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Harris Blackwood: Our views of time, space have changed since last eclipse
Harris Blackwood
Harris Blackwood

My mama had a hardscrabble upbringing and wanted both of her boys to learn everything we could.

She was particularly fond of the space program. Mama sold World Book encyclopedias when I was little. We had a set in our house from the time I could read.

World Book published a big color book about the space program. I remember the pictures of astronauts like John Glenn, Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom and others. I remember the oft-repeated quote from President John F. Kennedy about landing a man on the moon before the end of the ’60s. We did it.

When I was in fourth grade, our teacher handed us a form that allow us to sign up for a passenger flight to the moon. I think it was to take place sometime way off in the future, like the 1980s.

I didn’t tell mama about signing that form. I did wonder if someone would show up one day at my door asking me to come with them for my lunar trip. They never did.

About a year or so later, I remember the news being filled with stories about a lunar eclipse.

This was 1970. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had already landed on the moon. The Robinson family and that pesky Dr. Smith wrapped up their voyage to Alpha Centauri or someplace in the cosmos. The USS Enterprise of “Star Trek” had boldly gone where no man had gone before.

The first solar eclipse I remember was in 1979. I was already working in radio and the news stories told us that if we missed this one, another one would take place in 2017.

I remember thinking how old I would be. Someone would have to wake me from my afternoon nap in an old folks home and help me amble out to see the eclipse.

I thought we would have flying cars, like the Jetsons. I figured we would, at the very least, be able to propel ourselves around on some type of jetpack.

None of those things have quite made it to the marketplace. The most amazing thing about travel is that there are six lanes of traffic in each direction on parts of Interstate 85 and there are a million people living next door in Gwinnett County. Most of them help fill up those lanes each morning.

There are some folks who are trying to tell us that the eclipse is a sign of the end times or that God is trying to tell us something. Walter Cronkite reported that we would have this eclipse way back in 1979. I think if Uncle Walter knew it that there is not going to be an epiphany of Biblical proportions.

There will be a trail of lost sheep in SUVs making their way to the mountains to see this thing up close and personal. Someone has even done an overlay map of the locations of Waffle Houses in the path of the eclipse. You can watch the sun get scattered smothered and covered while you enjoy some hash browns.

First of all, I hope you find a place early and stay put. If you are on the aforementioned I-85 when this thing happens, don’t stop and look. Get off the road and be safe.

And if you miss it, it will be repeated over and over and over on the evening news. Walter Cronkite must be smiling at that prospect.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page.

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