Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Instead of my usual wandering thoughts, here is something from when your dad and his brothers were small.  Usually, your grandmother or I would read a story to them before bed, but once in a while I would make up a story for them. I don't suppose that most of them were very good, but the boys seemed to enjoy them, and I enjoyed making them up. This was probably the first one I did, and about the only one I really remember. Perhaps your dad will read it to you while you are still small and maybe when you are older it will give you a glimpse of your grandpa B.

The Little Doughnut

On a quiet street in a quiet little town, there was a little bakery with a jolly baker who every morning put out trays and trays of delicious doughnuts for people to enjoy with their breakfast.  There were all kinds:  cinnamon rolls and glazed doughnuts, cream filled and jelly filled bismarks, plain doughnuts and powdered sugar doughnuts and many others.  
One morning, as he set out the last tray of powdered sugar doughnuts, all white and fluffy like they were covered with snow, he saw that one was much smaller than the rest.  “Oh dear,” he said.  “I can never sell that one;  it’s much too small and it just wouldn’t be fair.”     He thought for a moment about eating it himself, but after making doughnuts since three o’clock in the morning, eating one just didn’t sound good at all.  “I guess I’ll just toss you out into the street,” he said to the little doughnut, “then some stray dog can have himself a breakfast.”  And that’s just what he did.
     The little white doughnut landed on the sidewalk and rolled a few feet before he stopped.  “I wouldn’t have minded being part of someone’s good breakfast,” the doughnut thought to himself.   “After all, that’s what I was made for, but I sure don’t want to be eaten up by a stray dog!”  But just as he was thinking this, a snarly, gruff sounding, hungry looking stray dog came wandering up the street toward him.  Having decided not to be a dog’s breakfast, the little doughnut flipped himself up onto his side and looked around for a place to hide.  Spying a nearby storm drain, he rolled to it as fast as he could and jumped in.
Out of one scrape and into another!  The little doughnut found himself swirling along in a stream of rainwater and soon felt the last of his nice powdered sugar coating melting away.  “Oh no!” he thought, feeling himself start to swell up and soften up with the rainwater.  “Now I’m starting to melt.  Soon there won’t be anything left of me.  I might as well have let that dog get me!”  But he wasn’t about to just give up.  He spun himself about and hopped up onto a ledge running along the inside of the pipe and soon felt the water begin to drain away.  He rolled along the ledge, rather squishily, until he came to the end of the drain and out into the sunshine once again.
After a few minutes, the warm sun began to bake away all the water he had soaked up.  Soon he had shrunk back to his usual rather small size and wasn’t squishy anymore.  In fact, he was rather hard now, and he certainly wasn’t fluffy white like snow anymore.  What with swimming in the drain and then rolling along the ground, he was now coated with hard black dirt.  Seeing his new, very unappetizing look, he said to himself, “Well, I’m certainly safe from stray dogs, but what shall I do with myself?  If I’m not going to be a breakfast what will I be?”  Not knowing the answer to his questions, he decided to just keep rolling along and see what he could see.
As he had been rolling along, drying himself in the sun and seeing the sights, he had rolled into a rather shabby neighborhood with not so nice houses and untended yards.  In one of these yards was a little boy trying to play with an old toy truck.  Trying, but not having much luck because the truck had only three of its four wheels.  The corner with the missing wheel kept digging in to the dirt and made the toy truck very hard to push.  The little doughnut noticed that the wheels still on the truck were just about his size.  He also saw that after his adventures in the drain and the dirt he was exactly as black as a tire.  This gave him an idea.  He rolled into the yard and flopped over onto his side right next to the toy truck.  Sure enough, the little boy picked him up and placed him on the truck where the missing tire had been.
“This is where I was meant to be!” he thought joyfully as the little boy started pushing his toy around the yard.   “I was meant to make someone happy and now I’ve done it!”

Friday, October 19, 2012


Willy Ley and Werner von Braun were among my childhood heroes.  I was thrilled by the first faint beeps from Sputnik.  Alan Shepard and John Glenn took me with them into space.  I will remember to my dying day where I was when I watched Neal Armstrong take his one small step.  Those feelings and memories are of enormous importance to me.  They help define me. I am a child of the space age.  If we turn our back on space, what will my grandchildren have to take its place?  We NEED to be explorers!  It is our birthright and our legacy.  Please do not allow it to be taken from us.

I wrote the above paragraph as an attachment to a letter to the president of the United States from the Planetary Society.    http://www.planetary.org/     By the time you, my grandchildren, read this it will be apparent whether or not the efforts of the society and the others who support the space program were successful.  What I want to talk about here is that one sentence, "I am a child of the space age."

The space age is usually defined as beginning on October 4th 1957 with the launching of the first man-made satellite.  I was six weeks shy of my thirteenth birthday.  For me it began even earlier.  Along with cowboy shows like "Roy Rogers," kid's TV at the time included "space operas."  When I was eight or nine years old I was thrilled by the adventures of "Captain Video" and "Tom Corbett, Space Cadet." Never mind how quaint or even silly those names sound today, they evoked a sense of wonder and the belief that there were no limits to what we could do.  Science fiction was by far the biggest part of my pleasure reading for many years.  My ship of imagination didn't just take me across oceans, it took me across the universe.

I grew up in a wonderful, terrible, time.  "Wonderful" because science and technology were making the world a better, richer place every day.  Television was just beginning to bring the world into our living rooms. Terrible diseases like polio were succumbing to the power of medicine.  The commercial jet airplane made travel something anyone could do. "Terrible" because that same science and technology had created the power to end civilized life through nuclear war.  The Cuban missile crisis occurred the same year I graduated from high school, and in grade school I did take part in those ridiculous "duck and cover" exercises.

Through it all, more than anything else, it was the effort to get man into space that held my imagination.  I grew up believing that we would have colonies on the moon and be on our way to the stars.  I have to admit that my belief that those things will happen has diminished, but it still remains a part of me.  I hope that you have a "space race" to inspire you to believe we can still reach for the stars, and that nothing like the threat of nuclear war exists for you.  "Go in peace" is an often heard benediction.  May you have peace, and also the opportunity to "go."