I’m still not one hundred per cent certain about this moon landing thing. And I also realize that fifty years is an extra long time to perpetuate a hoax. But you’ve got to realize, CNN didn’t invent fake news.
I was fourteen in May of 1961 when John F. Kennedy went before a special called joint session of Congress to announce that America would land a man on the moon before the end of the decade.
You can’t believe the sparks that set off up at Bill Argo’s Gulf Station. Mr. Melton leaned back on his stool and laughed out loud. “That ain’t never going to happen.”
“It’s Buck Rogers talk.” Rufus Brown was teetering on a turned up Pepsi Cola case. “And that’s a comic book for goodness sakes!”
Bill came in from pumping gas into Vaughn Lawrence’s big Buick, “I don’t think a President of the United States is going to say something like that before the whole world if there wasn’t a possibility of it working.”
Mr. Melton wasn’t one to cave, “It’s a zillion miles to the moon! How big a gas tank do you think it would take for a round trip?”
They discussed the cost of such a project. How you would guide a rocket ship if you could get it into outer space. Could you carry enough air with you to survive? What were you going to eat for the week or so it took to get up there and back?
I’d heard those men at the Gulf Station, given a whole afternoon to work on it, figure out every problem, situation or quandary known to mankind……but I’m telling you, they couldn’t make much headway on this moon landing idea.
Bobby, me and Ricky decided to be more proactive. We’d been mixing charcoal, potassium nitrate and sulfur into gunpowder since the sixth grade and blowing plastic army men off the side porch. We figured if we could pour enough of it into a cylinder tube stuck up-right in the ground pointed kinda towards the moon……there’s no telling how close we might come…..
We cut out all but one end of three 15 ounce Van Camp’s Baked Beans cans, taped them together as tight as we could, filled ’em to the brim with homemade powder and tied a metal cone shaped funnel we’d borrowed from the science lab on top. We figured that big field out near where the railroad crossed under new Highway 22 ought to give us enough room.
We slid into the small ditch that paralleled the railroad about the time the explosion occurred. Ricky allowed they heard it all the way down to Gleason! It was pretty loud and accompanied by a tolerable amount of smoke. And it sure enough blew the dickens out of the Van Camp cans. It propelled our funnel shaped rocket nine and a half inches towards outer space.
I sat in my living room eight years later and watched spellbound as Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon. It WAS like a Buck Rogers movie. Or, at the very least, a Star Trek episode gone wild…..
Bill’s Gulf Station had moved out on the highway so I went by Mr. Melton’s house the next morning. I was interested in his views on—
“Son, don’t believe everything you see! The picture on my TV of that fella supposedly stepping on the moon was perfectly clear. Like it was happening right next door! Listen, I can’t hardly watch live studio wrestling on Channel 7 for all the snow and interference. And that broadcast is only forty miles away! And you tell me they can send perfect looking pictures from the moon!”
You know, I hadn’t thought about that.
“And I’ll tell you something else, why do you think the government has all that land fenced off out in New Mexico. They can produce any movie they want with complete security. They’ve got cameras now that can make Phyllis Diller look like Raquel Welch. Saying you’re on the moon and being on the moon are vastly different things!”
As we celebrate the fifty year anniversary of the moon landing, my mind races back to the friendly confines of that old service station. And to the men who taught me so much! Of course, they might have been wrong this one time…..
But then again, I go to the movies today and I can’t tell the real people or the real mountains or the real plane crash…..from the computer generated ones…….