Finishing Work at Dad’s Office, 1948
Nobody smokes a pipe much any more, except my partner, Sand
The musty aroma penetrates back to the engineer’s office, Dad’s workplace.
Pipes filled the trays on the large, heavy oak tables.
Graph paper, pencils, slide rules sat in random spots.
A glistening silver model of the F-85 Saber fighter jet, banking a steep turn, was not to be touched. I could hold the Fairchild “Flying Box Car,” the workhorse of the air.
And, the marvellous bright red Bell X-1, a rocket plane to be dropped from an airborne bomber, waiting for Chuck Yeager to “push the envelope” and break the sound barrier.
Wisps of smoke drifted about the office room; the engineers had left.
That day was done. Soon out in the West, high about the Mohave Desert, the challenge would be made.
An immense new sound, a rolling bang, would echo across the desert.
No ear—human or animal—had heard such before.
Yes! Man could fly faster than sound. Yes, humans could rocket into space,
And return alive.
The gentle, calm southern drawl of Yeager’s ambiance and words would enter the vocabulary of space, office, and home.
No point in hysterical chatter or screaming, just the soothing and steady vocal comment that we have the job done:
“Well done.” “Welcome home.”
There would be many good landings amid the chaotic challenges— Like the wisp of pipe smoke drifting across the immense table with pencils and slide rules of an engineer’s hands
Francis D. Conlon is a retired and recovering school teacher. For the past 18 years, he has worked as a seasonal river ranger, and as a boat inspector for ANS (aquatic nuisance species), at Yampa River State Park and at Elkhead Reservoir outside nearby Hayden, Colorado, in northwestern Colorado.