That same Saturday - 23 September - back east, the little jockey Jimmy Ward was following the “iron compass”, as pilots referred to following railroad lines. In this case he was tracking the Erie Railroad westward out of Middletown, N.Y. Jimmy landed safely at Callicoon, New York (above) and refueled,at 10:05 a.m., as planned. He refueled again at Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, and took off again at 2:15 P.M.
Two hours later, after avoiding crowds waiting for him at other landing fields, the shy James touched down on a farm outside of Owego, N.Y. Here the jockey hitched a ride into town, where he ate a quick dinner while a local mechanic refueled his plane. He wanted to make it to Corning, New.York. before dark. So he hurried his take off. But as the jockey lifted into the air his engine coughed, his wheels snagged a fence and he was yanked to an abrupt halt. His lower left wing was bent, his wheels destroyed. Jimmy Ward was unhurt, physically, but it would take almost two days before a crew on loan from the Curtis Airplane factory could repair the damage.
On the Monday, 25 September, Bob reached 8,000 feet before running into headwinds again. This time Bob decided to land at Emigrant Gap, to get a head start start the next day. But flying in the thin air at high altitude was a skill not yet mastered by anyone, including Bob, and while turning around his wings lost lift and he plowed into the trees. They had to send out a search party to locate him, and when they did he had two broken wings and and two broken propellers - I mean his "Cole Flyer" did. Bob himself was somehow uninjured, but for the time being his continental flight was… waiting for repairs, again.
Back at the hotel, waiting for her husband, Jimmy‘s wife, Maude Mae, overheard some gamblers taking five-to-one odds that her husband would be dead before he reached Buffalo, New York. Now, Maude May knew that Jimmy was not actually planning on heading to Buffalo, but she also knew that town was still 60 miles further to the west. And at the rate Jimmy's flight was progressing, he could have been beaten by a Conestoga wagon, In fact,the way Maude Mae figured things, at the rate Jimmy was crashing, the gamblers were being a bit optimistic at about her husband's lifespan. So Maude Mae decided to be practical - leave it to a woman to destroy a daredevil sporting event with practical thinking. Maude Mae spoke to the shaken Jimmy that night. And after his long walk and his two crashes over the previous four days, Jimmy was inclined to listen.
Jimmy's manager announced his decision to the press the next morning, Wednesday, 27 September. He was dropping out of the race. Later, Jimmy Ward would explain his decision in less than pragmatic terms. “It was a plain case of a jinx”, he said. And then he went on to prognosticate. “Rodgers is a mighty fine fellow, " said Jimmy, "and I wish him all kinds of luck, but...To win that $50,000 he's got to complete his journey by Oct. 10th. He can't do it." Given his skill at fortune telling, I am surprised that Jimmy Ward had no inkling that just seven months later Maude Mae would have him arrested in Chattanooga and charged with bigamy. She had discovered that Jimmy was never legally divorced from his first wife. Poor Maude Mae. Poor, Jimmy Ward. And he may have been the pilot with the most common sense. But without his common sense, the race went on.
- 30 -