There are times when you find yourself in the position of working with absolutely no limits- except the impermeable walls of secrecy...
Joe Tom Dalton had grown up on a dirt ranch riding a horse and making handloaded black powder shells to put rabbit meat on the dinner table. He had a
talent for mathematics, discovered by the one-room schoolhouse teacher. Her husband, the local airmail pilot, taught Joe how to fly. And how to lay up
a propeller with resin and wood, how to calculate pitch and tune a JN-4 Jenny biplane's engine.
So Joe found himself over Germany, flying night reconnaissance. With a trunkload of gadgets and spooks from ASOS and Paperclip. Joe had no idea what
they were looking for or talking about. He was just a bus driver, flying in the dark, chewing gum and thinking about home.
By the time the war was over, Joe was back closer to home, still flying around in the dark.
The Jenny had been wood and cloth; his B-24 had been aluminum. Piston engines had given way to turbine jets burning ethyl borane, the XB projects went
to Mach 3 by 1965. He rode with Scotty's team on the High Range in the X-15. Joe learned to fly vertical takeoff helicopters- and found himself in
something called an LRRV.
He was loaded on a Titan missile in a silo, taking the place of a nuclear weapon, went orbital, took some pretty pictures, then glided back to the
Ranch- on a winged Gemini.
He designed things, fixing up little things that weren't working right, and spent time away from the Ranch at General Electric's Valley Forge space
technology center. He learned about computers, nuclear thermal interstellar propulsion, closed life support systems, a lab under the ocean called
'Tektite', and a million more things that a farmboy blacksmith from Nowhere, Nevada would never have believed existed if he and the country had stayed
Nobody ever knew where he went after he was attached to Horizon. Neil and Buzz walked on the Moon, but Joe was underground, running something called a
Nuclear TBM. It was a tunnel boring machine. Joe had gone to dirt again, but he was 24 million miles from the Ranch.
When he came home, Joe spent a lot of time on the ground. He raised a family, drove a truck.
And nobody ever guessed: Joe Dalton was a Rocket Man: Major Tom Dalton.
edit on 14-2-2011 by Chakotay because: