It was not the kidnapping of a Queen that called this Homer to his destiny. It was a tiny light streaking across a star-studded night sky over Coalwood, West Virginia. To Homer and his lifelong friends, however, it was a gnawing hunger that launched them into a world of which they knew nothing.
Knowing nothing has nothing to do with deep seeded desire, with lying awake thinking about Sputnik, thinking about rockets, thinking about the brave new world that opened before them…Thinking…laser focused thinking that birthed a dream. These boys picked up the gauntlet thrown down by the Russians and engaged.
Their first rocket resulted in the destruction of a fence, but no loss of life. Homer and his cohort identified allies. Mr. Lockhart [Math]. Miss Riley [Chemistry and Physics] Two critical areas requiring mastery if a successful launch was to manifest.
Their walls of Troy were a slack field eight miles from Coalwood to which they assigned the name of The Big Creek Missile Agency, a tangible sign of the intention which dominated their attention. Ten more rocket disasters challenged their commitment, but the Rocket Boys persevered. Dodging shrapnel flying from one exploding rocket casing after another, they discovered and then mastered the physical reality of the laws of physics and chemistry which somehow had not quite made it into the books they studied. They knew they were onto something bigger than themselves. They knew they were on a great adventure.
And so did everyone else. They planned. They worked. They never once considered that failure was an option. Their vision was clear. The world began to supply the means of accomplishing their purpose as these young men walked, talked, lived, ate, dreamed, and drank Rockets. Their enthusiasm and determination ignited the entire community. Miners, Welders, Bootleggers, Moonshiners, housewives, machinists, and even preachers rallied to their vision until in May, 1960, they launched a rocket that soared four miles into the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere.
TRIUMPH!! One Science Fair at a time, they garnered the attention of others who would contribute to their life purposes. All the Rocket Boys graduated from college. Each one followed their passion. Homer’s Odyssey paralleled that of the other Homer’s hero, Odysseus, as well as that of the other Homer! Homer Hickam’s life has been and continues to be one of adventure, and of the telling of tales. His Hero’s Journey continues to this day as in book after book, he recounts a life of discovery hunting dinosaurs, diving, being a part of his life dream of working at NASA.
In his own words:
“During my transition from a decidedly under-achieving boy in Coalwood to the man I am today I learned a few things that might be helpful to you as you begin your own journey to your destiny. First, I’ll tell you the secret for success in your life of work and it goes right back to what made me a Rocket Boy: Passion for your work. Passion for what you do or want to do, and – this is important – the perseverance over the long haul to make it happen.” Homer Hickam