| Mary, Andy, and I met up at the
seafood restaurant in Addison, Texas. It was across the street
from Taylor's Bookstore. We were fresh off of our encounter with
Buzz Aldrin at the bookstore signing. We were on cloud nine.
Mary, Andy, and I met up at the seafood restaurant in Addison,
was across the street from Taylor’s
Bookstore. We were fresh off of our
encounter with Buzz Aldrin at the bookstore signing.
We were on cloud nine.
During our dinner the subject of trying to meet Apollo 16
Moonwalker Charlie Duke came up. Mary had been trying to arrange a
him for me. This action was the result
of a bet that Mary and I had made.
Let me step back for a few weeks before this dinner to
explain the bet. I had just finished
reading the book For All Mankind by Harry Hurt III. In that book it told about what the
Moonwalkers were currently up to. I read
that Charlie Duke was living in New Braunfels,
My wheels started turning and I got the idea
that it might be possible to meet General Duke.
I filed that thought away for future reference.
A little later I took my girlfriend Mary out on a date to
see the movie Field of Dreams on a date.
Watching the movie I was inspired by
character and Iowa
Kinsella. Ray followed his dream and
drove to meet his idol author Terence Mann.
That got me to thinking again about meeting Charlie
Duke. If Ray Kinsella from Iowa
could meet his hero, so could Jerry, from a farm in Nebraska.
After the movie, Mary and I went across the street to the
Atlantic Café. This was great
restaurant in Addison.
We were enjoying our meal and our bread when the
subject of my
grandfather came up. I told Mary, that
one of the last things that my grandfather had told me was, ‘When you
woman to marry, make sure that she can bake kolaches.” For a person of
ancestry, kolaches are like a staple of life.
I figured that my grandfather was kidding me with
his statement but at the same
time maybe he was serious.
Mary prided herself on her ability to cook.
Her grandmother had her kneading bread almost
from the point where Mary was old enough to walk. Mary
was confident that since kolaches are
made from dough, surely she could make them.
Mary regarded baking kolaches a challenge.
It seemed like a great opportunity for a
friendly wager. Mary had an eye on a
blue and white flowered dress at Dillard’s department store. It was an expensive dress and she would never
have considered buying it for herself. I
told her that if she won the bet and the kolaches came out good, I
her that dress.
Mary asked me what I wanted if she lost the bet. Fresh out of the movie Field of Dreams,
it didn't take me long to decide. I told
her that if she lost the bet, she would
have to arrange a meeting for me with Moonwalker Charlie Duke. Mary accepted the terms of the bet.
I was working the next weekend as I usually did back
then. I came over to Mary's house on
Saturday to visit her. On the kitchen
table was a note with Charlie Duke's address, home phone number, and
phone number. I still have that
Mary didn't need to say a word. I knew
what happened. She had attempted to bake
In her haste to get them finished before I got off work, she
placed the pan of dough on the warm oven door.
This would speed the rising process of the dough. Well it sped it up to fast.
The dough rose and collapsed and the kolaches
turned into bricks.
As a backup she then made another pan of kolaches only this
time did not accelerate the rise time.
That pan of kolaches turned out fine. The result of
our bet ventured
into a gray area. Mary failed to back
kolaches and succeeded in baking kolaches at the same time. In
fairness, it was
decided that Mary would attempt to arrange the meeting and I would buy
On Monday, I got a call at work from Mary.
She told me that she had talked with Charlie
Duke's assistant. Mary told the
assistant how I had taken photos of Duke's moonwalk off of the
in 1972. She said that I would like to
meet Duke to have him sign a couple of the photos. The assistant told
Duke's schedule was incredibly busy. At
the end of the week he was leaving for a month long trip to Russia. If I wanted the photos signed, all I had
do was mail them to Duke's office and they would be taken care of.
I don't remember what specifically I said to Mary after
learning the news, but the tone of my voice imparted my deep
over not being able to meet Duke. Later,
Mary told me that was the moment that she realized that she loved me. That feeling came as a big surprise to
her. She was not ready to be in love
again, but she could not bear to hear me disappointed.
Wednesday came around and we met Buzz Aldrin at the Taylor’s
bookstore. I will now resume the story
that evening at our post book signing dinner.
Andy and I contemplated the possibility of meeting Duke on
his home turf just like Mark Shelton had done.
He proved that it was possible.
Andy and I hem hawed back and forth if we should
Mary piped up, “I don't know why you guys just don't drive
down there tonight and meet him in the morning.” She
knew that he was still in town, but was
leaving for Russia
in two days. He would be gone on a month
long trip. Mary added, “After all, he's
only a man.” He was only a man? Mary obviously was not a true believer, but
we humored her.
Andy said to me, “I'm game if you are.”
I think he expected me to decline, but I
surprised him. I said, “Okay, lets do
it!’ We finished dinner and made the
rest of our plans.
Andy would go home and get his clothes.
On the way he would drive into work and send
email to our bosses. He would tell them
that we would not be into work the next day, because we were having
an astronaut. Mary would go home and get
Duke's office phone number. I would go
to my apartment and retrieve the photos that I had from Apollo 16.
I called Mary for the Duke contact information.
Andy and I rendezvoused and began our drive
to New Braunfels. We took my car. It
was about midnight and we had just gotten
to the south side of Austin. We pulled off the road to check into a motel.
The next morning, Andy told me that he had a dream about
John Young and a corned beef sandwich. I
didn't know if this was sign about our hoped for meeting with Duke, or
just meant that Andy was craving corned beef.
We checked out of the motel and drove south towards New
The first phase of our plan was now complete, we were in New
pulled off the freeway and into the parking lot of a convenience store. This was well before the era of cell phones
so we needed to use a pay phone to try and contact Duke.
