Tales of the Wild North

The thunderclap—at least that's what it sounded like—woke the whole of Normanton. Still in his pajamas, the police sergeant rushed to the river bank, where a group of local men—"practical jokers," says Wolfgang Arneth, who's telling the story—were drinking rum. "What are you silly bastards up to now?" the cop said. "We're going to be famous,'' came the reply. "We've sent a man into space.''

Arneth, a 70-year-old former crocodile hunter who goes by the name of Wolf, is reminiscing about the great Normanton rocket launch of 1957. He was among the party of inebriated amateur scientists...

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