Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Photographs and Memories

 

Scrolling through the scanned images from many years of 35mm manual camera photography, I ran across this image. It was one of my better shots from my first military assignment, in Bavaria, West Germany. But who was that young officer doing a standing backflip under the elevated barrel of a King Tiger tank? I had not spoken with him since I left Germany in the spring of 1990, and his name had faded from memory. A bit of poking around the internet answered that question and filled in a vague memory with surprising detail.

When I reported to my officer basic course at Fort Bliss, Texas, I saved my modest pay until I could buy a good basic 35 mm camera kit. I bought a Pentax K1000 camera. Knowing I would be shooting film on the go, my hands often occupied with a map, mike, or machine gun, I went with a compromise lens, an aspherical 28-200mm wide to telephoto lens. That lens stood me in good stead through about seven years of active service, until I busted some pin or ring when I tossed the camera into a back seat.

In an age before cell phone cameras, most consumers either had a real 35mm single-lens reflex (SLR) camera or some form of disposable camera with very limited capability. So, I tended to be the guy behind the lens. During an official goof off officer professional development weekend, a paid field trip with our senior officers effectively chaperoning us young’uns, we happened to stop at this scene.

The King Tiger tank was the heaviest main battle tank in history until the advent of the M1A1. It was really cool looking, just the sort of thing young men, of any age, want to clamber upon.

At seventy-five tons, it was bigger than its predecessor. Its longer-barreled (and thus higher velocity) KwK 43 88-millimeter cannon could penetrate five inches of armor at a range of two kilometers (1.2 miles). With Sherman and T-34 crews having about two inches of frontal armor between them and eternity, no wonder a supersized Tiger must have seemed the devil on treads.
[…]

The problem was that by the time the King Tiger made its combat debut in Normandy in July 1944, the necessities that Nazi Germany most lacked was trained, experienced tank crews and fuel and logistics support.
[…]
In terms of the triad of metrics for tanks—firepower, armor and mobility—the Tiger II was quite impressive. It was probably better than its American rival, the lighter and less heavily armored forty-six-ton American M-26 Pershing. A more interesting question is the King Tiger versus the Soviet IS-2 Stalin tank. There are all sorts of conflicting data and opinions on this duel, though an encounter between IS-2s and King Tigers in August 1944 destroyed or damaged ten tanks on either side. One flaw of the IS-2, whose powerful 122-millimeter gun could theoretically penetrate a King Tiger’s thickly armored turret at one-mile range—was its low rate of fire and limited onboard ammunition supply.

I was clicking away, when one of the lieutenants, who had come to Germany sometime after me, asked me to take a picture of him doing a standing backflip under the elevated barrel of the King Tiger. We all expected that he could do this, as we had heard a bit about him and his wife.

Who is this young officer, joyously executing a standing backflip under the Third Reich’s most powerful tank? I drew a blank, after all, this was around 1988 and I had not talked to him since leaving West Germany in early 1990. I remembered he was a serious international competitor on the double-mini trampoline. In essence, he did high diving without the water. He was married to a West German woman who he had met in competition when she was a member of the West German team. So, I had some basic start points for research.

I started searching trampoline competitions. Shortly, I found the discipline and the World Games. Then I found this:

1981 World Game Results

I did not recall him talking about being a champion, but there it is. The inaugural World Games were held in Santa Clara, California, in 1981. This provided a venue for sports that are not firmly in the Olympic movement.

A bit more noodling around, and I found that Carl Heger was competitive on trampoline until 1999. His wife was his coach. He was inducted into his discipline’s hall of fame in 2007. But wait, there’s more!

He apparently did much of this international level athletic competing while his day job was either the United States Army or the FBI. Yes, it turns out that, sometime after he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal as a senior first lieutenant during Desert Storm, he left active military service and made a career in the FBI. Federal agencies, military or otherwise, love the prestige of boasting on one of their members being an elite athlete. If you are good enough, chances are you will get some level of support from your organization.

In browsing videos and web pages about Carl, I found that he and his wife had at least two sons. They came up as competitors following in their parents’ footsteps, coached by their mother!

