Rule Number One: Always have a Rule Number One

The bi-plane above razed the roof of the rectory for about 15 minutes the other day, making a dozen passes or so. I love it. I recall that my dad talking about being a pilot for a cropdusting company as a teenager. That would have been, say, in the Summer of 1940, as a sixteen year old, meaning that he was studying, getting his hours, and finally his license at fourteen and fifteen. You gotta know that some people get their pilot’s license before they get a driver’s licence. Just a few years later and for very many years to come he would be inundated with medals as a fighter attack pilot for the USMC.

One of the most important things dad taught me was to have a “Rule Number One” for everything you did. When he was cropdusting, he said, “Rule Number One” is to fly directly into the power lines surrounding the fields you have to work on. “But wouldn’t that make you crash?” I asked. “Well, yes,” he said matter-of-factly, “unless you hit the wires directly with the spinner dome.”

He humbly gave me an example of ignoring a “Rule Number One” given him before getting in a practice Gull Wing Corsair at a military air strip next to the banks of the Mississippi River in Iowa. “Rule Number One: Don’t get out of the plane while the propeller is turning,” he was told. He said he taxied to the end of the runway and turned around, ready to take off. Revving the engine… nothing. No forward movement. Back to idol. What was wrong? — oh… — During the turn the skid under the tail had fallen below the back edge of the tarmac runway with the madly swirling river having eaten away that back edge. Breaking “Rule Number One,” he got out, the propeller still spinning, and easily lifted up the tail of the plane balanced by the engine out front. The plane was freed up, but it now started to move. He ran, trying to jump on the front wing, to no avail, off the plane went, taxiing off the runway and into the forest. What a humiliation. Whatever of this mishap, they kept him, knowing his talent. But… Yikes! “Rule Number One” is number one because it’s the rule that you just can’t break.

There is an overarching “Rule Number One” that is never to be broken in any situation, and which has structural influence over all other rules, especially “Rule Number Two.”

“Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and with thy whole soul and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets.”

  • Rule #1: Love God
  • Rule #2: Regarding love of neighbor, see Rule #1.


Filed under Spiritual life

4 responses to “Rule Number One: Always have a Rule Number One

  1. Gina Nakagawa

    How much will it cost to replace the roof, Father?

  2. sanfelipe007

    That’s the best lesson in rules I’ve ever gotten. Thanks be to God, to your dad, and to you. I’ll be repeating this to my CCD kids.

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