Balloon Race - Gas Controversy

This article was published in the June 7, 1909 Indianapolis Star and reports on developments occurring Sunday, June 6 or the second day of the national championship balloon races hosted at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway where the event started.
There was a lot of news to report, not the least of which was that the handicap race had already been decided with all three entries having landed. The balloons were the Ohio, which had struggled to ascend and then landed just a few hours later in Nashville, Indiana, the Chicago, which pilot Charles A. Coey landed in Scottsville, Kentucky and the Indianapolis, the winning entry that landed in Westmoreland, Tennessee with pilot Dr. Goethe Link and R.J. Irwin aboard. All the pilots and their assistants were making their way back to Indianapolis. Ohio pilot Dr. D.H. Thompson and aid J. Blake had already arrived back in the Circle City the previous day because their flight was so brief.
Thompson and Blake had an amusing experience. Struggling to ascend they had reduced their ballast to just four sand bags (Carl Fisher's Indiana started with 50). Having discarded those remaining bags over the next couple of hours to clear the trees in the wooded, hilly area around Nashville, Indiana they spotted a farm field and took the opportunity to land. Still lightening their load (I confess I am not sure why as in landing it does not seem logical you would lighten the vessel still further but this is how the article reports the situation) they threw a big picnic basket of food overboard. It came crashing down into a potato field where workers were toiling. Recognizing what it was the workers swarmed the basket and scattered contents and began eating.
Another big development was the retirement of the first national championship contender, the Cleveland with pilot A.H. Morgan and assistant J.H. Wade, Jr. Both their balloon and the Ohio had been constructed by A. Leo Stevens, a legend in ballooning. Morgan and Wade were forced to land in Columbus, Indiana Saturday night, just a couple of hours after the Ohio. They, too, had already returned to Indianapolis and had spent the previous evening (Sunday) meeting with Stevens to determine reasons for their poor performance. Morgan and Wade saw evidence the Cleveland was leaking gas - an accusation Thompson and Blake made as well concerning the Ohio. Stevens countered by suggesting that the balloons, since they were the last two inflated, had reeived an inferior quality gas. Stevens asserted that the gas company was incapable of storing enough of the highest quality gas to inflate all the balloons. He charged that the first balloons inflated received the best gas and the tail enders got only illuminating gas. Controversy is nothing new at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
More controversy was brewing as Indiana favorite son Carl Fisher and assistant Captain George Bumbaugh "threw anchor" over Sumner County, Tennessee. This was to extend a couple of buckets to the ground to replenish water. Whether they dipped these into a river, lake, stream or into the hands of sympathetic souls voluteering assistance is unclear. However the article reports that there was particular excitement among Tennesseans on the ground as the balloons skipped across their clouds. This is one of those reports that impresses on me the contrast between today where jumbo jets landing at airports are so common no one gets excited and these days when the appearance of a balloon was a marvel not just for its colorful beauty and grace but simply the fact that human beings were "flying."

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