Thursday July 16th, 2009

Speedy Chuck

The response to “Fired from the Canon” has been great. Thanks to everyone who’s stopped by because of it. I hope you’ll make the site a part of your regular surfing.

At the American Scene, the post inspired a thoughtful reply from Noah Millman, and some spirited action in the comments section. One visitor recommended not reading The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe. I have a soft spot for that one. (Turnabout is fair play.) I was reminded of this passage, in particular, which comes after Chuck Yeager has broken the sound barrier:

A top security lid was was being put on the morning’s events. That the press was not to be informed went without saying. But neither was anyone else, anyone at all, to be told. Word of the flight was not to go beyond the flight line. And even among the people directly involved — who were there and knew about it, anyway — there was to be no celebrating. Just what was on the minds of the brass at Wright is hard to say. Much of it, no doubt, was a simple holdover from wartime, when every breakthrough of possible strategic importance was kept under wraps. . . .

In any case, by mid-afternoon Yeager’s tremendous feat had become a piece of thunder with no reverberation. A strange and implausible stillness settled over the event. Well . . . there was not supposed to be any celebration, but come nightfall . . . Yeager and Ridley and some of the others ambled over to Pancho’s. After all, it was the end of the day, and they were pilots. So they knocked back a few. And they had to let Pancho in on the secret, because Pancho had said she’d serve a free steak dinner to any pilot who could fly supersonic and walk in here to tell about it, and they had to see the look on her face. So Pancho served Yeager a big steak dinner and said they were a buncha miserable peckerwoods all the same, and the desert cooled off and the wind came up and the screen doors banged and they drank some more and bawled some songs over the cackling dry piano and the stars and the moon came out and Pancho screamed oaths no one had ever heard before and Yeager and Ridley roared and the old weatherbeaten bar boomed and the autographed pictures of a hundred dead pilots shook and clattered on the frame wires and the faces of the living fell apart in the reflections, and by and by they all left and stumbled and staggered and yelped and bayed for glory before the arthritic silhouettes of the Joshua trees.