Pete Hale sends birthday greetings to Mr. Scott!
My old Ozark friend Pete Hale also sent Mr. Scott birthday greetings for his 80th year and gave permission to post the missive here:
Hi Jim, and congratulations on your big birthday -- that cake must be HUGE! Jeff was kind enough to alert me to your upcoming celebration from afar, and I can only wish that I was able to attend personally (and perhaps bring along an appropriate fire extinguisher). But if nothing else, this Devil's tool, the Internet, will have to suffice (and boy, I tell you, it really is devilish, as I just somehow lost the veritable Great American Email that I'd just finished on my infernal iPad, and thus my now thrashing away somewhat less-heartedly on an actual, comparatively trustworthy Personal Computer, instead . . . sigh -- it was really great, you'll just have to trust me. I feel like Fermat and his stinkin' theorem, minus the margin or the theorem. Some of what follows attempts to regurgitate it, at any rate . . .).Nice letter . . . outdoes mine by a long shot . . .
Well, where to start. (That, by the way, is the same as I started this paragraph out in my GAE . . . anyhow.) You're my favorite teacher I've ever had, period, if you don't count Mrs. Fowler in 4th grade, which I don't since that was really sort of a crush. But in some sense, my relationship with you was also something of a crush (after multiple years of my older sister Nancy telling me, "He's the greatest! You won't believe it!" and of course she was right), albeit a more intellectually driven one. From the moment you met us all, you treated us like actual adults (most unusual . . .), and your penchant for talking so wondrously about so many and varied things, up to and including what you were actually "teaching," was something completely new under the sun for all of us. You changed our galoot Arkie kid lives, plain and simple.
Your sudden demonstration of one-armed pull-ups with your fingertips on the edge of the door frame in the school "Ping Pong Room" remains one of the most astounding things I've ever witnessed in my life. It was like when Bob Dylan came into the studio about 3-4 albums into his career and sat down and started playing the piano expertly -- nobody knew he could even play the thing! Extra points were awarded for the dropped-jaw reactions from the various tough-guy dudes in attendance at the time, too. Most excellent. Thanks for that.
Your physics final exam that you administered unto us remains the best and most memorable final exam I ever expect to participate in, when you loaded us all into the back of your old pickup (". . . is he going to, uh, take us out into the woods and kill us, perhaps??") and had us build sailboats and try to tack them against the wind on that little pond nearby, in order to instill at least a little bit of actual physical understanding of vectors. I've related this tale to many a physicist over the years at this point, and it invariably results in a rather awed and hushed response, generally along the lines of, ". . . none of my physics teachers ever did anything like that . . ." Yeah, well. You weren't at Salem HS in 1976, either, evidently.
I reckon that you, Bucky Fuller, and Jack Nicklaus have created whatever in the heck I am at this point, for better or worse. I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to decide who was the most important! I don't know what I would have ended up doing with my life if I hadn't had the good fortune to have encountered you at the exact right moment back then, but I have to assume it wouldn't have turned out nearly as fun and interesting as it has been so far. So thanks for that, too, and I hope you have a truly great day and stay firmly in the saddle for plenty more just like it! Pete