• Sage Webb

Stafford Air and Space Museum, Weatherford, OK, to Dodge City, KS

The Stafford Air and Space Museum in Weatherford, Oklahoma, is very cool. Situated beside a small airport, off old Route 66, it celebrates the life of Weatherford native Lt. General Thomas P. Stafford and humankind’s ingenuity in and beyond the sky. Like the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas, last week, it gave me chills. In less than sixty-six years, we went from the Wright brothers’ first flight around Kill Devil Hills, some four miles south of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903, to that giant leap for mankind on July 20, 1969, on the Sea of Tranquility.

The museum features a full-scale, flyable replica of the Wright brothers’ first Wright Flyer and it has their wind tunnel, in which the air-travel pioneers tested concepts of lift and drag, and which reminded me of the old America’s Cup tank testing for race boats.

An actual ICBM, which had lived in a missile silo beneath Kansas, and a [deactivated] warhead reminded me of where things went after the Trinity test and White Sands and the end of WWII that we explored on our travels last week. And painted high on a wall, the museum featured a Johannes Kepler quote about ships sailing to the stars and people crewing such ships. These words fit well with my continued reading of the Bernard Moitessier biography. At this point in the book, Moitessier has lost two boats to shipwrecks on reefs, but he’s kept following the horizon, launched his new ketch Joshua, and is preparing to round Cape Horn with his wife Francoise. Apparently, before the couple set their route, Moitessier read Miles and Beryl Smeeton’s story of two dismastings in the Southern Ocean, in Once Is Enough, a book that left a mark on me when I read it in my early twenties.

These ocean sailors—people like the Moitessiers and the Smeetons—and these sky and star sailors represented at the Stafford Museum, I think, did what they did out of sheer cussed “love of the game” ... and there’s something truly inspiring in that.

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