# Mapping Will Rogers World Airport (Peter Delpeut)

Herbie would tell the story after about six Buds, without fail. None of the regulars listened, for everyone in Oklahoma City had their own story about Black Sunday, April 14, 1935. “But mine is about April 15,” Herbie protested. “A Monday. I don’t work Sundays.”

He had not been to church that Sunday. He had been observing the sky, how it was turning black, which did not bode well for the way things were looking to the west, in the Panhandle: blacker than black. There was no way to pray against that particular wrath of the Lord, he avowed when the minister questioned him about his absence the following week. On Judgement Day, he’d rather be at home.

Anyway, he had gone to sleep Sunday night. The angels would surely wake him up if they cared about him. Monday morning, you could hear the silence creaking, he said as if he could still hear it. He covered the nine miles to the Oklahoma City Municipal Airfield, as it was then known in full, on foot. Not one bus showed up that day. Under the leather soles of his boots crunched the fine sand that covered everything, even the leaves on the trees. The blades of grass on the roadside were staring at him greyly. No breath of wind made them whisper. While there was plenty to say.

Where the hell were ya? Where ya been? they scolded him; back then too you were nothing in this country without a car. Herbie halted, did not hear them. The four parked planes that had not taken off on Sunday were just being towed away by their tails. The wheels left a pattern of lines in the carpet of sand. If you followed them back, like the trajectories on a radar screen, you ended up at a perfect imprint of an airplane, left blank on the concrete, its wings tightened, its bulky body short and stocky, its tail slender.

They seemed to have just landed there. Not really, of course, but as if God himself had drawn it there in the sand, an enormous route map, only the flight details were missing. He climbed the control tower to take a good look at it all. The air traffic controller must have noticed it too; this was what everyone dreamed of. But to draw it you’d have to be like God, who sees everything and knows everything, from the smallest mistake to the biggest turn, from approach to landing.

The wind picked up like a dog shaking its fur dry after a swim. Suddenly, the drawing disappeared. On the airfield a new, quivering pattern of narrow ridges appeared in the sand, neatly arranged in the direction of the wind. If a pilot had wanted to land a plane with its nose in the wind, he only had to look at that pattern, Herbie thought.

No one listened to him anymore, not even the most stalwart of regulars. No one realized – not even he himself – that Herbie had seen a future in which the invisible could be drawn.

Images and text  © Gerco de Ruijter & Peter Delpeut 2022

Supported by: Mondriaan Fund