It was now 1 a.m. and time was fast getting short. Below us we could see the people in the streets looking up in various directions, apparently unable to see their lightless but noisy intruder. Most every house in town was now lit up and the scene below us reminded me of the quaint villages pictured on Christmas cards. It looked so warm and safe.
Ullman left town and started zigzagging around the countryside again. I hated to leave the reassuring lights and people but, for Ullman, time was becoming more and more important as our unknown fuel supply came closer and closer to exhaustion. Once again we were flying precariously low over desolate farmland.
Suddenly and violently the tempo of the motors strained and roared—the plane lurched upward. For several agonizing seconds, while the motors groaned and complained, I waited for the crash. It never came. Gradually we straightened out. We had narrowly misled some sort of tower. Ullman's good eyes and quick reflexes had given us a reprieve.
By compass we headed back toward the town. Time and the uncertainly of our fuel supply had forced Ullman's hand: we were going to have to make our own runway.
The town looked like paradise to me when we returned. However, several passes up and down the main streets proved that things weren't laid out to accommodate DC-3s. We looked for a likely field on the outskirts. The thick covering of snow plus the poor visibility made everything look pretty much the same.
Cornfields, pastures, and ponds all looked alike under the snow. Marble reminders of the past rose above the snow and identified the local cemetery for us. That certainly wouldn't do.
Finally Ullman spotted a small uncut cornfield. The cornstalks were sticking up through the snow—evidence that there was solid ground underneath and not a thinly frozen pond or lake waiting to swallow us whole. Scared as I was at the prospect of an emergency landing on an unknown field, I was ready to get on with it—one way or another.
We made several investigative passes over our field and at last Ullman made his final preparations. Wheels down, we were coming in. Everyone was tightly strapped in, ready for whatever and praying. As the snow rushed up to greet us I could hear copilot Clifford calling out our diminishing airspeed. At 60 mph we hit—bounced—hit again and then slid to a glorious three-point stop.
We were delirious. Spontaneous cheering, laughing, crying and backslapping broke loose. It was the first outward sign of emotion since Foust threatened to tear up the cards. The door was ripped open and several of us piled out into the snow. I can't recall having ever been as thankful and delighted.
Garmaker and I ran off through the knee-deep snow toward a group of cars that had appeared on a road about half a mile away. The first vehicle we reached at the front of the line was a hearse. I'm positive I detected a slightly disappointed look when the driver found out everyone was all right.