Mac MacKinnon and the Race for El Dorado
Chapter 1: Radio, Dan, and Mac
By Dwayne MacInnes
Rebecca Strong carried the suitcase that contained her belongings up the dirt road to the whitewashed wooden hangar situated near a yellow grass field that served as an airstrip. A tall wooden tower stood next to the hangar, as to its purpose Rebecca could not guess. The young woman continued to walk toward the opening in the 100-degree New Mexico summer. The heat was dry and stifling. Rebecca was sweating heavily; her damp chestnut hair clung to her head.
Rebecca was here to meet her father Dr. Hugo Strong, who was a rather well known archaeologist from the University of Chicago. He was currently studying some Anasazi ruins in the area. The archaeologist had requested if Rebecca was available, that she could spend some time working in the field with him during the summer. This would be the first time the two spent any time together since Rebecca's mother died nearly three years ago during the Spanish Flu epidemic.
Dr. Strong took the death of Rebecca's mother particularly hard. Fortunately, some of Hugo's close friends saved his career when the archaeologist took to heavy drinking. With the Prohibition Act, drinking was dangerous, just being in possession of liquor landed one in jail. Hardly something the University would look kindly on regardless of his achievements.
Nevertheless, Rebecca was excited to do some fieldwork with her father. She doubted that she herself would ever find anything thrilling again after her mother's death. But, then last year with the passage of the 19th amendment, the world appeared to open up for a young woman. With the right to vote, Rebecca was sure that even new opportunities would soon unfold for her. Being in the field with her prestigious father was an adventure never dreamed of before and it was just one example.
Nervously, Rebecca approached the open hangar doors. She did not know what to expect. She had only seen aircraft from a distance before. This too would prove to be another adventure. She heard a voice talking from inside, but there was only one side to this conversation.
"Must be talking to himself," Rebecca mused.
The young woman poked her head around the doublewide doorway. Inside she saw a yellow 1920 HCS Stutz Roadster II parked on one side of the huge open room. Behind the car there were tools hanging on the wall with various metal drums on the floor next to tall standup locker. On the opposite wall from Rebecca, there was a door. A sign hung from its knob that said "Gone Fishing". Across from the yellow vehicle, was a man in tan coveralls wearing headphones over a ball cap and sitting in front of what looked like the wireless telegraph she had seen once on board a cruise ship. He appeared to be speaking to it instead of tapping at telegraph key, as one would expect.
"I roger that Sparky, over and out," the man replied.
"Uh...excuse me," Rebecca stammered, "I'm here to meet a Mr. James MacKinnon."
The man spun around in his wooden swivel chair and glared at the intruder. Rebecca felt uneasy, as the man looked her over as if she were a piece of merchandise. The man himself was in his early twenties, had short blonde hair, and wore small round glasses. He was obviously of German heritage.
He stood up and placed the headphones on the table containing his electronic device. The stranger could not have stood more than five and half feet tall and could not have weighed more than 120 pounds. If he planned to attack her, she felt she had an even chance of beating off any advances.
"I'm sorry, you must be Miss Strong," the man began. "I am Dan Edwards. I've just been informed," Dan motioned toward the electronic device on the table, "that Mac should be here in about half an hour."
Rebecca stood there for a couple of uncomfortable minutes staring at Dan. The young man just stared back at her.
"Uh...may I come in?" Rebecca finally asked.
"Oh! I'm sorry, please do," Dan rushed over to help Rebecca with her luggage as he ushered her into the hangar. He then pulled her over to a chair next to the table he had been sitting at and then he poured her some warm water from a pitcher.
Rebecca took the chair and swallowed down the water. She never thought that warm water could feel so good running down her parched throat. She then looked over at the device that contained most of the table.
"That is a radio," Dan exclaimed with obvious pride and excitement. "I was just communicating to an airfield over at Tucson which also has one."
The look of surprise on Rebecca's face was obvious. Dan cleared his voice preparing to launch into one of his favorite topics.
"Did you know that on Christmas Eve in 1906 Reginald Fessenden read the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke, played ‘Silent Night' on the violin and then wished everyone a merry Christmas in the New England area? Imagine the surprise on the faces of the ships' telegraphers at sea when they heard this over their headphones instead of Morse code." Dan chuckled before continuing.
"After the Great War a lot of us set up our own little broadcast stations to communicate with each other. In fact, just last November 2nd the first commercial broadcast station KDKA in Pittsburgh began broadcasting. Certainly, you must have heard of it?"
Rebecca nodded she had heard of it, but hearing of something and actually seeing were two different things. She looked more intently at the radio set on the table.
Dan picked up the headset and set it against her ear. Rebecca gasped in amazement as she heard voices talking to each other. She did not understand everything that was said with all the "Rogers", "Overs", "Copies", and "Outs" she heard.
Dan pointed to the microphone that sat on the table in front of the device. "It is into this that I am able to talk to my fellow ‘Hams' as they call us."
Rebecca was about to ask another question when she heard an airplane approaching from overhead. Dan grabbed Rebecca by the arm and pulled her toward the open doorway.
"That'll be Mac now," Dan said as the sound of the plane's engine increased overhead. "We can meet him out on the field."
As the two ran out to the field, Rebecca looked up to see a biplane banking toward the field. Rebecca just stared in amazement as the plane descended toward the ground. Soon the aircraft bounced as the landing gear touched the ground. The pilot slowed the aircraft as it approached Dan and Rebecca. The roar of the engine was like nothing Rebecca had ever heard before. Soon the engine coughed as the pilot shut it down.
Rebecca noticed that the plane had two seats. She thought it was strange that the pilot would sit in the furthest one back. It was not long before the pilot jumped out of the cockpit and alighted on the ground.
The man stood at about six feet tall wore a brown leather jacket and a matching helmet. He had a white silk scarf around his neck. He wore khaki pants and brown leather boots that reached over his calves. As the man approached the pair, he raised his flight glasses from his eyes revealing the pale blue irises.
Mac MacKinnon was smiling charmingly when he approached Dan and Rebecca. He pulled off his gloves and slapped Dan on the arm in a friendly manner.
"Dan, my boy, looks like our trip to Mexico will pay off handsomely if I get our cargo to Denver."
"Great Mac, what is it this time? Cerveza, Tequilla?"
"Yes, and yes," Mac laughed as he removed his leather helmet revealing his short brown hair.
"I see that our guest has arrived," Mac turned toward Rebecca who was just standing there in awe. "You must be Miss Strong, you can call me Mac. I see you already met the boy genius Dan ‘the Ham'."
"Please, I'm Rebecca."
Mac nodded and led her back towards the hangar. "Let's not bother Dan as he unloads our cargo and tinkers with the plane. I believe we have some business to conduct."