Saturday, May 5, 2018
Skinner was late for his next class. The grad student who was to run the class and experiments fell ill. He decided at the last minute to teach it himself. He usually had a quite standard routine for his days and teaching this class took him out of his way. He was going a different route than he usually took between buildings due to the change in his schedule. He noticed a nice young man being escorted by two security guards, making their way towards the front entrance to the quad.
The young man suddenly appeared to recognize him and started to shout his name. This made Dr. Skinner quicken his pace. He wanted nothing to do with and young man who was under custody by campus security. He was almost out of ear shot when he heard something he hadn’t heard in years. The boy was shouting it at the top of his lungs.
“PROJECT PIGEON!” over and over again. He stopped in his tracks and called to the security detail to wait. The boy wanted to blurt out all sorts of things he was told was top secret information the last time the doctor had spoken to his military liaison. He convinced the guards to let him interview the boy in private in the security office.
When they were along the boy produced a copy of his Top Secret report on Project Pigeon. He was very upset to say the least and asked many questions until he was convinced that the boy just wanted to deliver the file to him and to listen to what his uncle speculated.
The boy’s name was Jim Crenshaw and his uncle was the one who had the file. The uncle worked for the Pentagon and had top secret clearance. It still unnerved Skinner that a copy of his files would fall into the hands of a sixteen year old boy.
The tale the boy told was one of utmost admiration for his newly departed uncle who’s dying message was “Skinner”. When the boy looked through his uncle’s things he found the file and put two and two together to get five, it seemed to Skinner at first. He then left his home and family and drove over a thousand miles on a motorcycle to deliver his uncles dying message and the files.
The boy was named Jim Crenshaw and Skinner could not just turn the boy away after all he had done to fulfil his uncle’s dying wish so he convinced the security men to release Jim into his custody. He then brought him home completely forgetting his class and the following faculty meeting later that afternoon.
The Sheriff took his time getting out of the car. He was a big man who moved slowly most of the time, but as some found out, he could move quite quickly when needed. He had been following this kid on a German made motorcycle for a few miles. The kid was not doing anything wrong, but Will Donegal didn’t get paid to not stop strangers who came into his county. Besides, he wanted to get a closer look at this motorcycle.
He closed the police cruiser’s door and slowly walked over to the kid who had gotten off his motorcycle. The kid looked very young and was waiting patiently for the Sheriff to explain what he had done wrong. There was no aggressive body language or nervous mannerisms in the kid, which of course, made the Sheriff even more curious.
“What’s your name son?”
“James Crenshaw, Sir.”
“’How old are you son?”
“Sixteen huh…You sure look big for your age. Are you a draft dodger son, and what are you doing with a great big motorcycle like that so far from Washington D.C.? That’s a far piece from Brown County, Indiana. Did you know you were in Brown County, Indian son?”
“Why, no Sir. I was just on my way to Bloomington and really didn’t know what county I was in.”
This went on like this for a good five minutes with the Sheriff returning to the “draft dodger” theme before the Sheriff really got to the point.
“What is a young man like you doing driving such a fine motorcycle and if you are only 16, where are your parents?”
“Back in Washington, Sir”
“Son, we are just going to have to take you in and see what this is all about. If you are truly 16… a youngster of your tender age should not be so far from home on such a fine motorcycle. It just doesn’t add up. We have to get to the bottom of this with a phone call to your parents. Now don’t do anything foolish but you just hop back on your bike and follow me to the station. We’re going to call your parents and find out what this is all about…come on now…get on and let’s go.”
The Sheriff finally made it to his cruiser and drove past Jim and waved him to follow him. Jim did as he was told and they were soon at the Sheriff’s station. They didn’t lock Jim up but did look through his belongings and found the file marked “Top Secret”. Jim’s heart sank. How was he going to explain this away?
The Sheriff and his deputy had never seen a real Top Secret file and they didn’t become overly concerned. In truth, the pair did not comprehend what exactly it was they had found.
The deputy looked at the contents and started to laugh. Then he showed it to the Sheriff, who also started to chuckle. Having no idea what the contents were really all about, they just put the file back and made the phone call to the number Jim has given.
Jim’s father answered and the conversation was short and sweet. According to the Sheriff, Jim’s father had kicked Jim out. It was good riddance and yes, the motorcycle belonged to him.
Jim’s father’s final words concerning his son were…
“Tell that son of a bitch never to come home again.”
