“Mr. Mire” thought he could fly.

Maybe it was his name that fueled his flights of fancy. Maybe it was his life, his job. Maybe he just had a dream.

I was only a boy when Mr. Mire tried to fly. He lived around the hill from my family’s house. I went to school with his kids. I never really knew why he wanted to fly, but the whole neighborhood knew he did.

He could have bought a plane ticket. He could have skydived, taken pilot lessons, hang-gliding, talked somebody into taking him on a private plane occasionally.

What he chose to do, however, was build his own plane. It was an open-framed thing. The wings’ widths varied as much as the different motors he attached to it through long months of repeated, calculated effort.

Everyone knew he was building a plane. It was not something I recall him mentioning in conversation, but it was no secret. You would see an odd contraption on the back of his truck. You would see him welding something to the fuselage frame. You would hear the loud buzz of an engine late into the twilight.

Then the day came, as it did several times, when everyone watched him tow his plane to the large, open field in the valley of the neighborhood. We saw him unhook it from the truck. We watched as he strapped himself into the single seat before starting the engine.

We usually watched from the window knowing everyone was also watching from behind their curtains. Mr. Mire sat alone in his plane as it hopped down the field. The engine roared and sputtered. Wings shook. Rolling wheels pressed the grass to the ground. The plane’s tail remained earthbound.

He rode it down the field then up the field. On the field, he and his plane stayed. He stopped, tinkered, tried again, but Mr. Mire remained mired on the ground.

He’d hook the plane back to his truck and return with it to his house. There, he’d tinker more, look at it, and walk back into his house. For a few weeks, the plane often sat unattended before we’d see his truck heavy with new pieces, see the arc of his welding torch light the night, hear the new buzz of a different engine.

The day would come again. Back to the field. Back and forth across the ground. Back on the truck. Back to his house. Everyone left their windows, shaking the heads.

I remember feeling a mix of dread, admiration, amazement, inspiration and sadness each time Mr. Mire brought his plane to the field. I hoped this time it really would fly like a kid hopes to see Santa on Christmas Eve.

I remember watching from the hillside, looking down on the field, secretly rooting that Mr. Mire would fly, hoping my head would pivot up to the sky as he flew overhead, wishing the sound of his airborne engine would hush the naysayers of this man with his dream.

I saw it all in my mind’s eye. Mr. Mire flying over the hills, everyone coming out of their houses, him smiling, looking down on his old life. But my imagination is the only place I saw him fly.

After failing one day, he hooked the plane to the truck, drove it to his house, and the plane remained there for a long time. No more stuff in the back of his truck. No more welding torch. No oddly pitched whirr of a strange engine in the middle of the night.

It just sat there, a rusting monument to a dream until finally it was removed and all reminders of attempted flight were gone.

I returned home recently and stood on the same hillside where, years earlier, I watched Mr. Mire’s earthbound plane.

There’s an airport cut into a mountain a few hills over and the width of a river away. A commercial flight rumbled through the night, coming in for a landing at the airport. Its landing lights floated through the sky like a slow-motion falling star.

I had to wonder if Mr. Mire ever hears the sound of these planes, taking off and landing throughout the night, as he rests his head on his pillow to sleep.

I had to wonder if he still flies in his dreams.

Dean Poling is The Valdosta Daily Times features editor.

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