The General and the Hippie

I was working as a researcher for one of those "What Ever Happened To?" TV series in the late 1970s. I loved my job. It gave me the opportunity to meet many of my childhood idols. Unfortunately, they weren't always happy to meet me. 

Like I said, it was the late 1970s and the 1960s were not a distant  memory. I had long hair, a big beard and wore brightly colored clothes. To some of the more conservative celebrities, I looked like "a hippie". 

I would show up to do a pre-interview and some people looked at me like I was going to lead a sit-in on their front lawn. 

We were lucky enough to get General Chuck Yeager, the legendary test pilot   for the show.  A year later Yeager would be one of the focal points of Tom Wolfe's "The Right Stuff". But at this time, he wasn't a household name. I was aware of his spot in aviation history from an old college buddy. His father was a test pilot, knew Yeager and spoke fondly of him. 

The General was driving that weekend in a pro-am race at the old Ontario Motor Soeedway outside of Los Angeles. I was sent to do the pre-interview. 

When I showed up, Yeager looked me up and down and said:

"Ride with me, we'll talk."

I got into the car. 

I buckled up. 

I never thought about the fact that I was about to ride with a man who had gone faster than sound. 

Chuck Yeager took me around the track at 100 mph and about two feet from the wall. 

When I opened my eyes, our ride was over. I stumbled out of the car and tried not to lose my lunch. I haven't been on a roller coaster in over thirty years. I don't have to, I've been chauffeured by Chuck Yeager. 

We finished out interview sitting at a picnic table. Yeager drinking a coffee and me, trying to stay vertical.  When I dropped the name of my college buddy's dad, the General laughed and opened up and we talked like old friends. 

He asked me to give his best to my college buddy's family. Chuck Yeager then took a sip of his coffee and winked at me. 

"You should have told me that before we got into the car."

Dan Farren is a writer living in California.

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