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Flying High at Ninety

"Well, I know I have been nearer heaven than most of you fellows," was the greeting Ellen Harn
of Kenesaw gave to the people she met when, at the age of 90, she descended from her first
airplane voyage and came back to earth and the cornfields of Nebraska. Miss Harn, a former
school teacher and pioneer suffragist, took her first flight seventy years ago, when flying was a
novelty to people of any age.

Recording her adventures in The Woman Citizen, the publication of the National Suffrage
Association, Miss Harn explained that she was not afraid of flying. On the contrary, she
worried she'd never get the chance to be airborne. "I had been fearful that at my age I might
drop off and never see an airplane, when to my surprise a plane came floating over my head. I
returned to the house to find my grand nieces with a car to take me to the ascension grounds,
where I was invited to make a flight with Aviator Creeth in the machine that had just flown
over my head."

"Several of my friends wished me to take with me a small flag and to wave it
so that they might know it was I in the plane above. In search for the flag the only one to be
found had a suffrage pennant attached to it. Upon asked leave to do the bidding of my friends
the owner of the plane, Mr. Snyder, promptly filed an injunction." But the pilot, Mr. Creeth,
came to the rescue and offered to drop the flag with its suffrage banner as the pair flew over the
town flag pole.

"We mounted the airplane and started. On the broad-tread of the plane we went bumping over
the uncircumscribed alfalfa field. The bumping ceased. I leaned out to see what was up; found
the nose of the plane describing an upward angle and clear of all entanglements. 'Now we are in
for it,' my brain fluttered."

"I was secure in the hidden arms of the trusty aviator behind me with clear, alert brains. So I
gave myself up to the newness of the lower landscape, its child-like markings into fields and
city squares. The higher we went up the more like the playground of the kids it became.

"We made note of the whitening stubble of the many wheatfields and I cannot describe the
feeling that took possession of me as we were so quietly and peacefully tobogganing up the
ethereal heights.

"We drifted south. Then, westward. Grey Eagle pointed her straight beak and we seemed to
float. I don't know how far. I only knew that we were floating, that the air was sugary sweet,
and the great round world, whispering no sound to us, lay far below. The white, comfortable,
homelike farmhouses . . .became mere flecks of white. There were old barns, sleek Percherons,
high-stepping trotters, graceful, pretty little mustangs arrayed in the colors of Joseph's coat,
grazing on the alfalfa stretches, Jerseys, Holsteins, shorthorns on the thousand, grassy interstices
of the gray old sand dunes.

"Striking the southwestern suburbs of Kenesaw we circled round west, then north until we
struck Smith Avenue. The focus of our search was the Stars and Stripes, at high mast on the
avenue over which Aviator Creeth had promised to drop the pennant.

"When the opportune time came, down it went, through the blue ether and the golden sun-light,
U.S. flag and suffrage pennant. Dual as they were at the starting point, before they had reached
the earth they had become so interwoven, so entwined, that no political microscope could
discover their individuality. They two were one and the same.

"The plane momentarily hovered over the gray gable of my prairie home, then stuck a bee line
for the point of decension, a mile or more away. I braced myself for a bump and a bang, but the
bird caught hold of a tuft of alfalfa as softly and smoothly as if a bevy of twilight sparrows were
stopping for a night's rest.


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Last updated 14 September 2005

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