Two days before its television premiere on Sept. 28, the stars of National Geographic Channel's Wednesday series "Rocket City Rednecks," along with colleagues, friends and family, gathered in the auditorium of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.
The occasion was a screening of the premiere episodes and a chance to honor the show's crew of homegrown geniuses -- rocket scientist Dr. Travis Taylor; his father, Charles "Daddy" Taylor, a former NASA machinist; his childhood pal, mechanical expert Rog Jones; his nephew, landscaper Michael Taylor; and his grad-school pal, optical scientist and gun collector Pete "Pistol Pete" Erbach.
Each weekend, they embark on yet another wacky science or engineering experiment, usually involving sawing, welding, complex electronics, explosives and frequently beer.
After the premiere, everyone decamped to the Davidson Center for Space Exploration, a 476-foot-long, 90-foot-wide and 63-foot-high structure packed with space capsules, lunar vehicles, space suits and exhibits, all underneath a fully restored Saturn V rocket suspended from the ceiling.
In the midst of the past glory of U.S. manned space flight, guests sampled hot dogs, hamburgers, beans, coleslaw and ice cream, downed with a variety of beverages (including, of course, beer).
But before that, the rednecks sat down for an interview, and here are a few of their observations.On watching the crowd watching them:
Travis Taylor: "We've seen both episodes, and we laugh at different parts, because it's us. We know what we were doing. We know what each other is kind of thinking. Everybody else is laughing at different things, and we didn't realize those parts were funny."
Erbach: "Getting to watch it on the big screen with all the people, all the hooting and hollering, that just made it 10 times better."
On the current state of the U.S. manned space program in the wake of the retirement of the shuttle fleet:
Charles Taylor: "I've watched the space program since 1966, working, and I think we have watched, right before our eyes, a national tragedy. This is exactly what it is. We were leading the world. We were masters of the world of space exploration and building rocket ships. We've watched the politicians systematically dismantle the greatest achievement mankind has ever made. I take it personally."
Travis Taylor: "When you walk upstairs into the Davidson Center, the greatest technological achievement man has ever done is laying on its side up there in pieces. That's the Saturn V rocket that put man on the moon, the most complicated technological device ever built by humans. The pyramids pale in comparison to the Saturn V."
Erbach: "What I'd like to see is every person in the country, just one by one, maybe two by two, go through that Davidson Center. That is one of the most inspirational places."
On what Michael Taylor can do even without a Ph.D.:
Michael Taylor: "Well, I got into business when I was 18. I've got this lawn care business. That's what I've always done, and I'm still doing it today. I enjoy it. It's a lot of fun. It's good work. I'd just as soon do that."
Travis Taylor: "Michael has an entrepreneurial spirit, and he's going to be everybody's boss. Let me tell you, there's no welding that he can't do. There are no electronic circuits that he can't put together. When it comes to solving engineering-type problems, Michael is right there. He knows how to do it."
On what the rednecks hope kids take away from watching them build things:
Travis Taylor: "I want them to see that they can put their dadgum Xbox down. Everything doesn't have to be in the virtual world. Go out there to the garage, go get a toilet paper roll and some balsa wood, build a rocket."
On Rog Jones' special skills:
Travis Taylor: "Rog has about 165 IQ. When it comes to solving a problem, he usually gets it right like that. He can think in more dimensions than I can, but only if you get him good and 'intoxified.' "
Rog Jones: "You've got to let the brain cells flow free."
Of course, beer is good for more than lubricating Jones' brain cells. Below find the recipe for "Six Pack Turkey" from Mary Ann "Mama" Taylor, Charles' wife and Travis' mother:
One wild turkey breast; beer; two cups flour; salt and pepper; one cup canola oil for frying.
Cut turkey breast in half, cutting across the grain. Cut each half into strips. In a large bowl, add turkey strips and cover with beer. Seal with plastic wrap and marinate one hour or overnight. In another bowl, add flour, salt and pepper; mix together. Remove turkey from marinating beer and roll in flour mixture.
Heat oil in skillet to medium heat. Brown turkey strips on each side, cover skillet and lower heat. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, turning meat once. Remove from heat and drain on paper towel. Serve immediately.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun