A Rocket Man

"Rocket Boys" are not confined to southern West Virginia after all! There are model rocketry clubs throughout Ohio AND WV near us!

It probably comes as no surprise that I've been a bit enamored with "October Sky ", the tale of Homer Hickam Jr. and the "Rocket Boys" who taught themselves the elements of rocketry in the late 1950's.

The popular book of memories was made into a smash movie in the 1990s when Homer Hickam retired from NASA and wrote of his long dead hometown in Welch County, WV.  Coalwood fell apart and died after he left, but it was his inspiration from Sputnik and Werner Von Braun that gave him the tools to get out of....er....stay out of the mines.

Recently, I've been doing internet searches for model rocket clubs, looking for someone to help me put together a simple model rocket kit.  And I've found several things of interest.

The "local club" usually flies at Rio Grande, on the Bob Evans Farm property during the warm months.

Another club, TORC  (The Ohio Rocketry Club #703), flies near Springfield, Ohio and recently held a launch day on the nicest day in January yet.  I was invited to come along and witness their daylong series of launches.

Well, getting up early to drive across Ohio and witness the 10 a.m. launches was not practical, but noon saw me passing through Lancaster, where another internet search had revealed a Slater Hardware store that stocked rocket kits and supplies.

What a treat to walk into an old time hardware store, that stocked EVERYTHING!  A substantial part of the modeling area was devoted to balsa wood,, model planes, cars, helicopters and rockets kits.

A helpful clerk showed me where to find the entry level kits, and what I might need to go make my own rocket...for about $20 total.  I bought one and three "rocket motors" to take with me.

When I arrived about 1:15 p.m. I almost overshot the launch site, except I spied a smoke trail leaping from the harvested corn field, and realized I was already there.  A wooden rocket shaped sign "TORC703" marked the entrance way back to the middle of the field.

What a warm welcome!  While two dozen families were nursing, packing, and preping their rockets for flight, others were selling supplies and answering questions about the hobby.

In short, I stayed for three hours, watching the skies, marveling at the size of some large missiles, and soaking up as many tips as I could before returning to the MOV to build my kit.  I even bought a second, larger rocket kit that could share the three "engines" that I had bought earlier.

While some would think I'm reliving my childhood,  I'm trying to get a taste of what it was like to learn a new craft yourself...and recall those distant days of Sputnik, the space race, and what it must have been like.

At least, it's a distraction before the winter weather returns with a vengeance later this season.

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