CALHOUN FLYING MACHINES - Visionary "Tap" Kerby Didn't Need Flat Land

(06/26/2022)
By Bob Weaver

9/2002 - Look to the skies, here comes Calhoun resident Harry Simmons flying though the air with the greatest of ease on his new flying machine the "powered parachute."

Simmons said he wants Calhoun folks to know he is flying over the area, usually on weekends.

The machine can carry one person besides the pilot.

Simmons generally lifts his aircraft from Bogg's Air Field near Spencer. but he also uses Scott Field at Mineral Wells.

He says he is trying to find a level piece of land in Calhoun that is big enough for the aircraft, with permission from a landowner, of course.

We would remind him that flat land should not be an obstacle for those with a flying spirit, like my neighbor Charles "Tap" Kerby.

The "Tapster" was an early Calhoun flying visionary who had the spirit of the Wright Brothers.

Charles "Darius Green" Kerby caught at Bim's Barber Shop in Grantsville

TAPSTER KERBY'S FREEDOM FLIGHT

1999 - People will often ask if a story in The Hur Herald was "really true" and we usually reply, "mostly."

It was true that (now over 65 years ago) Charles "Tap" Kerby of the Village of Hur, not unlike many fanciful boys, attempted to fly a contraption with wings. By the time the flying machine was ready for launch, most fired up adolescent boys should exercise their last ounce of judgment, and back out. Not Tap. He gave the flying machine his all, and stuck right with it.

Tap grew up at the head of Rowels Run, real close to the Village of Hur. A rock throw down the rugged hill from my abode. We could hear the Kerby bunch chase up and down the trickle of a stream in the tiny hollow surrounded by craggy hills.

Of the seven children, Charles "Tap" was the adventuresome one, always tearing things apart and putting them together. He was a tinkerer, messing with nuts and bolts and screws and washers, from which sprung his nickname "Tap." He liked a little excitement now and then, which was probably the reason we became friends. You know, the edgy mind looking for stuff to amuse and experiences to gratify.

Tap always had a sense of transportation. Maybe he was always dreaming about getting out of the holler to see the world, hence he later became a long distance truck driver of thirty years or more. Back then the best he could do was fuss around with push carts, old car frames and a few broken down bikes - things that by a stretch could take you places.

He could tell whose car was coming up Rowels by the hum and whine of the engine, although he admitted to being baffled when Wig Smith drove by in his contraption. Wig had an old hack which used steel-ribbed mowing machine wheels instead of rubber tires. Wig was not one to be held back by flat tires and lack of finance. Those metal cleats thrashing against the hard rock road would fool Tap.

Wig was also known for using his bicycle to pull a buggy full of kids all the way to Parkersburg, right over Elizabeth Hill.

Tap would get tired of his routine, running around the hills with the likes of the Smith boys and myself, and he would go off and invent something. While Tap was inventing mechanical in the holler, I would be inventing electrical on the hill. Like launching Hur's first and only AM radio station - WHUR. It was a low-powered, illegal operation in the cellar house, now home and executive suite of The Hur Herald. You could pick up the tunes and hymns out the Husk, Kerby and Joker ridges and a little ways down Pine Creek. My friend, Ronzel Lynch was the assistant engineer.

So, while we were developing communication, Tap was exercising his mechanical genius and assembling parts for his greatest achievement, a machine that would fly. Just like that Darius Green guy, Tap set out to build an airplane. I think his brother "Pog" and a few others helped, but it was Tap who put the rig together, wings, tail, and propeller, powered by a Briggs and Stratton gasoline engine off his mom's old washing machine.

The construction and excitement occurred so rapidly that Tap couldn't wait to summon all the neighborhood kids to witness the launching, although a few were there. They towed the contraption up the rugged hillside to Bear Rocks near Rex Ward's meadow, high above the Kerby house.

The machine was nestled close to the cliff as he fired the engine and seated himself in the open cockpit. With a push and a shove it catapulted off Bear Rocks on it's fanciful freedom flight... only to be gravity fed down the brushy hillside, covered by greenbriers, tree stumps and groundhog holes. Would you know, and this is really so, ole Tap stuck right with the machine as it turned end for end, inflicting bruises and cuts over most of his body.

"I stayed with her, just in case she decided to take off," he said. "Wonder it hadn't killed me." So, lo these many years later, it would seem my friend Tap is "staying with her" as he criss-crosses America in his long distance truck, gazing out his window at our beautiful country, still in the midst of his fanciful freedom flight.

Each weekend he comes home to Hur and his family to the ridge above his old homeplace, where he can look out his back window toward Bear Rocks and remember those fabulous 1950's, as I "hole up" here in my old cellar house thinking, writing and talking - the death of me yet. (Original Story 1998)

POSTSCRIPT 2019 - Charles "Tap" Kerby is now deceased, not from a dastardly home made airplane.

In my old age I have recalled the flying machine event many times, but more recently I had an epiphany about the event. In case you want to believe that adolescent boys have good judgment, forget it.

So here I am with Tap and his machine and the other teen boys. I must have been aware that this bulky contraption was not going to fly, and surely they did do.

So with that knowledge, why did I, with the help of the other boys, help push the flying machine off a rock cliff?

I was close to Tap, and certainly would not want to injure him.

The powerful excitement of the teen brain lost all judgment, and we made the push.

Parents and grandparents might want to use this example when trying to supervise teen boys. - Bob Weaver 2019