A quick sketch pad, better developed posts may follow:
I’ve told how Rudy was my best male friend, my best friend period, my only friend: in a neighborhood of me and a bunch of girls (my age slot, that is, my immediate neighborhood).
Rudy wasn’t a good friend, he was a year older, he tormented me, but that has nothing to do with how precious he was to me.
I’ve told how Rudy read a lot: Hardy Boy novels, Tarzan … comix: Mad, EC, Superman …
One day in my back yard Rudy says to me, “We’re going to build a worm car.” He stands in the chaotic rear of our yard where a garden area was cleared but never gown, a tree complicating things on the garage side. Rudy holds a pair of 2x4s to the vertical. He must have dragged them over and dropped them there when I wasn’t looking. “About here,” he says for one vertical post. He holds it perpendicular to the ground, then drops it again: as he picks up the other, to post it somewhere else near by, then drop it too.
I have no idea what he’s talking about. But that doesn’t matter. I’m Rudy’s slave in all things. Later though he shows me: It’s an idea from a comic, a Superman comic. One of Superman’s garden variety villains builds an earth burrowing sub”marine”: a sub-earth: a worm-car. It has a screw in the nose, an auger, for burrowing.
I doubt that the Superman publisher hired engirneers to pre-think the worm car. The drawings showed a “car” big enough for the villain and several cronies to sit in, like driving in a car on the street. And a little screw, smaller than an airplane propeller by quite a bit, is supposed to drill them through the crust, through the mantle, through the core, through whatever is in the center of the earth, pull them along behind it, and out again on the other side: into “China.”
Rudy apparently is trying to figure out where these two posts, wooden!, for the worm car should go: to seat the two of us: him in the drivers seat, me the passenger.
Rudy picked up the posts several times, dropped them several times, then went back to study the commic book … That’s when I got to see it, got to figure out at least part of what he had in mind. And that’s as far as our worm car ever got. I never heard Rudy mention it again, once we’d looked at the comic drawings. I no longer remember what happened to the two 2x4s: maybe they rotten in my backyard. Maybe Rudy took them back away, maybe my mother dragged them off, though I doubt it: I don’t remember my mother ever so much as glancing at that awful part of the yard.
That would have been sixty-some years ago, but I was just remembering it this morning: as typical. Typical for how human beings “plan” something when they utterly lack the skills to engineer it intelligently. We could have built a space ship the same way.
Which reminds me of:
Around the sixth grade some older kid asked me if I wanted to help him launch his rockets. Sure. The kid showed me: he bought solid fuel from a comic book mail order company. He got pipe, like for plumbing. He fashioned a nose cone out of wood.
He packed the pipe with the fuel, containing oxygen in a solid form? stuck a fuse out the bottom, had the hard wood nose cone jammed into the nose end … tried to fashion some kind of a launcher that would hold the thing vertical, more or less: while we ran for the hills, once the fuse was lit.
Let me see, this would have been 1949? 1948? Maybe 1950 …
I don’t think even the US was interested in rockets in those years. Robert H. Goddard was opposed as well as ignored. The phrase rocket scientist didn’t exist yet.
Dr. Goddard, thanks HowStuffWorks
I remember one rocket falling on its side and spinning as it sputtered. I’ve seen roadside firework stand rockets do no worse. One rocket popped ten or twenty feet into the air, curling off to the side, never quite vertical.
I lost track of that kid, don’t know whether he’s the one who then led the Petagon toward Project Mercury or what. I doubt it though. First the society ignores its geniuses (when it’s not punishing them), then the socity decides that we want the thing after all, without remembering, or admitting to remember, that it’s he who’d proposed it, then hires a bunch of dimwits to supervise it, and call them geniuses …
Except for the bomb, we had truly smart people work on the bomb. Feynman!
There are internal clues in these stories by which they could perhaps be dated, or the dates narrowed down: the Superman worm car, and the availability of solid fuel by mail order. Maybe anyone with a budget of time or money could do it: I don’t quality in either of those categories.