You Lucky Sonofabitch!
[excerpt from chapter 2 of The All-American Boys]

"The All-American Boys" by Walter Cunningham

I swung my Porsche Speedster off the road and parked it in a bend on Mulholland Drive at the top of the Santa Monica Mountains. The city of Los Angeles sprawled far below, a hazy, sweeping panorama. Beyond it stretched the California coastline, miles of sand and surf and tacoburger huts.

It was a picture-postcard view, but at that moment I didn't see it. I was concentrating on my car radio, oblivious to everything else. My hair could have been on fire and I wouldn't have noticed.

My trance was broken by a rush of words exploding in my ears, shrill and profane: "You lucky sonofabitch!" It took a moment to realize that the voice I heard was my own. I was screaming at an American pilot, 2500 miles away, who was a hundred feet above the earth and on his way out of the atmosphere. I shared that moment with Alan Shepard two years before we ever met.

Sheepishly, I looked around, half-expecting to find a curious crowd staring back at me. Or maybe a deputy sheriff, wondering why a guy would be parked in a car, alone, in the middle of nowhere, lips moving, yelling at demons. No one was in sight; no one saw me. I turned back to the radio.

A little before 7:00 A.M. on that morning of May 5, 1961, while I was driving to work at the RAND Corporation, Alan Shepard sat in a tiny Mercury capsule called Freedom 7 atop a Redstone Rocket. He had just growled impatiently at his ground crew, "Why don't you guys fix your problems and light this candle?"

It was that time in my graduate student life when I supported my family by simultaneously holding down five different jobs, including flying with the Marine Corps Reserve. The Porsche's top was down and the car radio was tuned to the final countdown for MR-3.

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