Sunday, December 2, 2018
Jim was wandering around the University of Indiana’s campus asking questions about where he might find Dr. B.F. Skinner. None of the students he asked took him seriously. After all they were 18 or older and knew a 16 year old when they saw one. He was a high school kid at best and not worthy of a college student’s time.
Jim later recounted that “The students’ attitude was beyond frustrating to me. The last straw was when a big football player gave me a shove. I instinctively let fly with a punch that just glance off the big goon. His buddies were holding me down when the campus security came along and started marching me off campus.
Then, I saw a fellow who had to be Skinner about 100 feet away. The guy looked like I imagined from the grainy magazine article my uncle had clipped. I took a chance and shouted “Dr. Skinner!” The man actually quickened his pace, and that threw me into a panic. Just as Skinner was about to get out of earshot I shouted the title of the top secret report, “Project Pigeon!” at the top of my lungs. My outbreak startled the security guards. They were literally dragging me away when Dr. B.F. Skinner appeared out of nowhere and convinced the guards to let him talk to me.”
“I explained about my uncle, what I knew of his project, and his dying words written on the chalkboard. I went over how I was looking through his papers and totally dismissed “Project Pigeon” on first glance, and then how I put two and two together and came up with Skinner and his guidance system.
Skinner seemed unimpressed to say the least. He had taken a beating at the hands of the military when they had basically laughed in his face and showed him the door. His wife was listening to us at dinner and asked some very good questions. I think he was about to show me the door, as well, when she shot him a zinger. “Don’t you believe in your own research and conclusions about this Project Pigeon? Did you waste almost a year and a half on a fool’s errand?”
That stopped him in his tracks. He looked at her, got up from his chair walked over to her. Next, he picked her up and kissed her full on the lips for a long time. She was quite embarrassed, as was I. Then, he shouted, “Thank you my dear for putting it so elegantly and being so direct!”
He motioned me to the living room. We discussed how he was going to approach this dilemma and convince the Pentagon that they were more than wrong in rejecting his proposal. In addition, he had to convince them that the Soviets had gotten hold of his idea and were possibly using it to guide their missiles.
Skinner then asked me to go back and look over my uncle’s papers and see if there was anything that mentioned unusual material in the wreckage of any recovered bombers, etc. Something must have spurred my uncle’s memory about Project Pigeon. Possibly, it was dead pigeons or parts of pigeons or some such clue that got him thinking.
He said he was going to start contacting his old sources, once again, to try and get his foot in the door. The key, he kept repeating over and over again, was what had gotten my uncle to think of his project? What had awakened his memory of an obscure and rejected guidance system?
We both had our assignments. I went to bed, had a great sleep and an even better breakfast. I was on my way back to my uncle’s house by 7 o’clock in the morning. Skinner was on the phone calling in some favors as I was leaving. It was up to me to find the smoking gun. I had no idea if it was in my uncle’s house or if it was in his now re-occupied office. If what we were looking for was in his office, the game was probably over.