The photograph I took around 1988, on a typically overcast German day, struck my fancy enough to have it enlarged to around 8X11 and framed. It was on a wall in my dwelling places for a couple of decades. The image was striking enough to jump out at me, triggering that vague, happy, youthful memory a day or so ago, prompting a fruitful search for more details. So, what people of extraordinary accomplishment did you know back when?

Published in General
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s growing community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

There are 32 comments.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  1. Arahant Member

    Clifford A. Brown: So, what people of extraordinary accomplishment did you know back when?

    About the only person I can think of at the moment is Laura Kofoid. She was a year ahead of me in high school. I’m sure there are others whom I knew who have gained fame and fortune, but the world is a big place, and I don’t keep up with people well.

    • #1
    • August 23, 2019, at 1:24 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  2. Arahant Member

    I can’t help adding:

    • #2
    • August 23, 2019, at 1:38 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Clifford, have you tried to contact Karl? He might get a big kick out of hearing from you. He also might like a copy of that great photo, if you didn’t already give him one.

    I can’t think of anyone that I knew who eventually became well known, but if someone comes to mind, I’ll share it!

    • #3
    • August 23, 2019, at 5:58 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  4. ctlaw Coolidge

    Clifford A. Brown: he left active military service and made a career in the FBI

    What is with FBI agents and backflipping:

    • #4
    • August 23, 2019, at 6:09 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  5. Seawriter Member

    Ken Burns went to the same grade school I did, two years ahead of me. His kid brother and I were in the same class in 3rd and 4th grade.

    My best friend in grade school eventually became director of human resources at the International Monetary Fund.

    I guess it has been all downhill from grade school.

    • #5
    • August 23, 2019, at 6:21 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  6. RightAngles Member

    Harrison Ford is from my home town, but was older so I didn’t know him. My brother-in-law (R.I.P) did know him in high school (as Harry Ford). I went to high school with Hillary Rodham, who was a senior when I was a freshman. She had me do some art for the program of a school event she organized, which I posted about here. I remember thinking she was bossy haha. I’ll never get used to seeing her on TV.

    As you all know since I never tire of reminding you, I’ve known some other famous people, but not until they were already famous. Knowing someone “back when,” from when they were just a regular person, and then seeing them become famous, is a whole different experience.

    • #6
    • August 23, 2019, at 6:36 AM PST
    • 11 likes
  7. Seawriter Member

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    Knowing someone “back when,” from when they were just a regular person, and then seeing them become famous, is a whole different experience.

    Sometimes. I knew Robert Asprin (the SF writer) back when I was in college, before he published his first book (The Cold Cash War). Met him again after he had become pretty famous twenty-five years later. He had not changed a bit. He was still a legend in his own mind. (That might be a bit unfair. But he always considered himself the smartest guy in the room, and let everyone know it – even back in the mid 1970s.)

    • #7
    • August 23, 2019, at 6:55 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  8. SkipSul Moderator

    I went to school with 2 young ladies who have since gone on to be world class competitors in various iron-man type competitions, and have each been featured on various running or triathlon magazine covers. One of them was the daughter of my first grade teacher.

     

    • #8
    • August 23, 2019, at 7:09 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  9. Arahant Member

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    I knew Robert Asprin (the SF writer) back when I was in college

    I have a second cousin who lives in A² who also knew Robert Asprin.

    • #9
    • August 23, 2019, at 7:12 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  10. Arahant Member

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    Harrison Ford is from my home town, but was older so I didn’t know him.

    If we count people in that category, I have thousands. But I don’t think that quite works here.

    • #10
    • August 23, 2019, at 7:15 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  11. The Reticulator Member

    Clifford A. Brown: So, what people of extraordinary accomplishment did you know back when?

    I can’t think of anyone at the moment. Maybe I didn’t hang around with such people. But I hope you don’t mind that I enjoyed your story anyway.

    Well, I shouldn’t say I didn’t hang around with such people. At my job I worked with professors who had (and have) international reputations and were/are leaders in their fields. Our university department had a reputation on the main campus for being a bunch of prima donnas. They could be demanding but they were good people and good at their work, all of them.

    But you were talking about photos and “back when,” and that reminds me of “Butchie.” 

