Bob Hass and Jim (Royal Dick) Rathmann

These two people have nothing in common, one a famous poet and teacher the other a renowned race car driver, except that I was reading first the obituary of Jim Rathmann in the NY Times this morning, and then Bob’s poem “Shame: an Aria.”

Larry was reading to me Jim Rathmann’s obituary over breakfast (vegetable hash–yummy–let me know if you want the recipe). He started racing before he was legally eligible, so used his brother James’ ID.  Hence his career as Jim Rathmann, record breaking race car driver, whose given name was “Royal” but whose family name was Dick. It must have been confusing, as his older brother was a decent racer, too. The part Larry read was: “He earned renown in Southern California drag-racing circles, receiving 48 traffic tickets before he was 18 — four during one lunch break.” But my favorite part was the last paragraph of the article.  He became friends with the astronauts, and one taught him to fly:

Gordon Cooper, one of the original members of NASA’s Mercury program, told him never to fly under a seagull lest the bird excrete on the plane. Rathmann made the mistake of laughing.

Colonel Cooper proceeded to prove his point, flying so low under a flock of gulls that a terrified Rathmann could hear the propellers cutting marsh grass. On landing, Cooper jumped from the plane and pointed to the spattered roof.

“I told you,” he said. Continue reading “Bob Hass and Jim (Royal Dick) Rathmann”