For some reason, when this short story was reprinted in the July, 1911 Locomotive Engineers Journal, "Pup" Shea had become "Bud" Shea. He did, however, suffer the same fate.
Cass City Chronicle, July 1, 1910, Page 3.
FLIGHT OF PUP SHEA
The Surprise He Experienced In the Upper Air.
By ALFRED C. PICKELLS.
[Copyright, 1910, by American Press Association.]
"Pup" Shea woke up.
As far as vigilance over his wireless apparatus was concerned, it mattered little whether be had dozed twenty minutes or all day. The day was that kind which puts wireless stations on land temporarily out of commission. A half hour before and at like intervals during the morning he had been unable to hear anything but the sputtering of atmospheric electricity
"S--O--S!" It may or may not have been meant for the distress signal--the letters were so long drawn out. Pup waited. Presently his own call, "Qn," broken and mingled with a confusion of sounds, came struggling through the receiver, and finally a long rumble of nature's electricity that destroyed any semblance of code signals.
Pup thought of the high power station at Cape Hatteras and without waiting longer switched in the sending apparatus. He repeated "Ha" many times, slowly and distinctly, and again changed over and listened. Except for the same sputtering and jumble of letters there was no response, and once more, after adjusting for all the power his station was capable of, he sent Hatteras' call rushing through space.
The unusually loud crackling of the sending outfit brought Shultz from the engine room.
"What's the matter, Pup?" asked the chief, wiping the black engine grease from his hands with a ball of waste, Pup repeated what he had heard.
Shultz's face became serious. "It's worth looking to, anyhow," he said. I'll go over to the signal station and see if I can get Hatteras on the wire."
He returned in a short time and said: "It's all right, Pup. There ain't no Binnses offshore. Hatteras says he's been trying to talk to Diamond shoals lightship all morning, but he can get nothing through. And if they can't work in that short distance we might well take a vacation. But never mind, Pupsie," he added teasingly, slapping his assistant on the shoulder; "you'll get your opportunity yet. Somebody's always doing something startling."
Cape Henry was to be the scene of a balloon ascension and a parachute leap that afternoon, an event which had awakened more than the ordinary interest in Pup. In his varied career he had handled balloons, once assisting his elder brother, who did not only high air, but, according to Pup, high grade, acts in a valve balloon with which, when the upper currents permitted, he ascended and descended several times for the amusement of his spectators before he made the final leap in his parachute. Then, too, Pup had served an enlistment in the signal corps balloon squad of the army, and though the total experience was confined to manual labor on terra firma, the presence of a kindred subject magnified his knowledge, and he surveyed the preparations with the critical eye of an authority and discoursed upon aeronautics among his associates.
At the conclusion of his watch at the station Pup strolled over to the casino. A glance at the balloon attendants told Pup that something had gone amiss, and, diving under the ropes, he asked, "Where's Flyup?"
"Too much heat," came the immediate reply. "They got him over there."
In the casino office Pup found that the professor had been returned to consciousness, but that he had been made too weak to attempt an ascent.
"I guess it's up to you to make a speech," he said when later he and the casino manager emerged from the office and walked across the lower pavilion to the balloon inclosure. "We're in a devil of a fix, Pup, that's sure," replied the manager, glancing at the crowd. He seemed undecided for the moment.
While he pondered over the matter Pup surveyed the balloon tugging at its ropes, then suddenly turned to the manager. "Mr. O'Keane," he said, "let me pull the show off for you."
"I know you sailors have the nerve to do all sorts of stunts, but you're up against it hard when you tackle a balloon."
"That's all right," replied Pup, unrolling his clippings, "but I ain't green on balloons. Glance over them."
O'Keane glanced, and when he read Pups arms papers he said: "That's a big temptation, Pup. You'd save the day for us."
It was agreed that Pup should make the ascent, then descend to within a few hundred feet of the earth with the open valve before making the parachute leap.
Pup hurried across to the station. When he returned he was clad in a brilliant red bathing suit, and he took his place on the double bars of the trapeze, eager and confident.