    A few years ago I was looking at old photos inherited from my mother, and saw a couple of b&w photos, not well composed, of “Butchie” and me from a time when I was not yet two years old. Butchie was almost a year older, as I have learned since then. The photos brought to mind an old memory, which has faded somewhat now that I’ve described it to people, of my mother with a big smile on her face, asking, “Can you say Butchie?” I think it was an occasion when Butchie and I were together. And that’s about all I remember, but the name “Butchie” had stuck with me. It was probably not from the time of that photo, because I don’t think I have any memories from when I was less than two years old, and very few from when I was less than three. But I remember my mother asking that, and my thinking it was a strange thing to ask, though I’m not sure what words I would have used to think such a thought at that age.

    The diaries I inherited from my mother gave me the surname, Mueller. I learned from her diaries that we used to visit with with the Muellers a lot. Dad was then a pastor of three congregations in rural North Dakota, spread out over a distance of 50 miles of gravel roads, and the Muellers were at the one farthest away. There was also a railroad line connecting them, which in recent years is used only for hauling oil from the fracking fields, and now that there is more of a pipeline, not much for that. But Mom had often told me that she would take me there by train to join Dad for week-long church functions. Apparently we stayed with the Muellers at those times. And they came to visit us at our place.

    So I got to wondering whatever happened to Butchie and the Muellers. A google search brought up a web site that had been put up just for a Mueller family reunion a year earlier, and I left a message. Eventually I heard back. The web master told me that “Butchie” doesn’t go by that name, but he knew who I meant. He now goes by “Gus.”

    Gus eventually he got back to me, and we exchanged e-mails. It turns out that Gus has done well in the audiology profession. I was impressed to learn that he is a full professor at Vanderbilt, which I had already known to be top-ranked in the field of speech pathology. Speech pathology programs include audiology, of course. He is still on the go, giving talks around the world. More about Gus here and here

    I sent him some quotes from my mother’s diaries, in which she described him and me together. It seems that one time he and I entertained everyone by our efforts to imitate each other. Gus said it was a strange experience to see those descriptions of him from so long ago. 

    We compared more notes on the churches (in my case, on what I had been told about the churches). Gus asked if my father had ever preached in German. I told him that I wasn’t sure, but he might have; Dad had told stories about a young preacher who didn’t have full command of the language and once mixed up the words for rain and manure. It wasn’t until after he died in 2015 that I began to suspect that was actually a story he had told on himself. Dad had also told about the old days when men sat on one side of the church, with women and children on the other. It wasn’t until after he died that I learned that he was talking about as recently as when he was a young pastor, and that the practice had been broken up by a young Navy veteran, recently home from the war, who insisted on sitting together with his bride in church. Gus explained how an older brother had done the same at the church in his town. And there was more along these lines.

    Anyhow it was interesting to bring back memories from old photos, and to learn about what a young, barely remembered playmate has done with his life. It’s interesting to learn about those who haven’t gone on to fame and fortune, too, but those people are often a little harder to track down.

     

    • #11
    • August 23, 2019, at 7:20 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  12. Aaron Miller Member

    I knew my dad before he was on the cover of a magazine! Well, it was a company magazine. But it was a funny discovery among my grandma’s books. He and a friend had made an extraordinary oil find that flummoxed many geologists and geophysicists from other companies, including Exxon. 

    Two degrees separate me from many celebrities, but I have never known one myself.

    A friend of mine lived with country star Randy Rogers in their college days. He said Rogers played a lot of rock songs then. My little sister was infatuated with him, which led to a funny moment when another friend (who also knew Randy) said he was playing golf with Randy later that week. He offered to let my sister call him, but she wimped out. 

    And of course I “knew” Ricochet folks before they popped up on Fox News.

    • #12
    • August 23, 2019, at 7:44 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  13. Seawriter Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    I knew Robert Asprin (the SF writer) back when I was in college

    I have a second cousin who lives in A² who also knew Robert Asprin.

    Was your cousin a wargamer or an SF type?

