Remembering A Long-Ago Plane Crash


Christopher Creek is enjoying the annual serenade of the wild. Evening ’til early morning the musical sounds come from all around. The song starts in with low notes, then crescendos into high-pitched soprano squeals followed immediately by a staccato bass finale. It is soon answered by another choir soloist off in another direction. The bull elk take delight in the season and who can blame them when one boasts a dozen or so girlfriends in his harem.

Our Delbert Worcester tale has piqued the interest of a gal who was 17 back in 1950. She is a member of the Beall family who has had a cabin in See Canyon Summer Homes since back then. New Bern, N.C. is where Shirley F. Traister resides and she is looking forward to the rest of the story.

The Delbert Worcester Plane Crash — Part 2 of 3

Del starts in again, saying he was flying from Phoenix to Flagstaff that February morning. The next leg was to be to Albuquerque, then on to Ohio and his Arizona adventure was to be concluded. But now he had run into a fog bank and what few instruments he had were not much help as his compass was just spinning around. He was having trouble climbing and began to circle as he feared crashing into the mountain. He found himself in See Canyon beneath the top of the Mogollon Rim although he really didn’t know where he was. He circled in a clockwise maneuver to try to gain some altitude ... and then, that was it!


Rod Britain photo

The hand-hewn 1910 Walker family cabin at Mountain Meadow Bible Camp in See Canyon, where the plane crash story was told.

Del continues relating that he was hit in the back of the head by a gallon can of wing wax when his plane crashed into the side of the Rim.

“I got right out of that plane, because I could smell fuel and I was afraid it would catch fire,” Del remembers. “I grabbed the tool kit and headed out. There was snow around and more snow up higher. Then, I almost walked off the edge of the cliff! That would have killed me, right there! I didn’t carry that tool bag too far and I put it on a big log, so I could find it when I came back.”

He spoke of the crash site being right at the “tree line,” meaning at the base of the sheer rock face near the top of the Mogollon Rim.

The story backtracked to Phoenix before the ill-fated flight, to explain the type of aircraft he was flying. Del told of how he had traded off his new Chevrolet Fleetwood, receiving an airplane, another car and four hundred dollars to boot. The plane was a “tail-dragger,” it was a two-seater 65 horsepower Taylorcraft, 1945 model. He explained that Taylorcraft built the airframe and Continental built the engine.

The old cabin buzzed with excitement as the phone report from the crash site came in. “We found it ... we found the crash site! All the fabric is gone ... and the airframe is bent near the tail. Bill is bringing ... down some parts. We’re coming back ... we’re on our way down.”

Everyone was in the conversation; it was excited, it was disjointed, it was back to the past, then to the present, it was fascinating. We talked about another plane crash in the area back in the ’20s; the one with the African lion on board. Having never heard the story before, the Ohioans were quite interested in Leo the Lion.

Then Jan Clark got back to finish reading the mysterious letter, in which Del went on to say he was not badly hurt and he had found some pancake flour in another cabin. He signed: Delbert Worcester, Route 1, North Ulmstead, Ohio.

“I slept in a cabin that didn’t have a door. It had two single mattresses and one fit real well in the opening to keep the critters out,” Del continues. The next morning he fixed his pancakes using water out of the creek. After leaving the Kiser ranch, he headed downstream, looking for civilization. He said he remembered turning left off the road, then crossing a small meadow and walking by a place where there were two people watching him. He could not remember the people’s name, but that one of them may have been named Bill. We speculated that he had visited the old CI homestead owned by the Ashby family at the time.

“They called the constable and then they took me to this ski lodge down a ways to meet him ... the road was horrible, I remember, and there was a couple guys that came along behind in case we got stuck,” Del went on. The “ski lodge” was Kohl’s Ranch Lodge, five miles down the road toward Payson. From Payson, he says, he caught a ride with freight truck back to Phoenix.

We will continue next week with the final installment ... and that’s another week in the Creek.


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