Gluedobbing It

by Abby Wendle


Writer Joshua Kline takes us into the peculiar world of the Gluedobbers, a gun and model plane club in East Tulsa.


Bob Reeves: And it’s ready to go.

Joshua Kline: All right.

BR: And hold it tight, because it’ll hurt you.

DH: Actually, it’s funny.  Model airplanes, guns, seem to be tied together.

Lee Thiel: It’s all tinkering.  You know, we’re playing with tools and working with your hands.

JK: On weekend afternoons, a dozen or more retired mechanics, electricians and carpenters meet up in Bob Reeves’ seven acres of property.  They are the Tulsa Glue Dobbers, a gun and model airplane club in the sparsely populated grasslands of eastern Tulsa.

BR: Guns have been something that I’ve been into my whole life, you know.  Model airplanes, about eight or nine years ago, I ran into the club here in town, the Tulsa Glue Dobbers.

DH: This is the Tulsa Glue Dobbers control line club.

BR: How do you explain that?

Joe Gilbert: Well, there’s cables that go from a handle in your hand, 55 to 65 feet away that control mechanisms to the airplane that guide it to the sky.  You get to build things.  You break it, you fix it.  You fly it.

JK: Holding the cords that guide the planes, the men perform tricks.  They bob and weave and loop the planes around.

DH: You don’t even have to look at the airplane to fly it.  If you fly long enough, you can close your eyes and just fly the airplane because you can feel it and hear it.  So, that – that I like.

JK: The men spend hours building four foot-wide model airplanes out of balsa wood and painting them to replicate U.S. military war crafts.  They attach small engines that lift the planes into the sky.

LT: I just like to take something that’s in pieces and create something out of it, whether it’s a house, a car, or a model airplane.

BR: When most of us were kids, you couldn’t go buy things.  You know, I mean, either you didn’t have the money or what you wanted wasn’t available.  So, if we wanted a model airplane, you know, we couldn’t afford to go spend $100 for a model airplane.  Where today, a $100 worth for a model airplane is nothing, you know.  We had to go buy a $5 kit and save our pennies to buy that kit.  And that was the only way we could get an airplane, you know.

DH: Because I grew in the ’30s, you know, things were pretty grim.

JK: Yeah.

DH: You had something.  You wanted something, you’d build it.

LT: I made my first zipgun, 12 years old. [laughs]  A zipgun is a homemade pistol or a rifle.

LT: That you take a .22 shell, find a piece of tubing that it fits on, mount it on a piece of wood, use rubber bands and a nail sharpened up to fire it.

BR: There are six or seven of us in the club that, you know, enjoy shooting or like guns or what have you.  So, I went over and talked to my neighbor and I said, “Hey.  We want to put in a gun range and the best place for it is right next door here, you know, on your property.”  And I said, “Is that going to be a problem?”  And he said, “No, not at all.”

JK: So, Bob took his tractor and built a six foot high berm on an empty stretch of land between his house and his neighbors.

BR: We got hearing protection, targets and toys and paint to paint the steel targets with because when you shoot them enough they kind of go away.

JK: When they get tired of flying, they put their planes down and pick up a pistol, a rifle, or an AK-47.

BR: This is a short magazine for one of my AK-47s.

JG: You can’t believe a half a magazine.

DH: My name is Dee Hill.

LT: Hi.  I’m Lee Thiel and I’m the club president.

JG: Joe Gilbert.  I’m the treasurer.

BR: Bob Reeves.  I’m 66 years, retired, and just having fun. [laughs]