Rocket Boys

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One World English Course 3 (Heisei 17) pg. 98-102

Rocket Boys
Word count561
BookOne World

That October night, everyone was waiting outside to see the Soviet satellite Sputnik in the sky. While I was looking up, I saw a bright little ball. It was moving all the way across the night sky over us. In less than a minute, it was gone, but I just stayed there. I was still looking up. I couldn't move. "That was the most beautiful thing I've seen in my life," I thought.
In my room, I continued to think about Sputnik. I was a boy in Coalwood. All of a sudden, that wasn't good enough.
During supper one night I told my family that I was going to build a rocket. My father said nothing. My brother Jim laughed. My mother stared at me for a long time and said, "Well, don't blow yourself up."

I gathered Roy Lee, O'Dell, and Sherman in my room. "We are going to build a rocket," I said. After a while, Roy Lee said, "All right, let's do it."
We used the gunpowder from firecrackers, and put the rocket we made on top of my mother's garden fence. When it exploded, the rocket didn't go up but my mother's fence did.
I had to talk to Quentin. He was the only student who might know how to build a rocket.
With Quentin in our group, we started to learn a lot about rockets. Miss Riley, our science teacher, gave me a book on rocket building. I studied really hard. Mr. Bykovski at the machine shop secretly helped us with metalwork. As we flew more and more rockets, they went up higher and higher.

One day Miss Riley told me to stay after class. She took my hand and said, "If you stop working on your rockets now, you'll regret it for the rest of your life. Your job is to build your rockets. Give it everything you have." She looked me straight in the eyes.
Mrs. Bykovski decided to leave Coalwood. When she was getting on the bus, I went to the bus stop. "I came to say how sorry I am. It was my fault," I told her. She smiled and said, "No, he wanted to work in the mine. It was his choice. Ike loved you," she told me. "If you want to show how you feel about him, there's one thing you can do. Keep firing off those rockets."
I started to build rockets again. We had a big goal - to win in the county science fair the next year.

We won in the county science fair, and I went to the national science fair in Indianapolis for our group.
Our rocket won a gold and silver medal. When I came back, all of us Rocket Boys went to see Miss Riley in the hospital. She had cancer and was very sick by then. "I'm so proud to be your teacher," she said. "This medal is yours," I said, "You have done so much for us."
Among the Rocket Boys, Quentin, Sherman, and I became engineers. In 1981, I became a NASA engineer. In 1997, forty years after Sputnik, Dr. Takao Doi, an astronaut friend of mine, carried a piece of a rocket we made on the space shuttle Columbia. I was filled with pride and happiness. Our rocket - a rocket propelled by the dreams of boys - finally went into space.


The following is an unofficial translation in simple Japanese:



わたしはロイ・リー、オーデル、そしてシャーマンをわたしの部屋に集めました。「わたしたちはロケットを作るんだ。」と言いました。しばらくしてロイ・リーは「わかった、そうしよう。」と言いました。 わたしたちは爆竹からの火薬を使いました。そしてわたしたちが作ったロケットを母の庭のフェンスのてっぺんに置きました。それが爆発したとき、ロケットは飛ばず、(しかし)母のフェンスが飛びました。


ある日ミスライリーが授業の後でわたしに残っているように言いました。彼女はわたしの手をとって言いました。「もしあなたが今ロケットの研究をやめるなら、あなたの生涯の残りを悔やむことになるでしょう。あなたの仕事はロケットを作ることですよ。あなたの持っているすべてをそれにささげなさい。」彼女はまっすぐにわたしの目を見つめました。バイコフスキー夫人はコールウッドを去ることに決めました。彼女がバスに乗ろうとしたとき、わたしはバス停に行き、「わたしがどんなに申し訳ないことをしてしまったか謝りにきたのです。わたしの責任だったのです。」と言いました。彼女はほほえんで言いました。「いいえ、彼は炭坑で働きたかったのです。それは彼が選んだ事なのです。アイクはあなたのことを愛していました。」と彼女はわたしに言いました。「もしあなたがかれのことをどれくらい思っているのかを表したいなら、たった一つあなたができることがあります。そのロケットの打ち上げを続けなさい。」  わたしはまたロケットを作り始めました。わたしたちには来年の郡の科学祭で勝利するという大きな目標がありました。




  • Rocket Boys is the first memoir in a series of four, by American engineer Homer Hickam Jr. originally published in 1998. Later editions were published under the title October Sky as a tie-in to the 1999 film adaptation.
  • "October Sky" is an anagram of "Rocket Boys".

See also