Sunday, July 31, 2016



June of 2011

    This would be the day! With my sister Mary and my husband Bob, and with Mary's son Bill as our chauffeur, we headed from Virginia Beach to North Carolina to finally  meet "Uncle Willie Dough"---in the form of a life-size statue at Wright Brothers Memorial Park at Kitty Hawk. 
   Not until the autumn before, in a visit with my Carolina cousin Rachel Dough Smith, had I learned of a family connection, through Rachel's uncle Willie St. Clair Dough, with the historic First Flight of the Wright Brothers.  
    In 1901, Willie Dough had become a surfman at the Federal Life Saving Station at Kill Devil Hills. He and the men of that station had befriended the Wrights when they arrived at Kitty Hawk, and the surfmen kept the Wrights supplied with food and any help and supplies they might need as they worked in preparation for their historic flight. The Wright Brothers would later write of the surf men as "hospitable and indispensable." (The Lifesaving Stations would evolve into the U.S. Coast Guard, and its entwined history with the Wrights at  Kitty Hawk is well recorded in U.S. Coast Guard archives).
    On Dec. 17, 1903, the day of the historic flight, the Wrights raised a pre-arranged flag as a signal to the surf men that their help would be needed. Willie St. John Dough was one of three who answered the call. (Willie himself would help to push the plane into place for take-off and push it off the rail from the hill). 
   Later when Wilbur and Orville Wright would return to North Carolina for further flight experiments, Willie Dough willingly continued to help. The two became friends, and in 1907 Willie actually settled the name Wilbur Wright Dough on a newborn son. 
   Later Dough testified before a Congressional Committee as to the details of the First Flight, and in 1928 as a witness and survivor, he helped to lay the cornerstone of the Wright Brothers Monument at Kitty Hawk. (Dough died in 1931).

    ON OUR OWN SUNNY afternoon at Kitty Hawk in June 2011, Bob and my sister and I, with Mary's son, played like little children around the Wright Memorial. We also spent good time at the museum to learn more details of the significant First Flight.
    From here, we Three Amigos (as Bob and I and Mary dubbed ourselves) returned to "Beauty and the Beach"--the beach house we had rented in Sandbridge on the southeast seashore. We sat together that evening on the deck above the slip of water that would allow us to maneuver the resident canoe out into the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. With a heron fishing patiently nearby, we lazily considered all the possibilities of our planned canoe excursion.
   WHEN MORNING ARRIVED, our well-laid plans were changed abruptly by a shocking sewage back-up that surprised us as we slept! The management company offered no solution except to assure us if we slept there again that night, they would "fix the pipes by evening and clean up the mess in the house tomorrow."
    For us, that was far-from-acceptable. Beauty and the Beach had lost all her appeal, and Mary wryly renamed it Beauty and the BEAST---beauty for the setting, beast for the house itself. 
     Bob and I packed up and headed back to our Ohio, after driving Mary back to her home in Williamsburg, Virginia. We had packed a lot of fun and happiness into our time together, but we'd also left some things undone. 
   Superstition says that leaving at least one thing undone will draw you back again. And we prayed that would be true.