I really wanted Andy to make the call. Andy
declined. He told me that he would just
freeze up like
when he first met Alan Shepard. I don't
think Andy realized just how shy of a person I really was.
I didn't like using the telephone to call
someone that I knew, yet alone attempting a call to a man that walked
I even told Andy I’d supply the quarter if he did the
talking. He was having none of
that. We discussed flipping a coin to
decide. Finally Andy said he would tell
me what to say if I got on the phone. I
knew that wasn't going to work, but I could tell that I was getting no
trying to convince Andy to make the call.
I swallowed hard and made the call. Duke's
assistant answered the phone. I gave her
my name and asked her if it would
be possible to meet Mr. Duke this morning.
I said that my friend and I had a couple of photos
that we would like to
have him sign and we would really like to meet him.
The assistant said that no, Mr. Duke was just
too busy. If we would like the photos
signed just drop them in the mail and she would personally see that
We were in a flat spin and going down fast.
I was getting no where. In my mind I told
myself “Think, think! Pull up, pull up!
Figure out someway to salvage this mission.”
I told the assistant that we actually had driven to New
Braunfels and asked if it would be Okay to just
the photos off. She said no, it would be
better just to mail them. I then
mentioned that these were photos that I had taken off of the television
1972 during Duke's Apollo 16 moonwalk.
The last piece of information about the photos taken off of
the television got us a foot in the door.
The assistant said “Oh you must be the person whose
girl friend called
me earlier in the week.” I told her that
indeed, I was that person.
With that revelation, the assistant relented and told me
that we could come to the office to drop the photos off.
She gave me directions on how to get
there. I thanked her and told her that
we would see her in a few minutes. I
hung up the receiver dejected. I had tried
all that I could think of to get us an audience with General Duke. It just was not going to happen.
Still I felt better that at least we could
drop the photos off at the office.
We drove to the town square as we were directed. We looked and looked for the building, but
couldn't find it. Now New
Braunfels is not that large of a town that you
shouldn't be able to find a building on the town square.
We drove around the square again.
The only possibility for the building was a
nondescript old looking stone building with no signs or advertisement. Even the street number was hard to find. We pulled into the parking lot and
saw the street number matched our address.
Okay we were here. I had my camera with me but left it in
the car. No sense taking it in to take a
picture of the receptionist. We entered
the building. The reception area was
rather stark or barren. There was an
inexpensive brown naugahyde couch to one side of the room.
The floor had green carpeting. The
walls were brown paneling. There were no
windows. On the wall opposite of the
couch was a
On the wall opposite of the entrance to the building there
was a small opening with a window. It
reminded me a lot of dentist offices that I had been in.
We approached the window to talk with the
receptionist. That wasn't just the
receptionist, it was Charlie Duke's assistant.
We told here who we were and I showed her my photos from the
TV. She thought those were pretty
neat. She asked us if we knew that it
was the 25th anniversary of Apollo 11. We
replied that we did know that and had just
seen Buzz Aldrin yesterday. She asked us
if we had seen the Apollo 11 special that was on television.
We told her that we missed it. She
told us that Charlie was interviewed on
the special. He was Capcom during the
Moon landing. The television special did
a kind of then and now piece. She said
that Charlie looked really good on the special.
I told her that we would have to catch if the did a
repeat of the
I assumed at that point that our conversation was coming to
a close. I thought we would give her
our mailing addresses and be off. She
surprised me and said, “Why don't you two take a seat.
Charlie is on the phone right now, but I will
try and sneak these photos on his desk and get him to sign them. I can't promise anything, but I might be able
to get them done.”
Andy and I sat down on the naugahyde couch.
Perhaps our drive to New
Braunfels wasn't totally in vain.
If we could return with at least the
autographs, it would have been a partial success. We
waited for a few minutes for the assistant
Instead of the assistant coming back to the open window, the
door across from the couch opened up. In
the doorway was the assistant with our photos.
They had been autographed. Behind
the assistant was Charlie Duke!!! Holy Toledo,
it was the man.
The assistant introduced us to Duke. We
told him that we were honored to meet
him. We talked some about taking the
photos off of the television. He seemed
really interested in that. I showed him
some other photos from the television that I had taken.
I show him one where he was holding a
rock. I said, “I think you called that
rock, the muley rock.” Duke smiled,
“That was a big ole rock.”
I had Duke sign three photos. Two
from the television and one Apollo 16
crew lithograph. Duke asked me what I
was going to do with all the signed photos.
I told him that I was just going to hang them on my
wall to remind me of
Duke made a comment to the effect of , “We sure don't do
adventure like that anymore.” I was
surprised. I told him that I thought the
space shuttle was still pretty exciting.
He agreed, but didn't think it was on the same level
that going to the
Moon was. He was right.
I asked Duke if he ever got together with his former
crew mate John Young. Duke said that once
in a while they had reunions where they got together.
We had talked for nearly 10 minutes. He
was most gracious. Duke apologized for
having to leave, but said that he had a meeting in San
that he had to leave for and it was at least a 20 minute drive. We thanked Duke for his time and said that we
understood his need to leave.
Andy and I exited the building and returned to my car. In there I saw my camera.
I wished I would have had the camera with me
so that we could have had a photo taken with Duke.
I knew thought that it was the right thing to
do to leave the camera behind.
Andy and I were floating.
We met Charlie Duke and he was the nicest person in
the world that you
would want to meet. We head back and
stopped off at a town called West, Texas. That is the Czech capital of Texas
and there was a Czech bakery where we stopped.
We got some kolaches.
This trip had come full circle. It's
origin was in baking kolaches and its completion
was capped off with a kolache. We took a
gamble and it paid off. It paid off big
time. I owed all of it to Mary. Without her support and insistence, it never
would have happened.