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Ben Sauter, a character, in his own words

Leaving Home in 1917

Things were tough on the farm when I was 18. Our main expense was the real estate taxes on the farm; paid to Balto. County. Then we had to buy salt, pepper, and sugar. The rest of our food was raised on the farm. We didn't need Crisco because we had lard from butchering hogs. And we needed a lottery ticket every day.

My father tried to sell stuff off the farm. Like Schmer Case for 5¢. Eggs 2¢ each.

My mom, dad and I had a talk one day and decided that I should leave. One less mouth to feed.

So I left walking down the road. It was getting late in the afternoon and I stopped in this farm and made the farmer an offer he couldn't refuse.

I said: I'll work on your farm just for meals and letting me sleep in the barn. So he went for that. I thought things were going well, but after 2 weeks, the farmer came to me and said: I can't afford you anymore.

So I'm down the road again. I was walking along and here comes this airplane overhead. I had never seen a plane before and I thought that's for me.

Now the politicians and munition makers were trying to find a way to start war with Germany. They would get rich giving out defense contracts. 10%ers they were called.

I saw a sign saying: Uncle Sam wants men for the air force. So I wanted to enlist. I knew I was tall enough and I weighed 142 lbs., just 2 lbs over the cutting off point.

But my eyes would be a problem. So I went to a doctor's office and while he was concentrating on a patient, I lifted his eye chart.

I studied this chart till I knew it forward and backward, side to side, up & down and across.

So I had no trouble enlisting in the Air Force.

We were sent to flight school down in Texas. I loved it and would do stunts with the plane. One time I did a wing over and reversed it too fast and the wings broke off, so I had to parachute down. Then one time I put the plane down too hard and broke the landing gear off it. Now if we broke up 3 planes, we were kicked out of the Air Force. But I lucked out.

Now war was declared against Germany.

So now the U.S. is involved in a war that's been going on for some time.

We were sent to an air base in France.

At that time the life expectancy of of a pilot was 14½ hours. Not long.

So I'm on a mission to Germany and here comes a German fighter. None other than the Red Baron.

I'm telling you, he flew circles around me. Made me look like a rank amateur. Then he shot a couple feet of the wings off. So I'm thinking: He's just playing with me, pretty soon he's gonna let me have it. So I bailed out. This didn't suit the Red Baron. He shot the parachute off of me. This left me free falling from 3000 ft. Of course there was not much left when I hit the ground. The Germans gathered me up and buried me.

Now every once in a while, I have this strange, weird feeling that I'm still alive. But the reality comes back and I realize I'm buried in Germany somewhere, the 43rd. victim of the Red Baron.

 


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