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HIAWATHA GOES HAND GLIDING
(With apologies to Longfellow)
by
Peter Kendall

Hiawatha mighty flier
He could take a flimsy glider
Strap it to his muscled body
Leap from off a hill-top bravely
Clutching grimly, heading downwards
Moving at a steady plummet
Watching ground come up to meet him
Landing upright if he's lucky.

When the hill is somewhat higher
He is airborne even longer.

Now it is that I must tell you
What befell our Hiawatha
How a flight became disaster
Why it is he's out of action
Lying in some distant 'hostel'
Chatting up the local nurses
Dreading wrath from his employer
Waiting till his leg is better.

You would find it hard to credit
Anyone could be so reckless.

Hiawatha, on vacation
Took his glider out of storage
Glued the fabric full of patches
Tightened nuts and greased the nipples
Checking that the struts and wires were
Safe for fancy flying, and was
Strong enough to take the force of
Unexpected terminations.

I'm inclined to think he should have
Made the same checks to his person.

Then, when everything was ready
He listened carefully to the forecast
Found the weather very doubtful
Found the winds were slack or fitful
Found them to be full of raindrops
Or blowing in the wrong direction
It was as if a curse had fallen
On the whole of Central England

What it is to have a hobby
Dependent on the English climate.

Hiawatha, nothing daunted
Searched amongst his maps and papers
Sought to find another hillside
Where the winds were blowing nicely
Upwards with sufficient force to
Stop him coming down too quickly
Then he could persuade his colleagues
He was landing where he meant to.

In gliding this is never easy
Which is where the skill arises.

Eventually, Hiawatha
Found a spot just outside Portsmouth
Furthest and most inconvenient
For any rescue operations
With him went his trusty woman
Minihaha, laughing water,
Not without some grumbling mind you
He pretended not to notice.

He must have had a premonition
To have taken Minihaha.

Arriving at the chosen hill-top
Hiawatha, quickly ready
Launched himself with reckless courage
Promised dazzling aeronautics
Promised swooping, soaring, turning
Promised to be back by tea-time
Enviously she stood and watched him
Fly it straight into the hill-side.

Clearly this was a manoeuvre
Not hitherto referred to.

This was Minihaha's moment
Sprang the woman to the rescue
Sprang she down to help her husband
Through the wind and rain and cow-pats
Through the gorse and through the heather
Legs out flung but knees together
Sometimes slowing, never stopping
Until she reached the point of impact.

There he lay with one leg broken
More concerned about his glider.

Undismayed was Minihaha
Disentangling Hiawatha
From the bulky glider harness
Helpers sent in all directions
Shooing off the stupid heifers
Stowing glider on to car-roof
Getting patient on to stretcher.

Minihaha hadn't known hang
Gliding could be so exhausting.

So now resides our Hiawatha
At the best 'Hotel' for patients
Mollycoddled, metal-plated
Contemplating his misfortune
Planning how he'll tell the story
Dreaming of stupendous thermals
Waiting for the day he's mended
Perhaps to buy another glider.

In the meantime friends and family
Seek, for him, a safer hobby.
 
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