Elizabeth Anne VanderPutten - My Brother Dick

My Brother Dick, A Wannabe Space Ranger

By Elizabeth Anne VanderPutten

On July 12, 2001, someone circulated on Cyberputten an old, black and white photo of a man driving a vehicle that was towing another vehicle that had an object on top that looked like a canoe of some sort. The point of the exercise was to see who could be first to properly identify the person, place, the object, and significance of the photo.

There were a few guesses as to the year of the vehicle, place and load. 

Then my brother Dick jumped in.

"My guess is it is Goddard towing a rocket out for a test firing. While he did not invent rocketry (see Chinese technology), he did bring it into the twentieth century. Am I close?"

The correct answer was: Dr. Robert H. Goddard tows his rocket to the launching tower behind a Model A Ford truck, 15 miles northwest of Roswell, New Mexico. 1930-1932.

We were all more than a little amazed. A few of us said so. Dick explained:

"It's a little boy thing.  My heroes growing up were Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon and Captain Video, but for real, I wanted to be Chuck Yeager and Scott Crossfield.  And they always said they owe much to Dr. Goddard, so I always stopped to examine pictures of any of them. I would breeze past any articles or pictures about Princess Di and leave that to the girls."

I remembered a story about Dick as a boy.

Dick's amazing identification of Robert S. Goddard and his early rocket reminded me of a story about Dick as a kid. There was some kind of a contest which asked, 'If you had a crystal ball, what would you want to know about the future?' Dick called in and said, 'The name of the first person on the moon'.

He won! They announced on TV that he would get a set of bagpipes. We were all excited about that, but I think they sent him something more mundane -- and quiet. We always thought Mom had something to do with that.

Dick picked up the story again:

"The name of the program was The Magic Cottage. It was probably on a par with Sesame Street.  They announced my name and the bagpipes and I got all glassy eyed.  They sent me a 'Stereo Viewer,' I think it had Mickey Mouse cartoons.  I was pissed.  The biggest thrill was having my name read on live television, but I will always remember those bagpipes!  Mom always denied any culpability, but it did prevent an infanticide (Mine !!).  I drove her and the neighbors to distraction with the trumpet; imagine what 'The Pipes' could do."

Dick's daughter Dorothy added what most of us thought was about as nice a compliment as a father could ever get:

"That is a neat story. I've always said that if I was on the Millionaire show, he would be my life line for pretty much EVERYTHING!!!"

My cousin Tom got the last word:

"I guess you could have supplemented the bagpipes with a cloth satchel full of pissed off cats. They would have about the same sound. I could see you with a Scottish plaid bag-o-cats under your arm squeezing away as the cats 'sing' Amazing Grace."

December 16, 2000