O'Keane grasped his hand. "I appreciate this, Pup," he said warmly. "Keep your nerve and be careful. All ready?"
Pup nodded. The ropes were released, and he sailed rapidly skyward.
Below, the pilotboat, which had agreed to come after him in case he went offshore, was heading in his direction. It seemed down there as if the world had flattened out, making a great level map. Old Point Comfort, Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Cape Charles were all in view, and he unslung his marine glasses. As he adjusted them and turned them first on the cape the red and black double squares of the United States hurricane signal flashed back at him through the lenses. It had been hoisted since his ascent, and he glanced skyward anxiously. Overhead there were long mare's tails and in the northeast a rapidly gathering thickness. He had been stationed on that coast long enough to know its signs, and this one had proved its truth.
The westerly breeze had died out. Seeing the pliotboat almost beneath him. Pup grasped the valve rope to begin his descent when a few isolated bits of scud came from out of the northeast, a puff of air fanned his cheeks, and the balloon swung slowly around, facing him eastward. At the sight which met his astonished gaze, his eyes widened and he exclaimed, "Holy Mike!"
Again he unslung his glasses. A vessel lay far out at sea, miles beyond the sea level limit of vision from the coast and even barely visible to his naked eye. But with the magnified view through the glasses he saw that great clouds of smoke were rolling not only from her funnels, but from fore and aft, and an occasional bit of flame leaped through them. At her bows there was no white foam, indicating that the steamer was at a standstill. The few tiny dots to the east and north proved to be small boats filed to their capacity with humanity.
The parachute was the quickest means of descent, and Pup chose it without hesitation. But in his haste to shake it out he let go the rope which held it upright to the trapeze. It ran out swiftly, the canvas toppled over downward, and before he was aware of it it had jerked itself loose from his hands and, turning completely over, shot downward through space with the swiftness of an arrow.
His brain whirled for a moment; then, excited and eager to descend, he grasped the valve rope and gave it a violent pull. In an instant gasping and choking, with the air roaring past his ears and the blood rushing to his head, he dropped toward the blue sea.
"There he comes!"
The cry came from scores of lips as the spectators saw the parachute start in its descent. But the cheer that broke forth died away to a tense silence. They watched with bated breath while the bit of canvas continued to fall at the same high rate. Then something like a groan filed the air.
"My God, what's the matter?' exclaimed Shultz, turning to the professor. "It doesn't spread out. He'll be killed!"
The professor was already training a pair of glasses on the parachute. "He is not in there," he said. "He must have dropped it."
As he spoke the big sphere dropped suddenly and swiftly, watched in frightened silence, until within about 200 feet of the earth it slackened its pace and came to a stop. By this time it had drifted farther westward with the shifting wind and was shaping a course for the Chesapeake bay. But they could easily see the red clad figure of Pup on the trapeze.
"A few more pulls on the valve will bring him down," said the professor. "Can you signal?"
Shultz stripped his big navy neckerchief from the collar of his blouse and tied it to a cane.
"He's signaling now," he said, waving an acknowledgment. Then he repeated with a pause between each word: "Passenger--liner--about--hundred--miles--offshore--bearing--east--by--south--on--fire--disabled. Passengers--in--small--boats. Send--help."
Shultz darted across the sand hills to the signal station. In a few moments the news was telegraphed to Norfolk and flying from the signal masts in brilliant colors. The pilotboat barely waited to answer it, then steamed swiftly seaward.
It was nearly an hour before Pup worked the balloon slowly downward. Just as he plunged into the water to escape the collapsing canvas the cruiser Prairie raced out the capes, heading eastward.
"See that, Pup!" shouted Shultz as they steadied the surfboat in the seaway until Pap grasped the gunwale. "Bully for you! What did I tell you this morning?"
Pup scrambled over the side. "Cut it," he said, floundering weakly into the bottom of the boat. "I guess I've lost my nerve. No more balloons for me."