Faith's Lindsay Hess can sing it … or wing it

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 28, 2011

By Darrell Williams
For the Salisbury Post

Sixty-one years in the newspaper business has dropped the names of a lot of interesting people on my smudged-up notepad.
One of the most interesting, however, was a charismatic little baby that was born 100 yards from our house when I was 4 years old. I remember standing on the bridge 50 yards from his house and watching people come and go because a little baby was being born, and that was important.
Lindsay was his name. Lindsay Hess. The first of four born to Jay and Ruby. He came aboard with many of the cherished German characteristics, along with a head of blonde curls that his mama wouldn’t cut until he rebelled on the first day of school.
I was 4 and had the listening ear of a priest. I’d listen to anything, and then spread it — the first hint that ink was mixed with the blood that coursed through my veins.
I had heard that a little baby was coming, and I was ready for the official news. I stood on the bridge and watched; my eyes kept wandering back to the house like they had a mind of their own.
The news finally came, the baby had been born, and soon they had him swaddled in blankets and up for viewing inside the house.
That was the beginning, and it wasn’t long before they moved away, to the other side of town, Faith, pop. 400. Six miles south of Salisbury.
It took a decade and a half before we became buddies. A world war had come and gone, and college had me by the neck. We ended up in the same handful of young guys gathering at night in somebody’s car, having a hamburger and a milkshake — the four of us, drawn together like children to amusement parks.
We settled the problems of the world, but nobody knew the answer to acne.
Trying to capsule Lindsay Hess in this small space is like trying to place dinosaur eggs in a bird’s nest. For awhile, he floundered. Dropped out of school. Did odd jobs. Found out that he had a voice, and that it could sing. Traveled to Baltimore and sang at our wedding. Sang at other weddings, in plays, concerts.
He also discovered that he could fly. And that, he did. Worked his way through instruments. Moved on into twin-engine planes. Became the personal pilot for at-that-time famous stock-car racer Curtis Turner. Flew the world, or most of it.
One day, my phone rang. It was Lindsay. Said that Turner had some property in West Virginia and that he needed photos of certain parts of it. So, we went there and we made the photos. Turner got the photos he wanted and rewarded me with a nice gift of appreciation.
Time passes, and Lindsay has purchased two stunt planes and is doing stunts for Carowinds. With a buddy flying the other plane, they bring terror-based entertainment to the thousands looking on below.
I get a call one day, and he wants to know if I want to go for a ride. Sure. Told me to bring the kids, if they also want to ride. We all go; and, one at a time, Lindsay gives us 15 minutes of what it’s like to be upside down and inside out and scraping the top leaves off tall pines while traveling at what seems to be the speed of light.
He learned to do well such acts of daring, all the while moving up the ladder of aeronautic success. His last job as airport manager was with the Rowan County Airport.
During those days, he would take his air show all around the country. On this particular day, he and his two sons were doing a show at an airport near Greensboro.
The usual crowd was there, and Lindsay was on his last act. This required his two sons — one on each side of the runway. Each held a 15-foot pole with a banner stretched between them.
His job was to come in fast, turn the plane upside down, and flash down the runway, cutting the banner, flip back upright, and move on off, turn, come back and land.
Something happened, however, and the next thing Lindsay knew, he was on the ground, sliding, upside down, sparks and debris flying past, and his mind whirling in a feverish muddle.
The plane slides to a stop. His injuries were minor, and his hands had their own mind. They knew what to do, and they did it.
Seconds later, he was on the ground and moving away, barely in time, for the plane had caught fire and was burning furiously.
Lindsay stayed on as airport manager for a while, but the spark was gone.
Now 82, he has retired to the old home place in Faith, helping with the care and comfort of his ailing wife and the joy of seeing his grandkids grow up.
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Darrell Williams is a retired editor of The Gazette in Gastonia. You can reach him by email at bwilliams6864@