then it just kept going and got to the road there, like I say maybe a foot off the ground, and I thought they’d smash into the trees. And then it made, like, an immediate 90 degree angle and flew straight up, way up like that and then turned around and went back the way it came. I almost got on the radio to ask them to do it again, but I figured it being military, I should just mind my own business.  There was a hunter, over there on the other side of the airport, he came out a minute later. He looked pretty surprised.  He looked at me and said, What was that? I said, it was a Chinook. I’m glad somebody else saw it besides me and him. You’re the only other person who’s asked about it.”

Out of a clear blue sky this amazing thing came, and then went back again.  The people who saw it–the airport attendant, the hunter, me,–we weren’t really sure whether we had seen anything at all.  (My friend, Stephen Alvarez did get a photo of it).  On the bike-ride home, I kept imagining those sudden whirring blades, and it made me think of Horace’s famous poem, Parcus Deorum Cultor (Odes 1.34), especially the last stanza:

Parcus deorum cultor et infrequens,
insanientis dum sapientiae
consultus erro, nunc retrorsum
uela dare atque iterare cursus

cogor relictos: namque Diespiter
igni corusco nubila dividens
plerumque, per purum tonantis
egit equos volucremque currum,

quo bruta tellus et vaga flumina,
quo Styx et invisi horrida Taenari
sedes Atlanteusque finis
concutitur. Valet ima summis

mutare et insignem attenuat deus,
obscura promens; hinc apicem rapax
Fortuna cum stridore acuto
sustulit, hic posuisse gaudet.

A superficial and sometime believer
in the gods, I was wandering, well-read
with pointless learning, but now
I must trim my sails and double back,

Since Father Jupiter, whose lightning
often bursts the clouds, drove his thundering
horses and winged chariot,
across the clear sky.  And at this

the dumb earth and meandering rivers,
at this, the Styx and Taenarian hell-mouth,
and the Atlantic shores were shook.
The god can up-end the world, replacing

The high with low, striking down the powerful,
Elevating the humble.  Like a bird of prey,
Fortune, with piercing screech, takes the crown
From one, happily placing it on another head.

About Uncomely and Broken

I am a classicist in Sewanee, Tennessee.
This entry was posted in Birds, Classics, Dogs, Family, Military, Poetry, Sewanee. Bookmark the permalink.

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