The Sheriff hung up. He thought about his own father and how the same thing had happened to him at age 15.
He sat down across from Jim.
“Son, is there anything you want to tell me?”
Jim was taken aback and uttered “No, Sir.”
Son, I had a father a lot like yours. I was kicked out at the age of 15. I know just what you’re going through. You have to make some very big choices from here on out.”
He paused for emphasis.
“And I’m going to let you make them. Now get on that fancy motorcycle of yours and get on about your business.”
“Yes, Sir. Thank you, Sir…can I ask one question please?”
“Yes, of course you can son.”
“What part of town does the faculty of the University of Indiana live?”
“Why in the best part of town of course.” Was the reply.
Jim thanked everyone, walked out the door and got on his motorbike, riding off to find Dr. B.F. Skinner’s house in Bloomington, IN.
Back in the sheriff’s office, the Sheriff and his deputy were having a good laugh at what they had read in the supposed “Top Secret’ file. Neither believed it was a real file, not after reading part of its contents. This running joke would go on for years amongst the Sheriff departments throughout Indiana. It was Sheriff Donegal’s favorite story and he told it to all. No one else got the significant of the file either. The subject matter was so ridiculous as to be total fiction.
James Crenshaw got his new tires for his motor bike, kissed his mom good bye, punched his father in the mouth, and took off in a cloud of flying gravel that chipped his father’s paint on his car for good measure. It had been hard to smack his old man because he looked exactly like his uncle. But, when the man had slapped his mother once again, Jim snapped. He was going anyway and it just seemed like a fitting exit. He learned later that he had knocked his father out cold. He had mixed emotions about that.
He calmed down and slowed his motorbike down as well. It would not be good to be stopped, and have to explain his bleeding knuckles, and the $496 in his pocket. Not to mention, the file marked Top Secret stashed in his rucksack tied to the bike’s seat.
He loved being a free man. Man… that had a nice ring to it. Now, he had to find a willing woman to really make him a man. He was on a mission to find Dr. B. F. Skinner and to present him the contents of the top secret file he carried. He had no doubt that Skinner would remember that year of his life when he was devoted to his “pet” project with pigeons. The more he Jim thought about it, the more he became convinced that his uncle was on the right track and this Skinner guy would be the only one who would understand what his uncle was proposing. He began to laugh as he
imagined a bunch of Generals in full regalia being presented with Skinner’s
idea. No wonder it was rejected when it got presented to a bunch of ego-driven,
know-it alls, who were more concerned with appearances, than in winning the
Jim had experienced the phenomenon a few times as a Reserve Officers Training Corps member. Everyone his age was joining the ROTC during the last war and he was no exception. What he noticed was that the military mind seemed to be consumed with putting on a good show and not so concerned with actually doing a good job. Initiative and the ability to get things done were way down on the list of attributes to be admired. First and foremost you had to look the part to succeed.
“The Good Show,” he thought, was the reason we had gotten our asses kicked, both in the beginning of the last war and this war as well. Guys who were promoted beyond their abilities, had to fail before the real warriors their chance. Immediately, the name U.S. Grant came to mind as a perfect example.
All that mattered was the ability to a brief a plan well. You were promote if you were one of those guys who could put lipstick on a pig. Winning ideas could be overlooked and disastrous ideas could be advanced.
Skinner’s idea was dismissed. In reality it was brilliant, workable, and cost effective. But, it was not presented well to a group of puppets who thought alike. They were the kind of men who didn’t have the imagination to see what a great idea it was. He bet, as his uncle had, that someone in the Soviet Union had gotten his hands on this project and developed it and was using it to win a war.
But, what did a sixteen, year old kid know? His mission was to find and present the folder to Dr. Skinner to remind him of what he had done. Jim wanted to jog Skinner’s memory and to have him imagine that the Soviets had used his well thought out, but very unconventional, idea to shoot our bombers out of the sky. Crenshaw knew that no one in power would listen to him. Jim was not even sure that his uncle could have pulled this off.
From reading up on this Skinner guy, Jim found that he seemed to have a following. Maybe, just maybe Skinner could get in contact with his former colleagues at the Pentagon and convince them to, at least explore, the possibility of what he and his uncle theorized. The two men were proposing that Dr. Skinner’s invention was possibly guiding missiles.
He was sixteen and on his way to convince a Ph.D in Psychology, that he held an incredible secret that might be the key to winning World War Three. What could go wrong?