    • #13
    • August 23, 2019, at 7:50 AM PST
    • 1 like
  14. The Reticulator Member

    I recently learned about Dave Joerger, who was a NBA coach for 6 years until he was fired by the Sacramento Kings this year. Here he is in a video with some other coaches:

    I don’t follow the NBA much, so hadn’t known about him until I was reading the latest edition of “Henning’s Orange and Black: A historical look at Henning basketball 1914 to 2019.” I graduated with the class of 1966, which is “famous” for the years in which our tiny school competed with the best teams in the state of Minnesota, almost pulling off a Hoosier’s-like story, except that we lost to Edina-Morningside in triple-overtime in the state tournament, at the beginning of a period in which Edina dominated Minnesota high school basketball.

    Anyhow, Joey Joerger was a year behind me and didn’t get much playing time during that memorable year. But I remember him as a nice, friendly guy. What I hadn’t known until I followed up on a brief mention in the book was that his son, Dave, had become a NBA coach. Every once in a while I google to see if he has picked up any work since Sacramento let him go.

    • #14
    • August 23, 2019, at 8:02 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  15. John H. Member

    I had been very impressed by the people I knew back then, so it surprises me that none has gained fame or eminence of any can’t-miss-it sort. I feel certain they have done very well in their chosen fields. But I find little or no Internet trace of this. Which is nice, actually; the purity of it, I mean. If you’re reaaallly prepared to stretch a point: I know someone who went to the grade schools I went to, only several years behind me, and he told me he’d had as a classmate…Brian Leiter. I am not kidding. If notoriety were measured in neutrinos, I think this would be 1.0.

    • #15
    • August 23, 2019, at 8:17 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  16. Arahant Member

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    Was your cousin a wargamer or an SF type?

    I don’t think so. I think he rented a room from Asprin or some such, although I could be wrong. My cousin is a union steward at the college where he works and big in the Washtenaw County Democratic Party. I have not kept up with him very well since his mother died.

    • #16
    • August 23, 2019, at 8:27 AM PST
    • Like
  17. Kephalithos Member

    I went to Hillsdale. In about twenty years, half my graduating class will be running for public office.

    (For Ricochetti, the dirt is free. All others must pay.)

    • #17
    • August 23, 2019, at 8:53 AM PST
    • 11 likes
  18. Susan Quinn Contributor

    I doubt anyone will remember him, but Randy Vataha went to my high school. (This was the one in Garden Grove, CA–Rancho Alamitos High School.) Of course he was a letter man. We were both in advanced placement, so we knew each other but weren’t friends. He ended up being a pro in the NFL. And Steve Martin went to the high school across town–Garden Grove High School. I didn’t know him then.

    • #18
    • August 23, 2019, at 10:04 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  19. Spin Coolidge

    I grew up neighbors to Drew Bledsoe, of NFL fame. He was 4 or 5 years behind me in school and I never really knew him. His dad, however, was a mentor of mine. Knowing what his dad is like, it is no wonder Drew went on to be a Super Bowl winning quarterback.

    • #19
    • August 23, 2019, at 4:45 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  20. Spin Coolidge

    Also, I either didn’t know or don’t remember that we were in Germany at the same time. I arrived in early 1988 and left in late 1991. I was to be there for 2 years but extended because I loved it so much. I never saw any Tiger tanks while I was there, that I remember now, but I did ride around on an M1A1. Because I am cool like that.

    • #20
    • August 23, 2019, at 4:47 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  21. Steve C. Member
    Target! Cease fire.

    Spin (View Comment):
    but I did ride around on an M1A1. Because I am cool like that.

    Riding around on a tank bestows upon one an existential coolness only a select few are privileged to experience.

    • #21
    • August 23, 2019, at 7:53 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  22. tigerlily Member

    I played baseball against several guys who went on to play in the major leagues. None of them were anything close to stars though. One, Freddy Arroyo, was a pitcher with an 8-year career in the majors. The other two, Larry Wolfe and Jerry Manuel, were utility infielders with short careers in the majors. Manuel later became a major league manager for nine years with the White Sox and then the Mets.

    • #22
    • August 23, 2019, at 9:03 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  23. Al French, Count of Clackamas Member

    I knew John Kerry – wait, you said accomplishments.

    • #23
    • August 23, 2019, at 9:15 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  24. RightAngles Member

    tigerlily (View Comment):

    I played baseball against several guys who went on to play in the major leagues. None of them were anything close to stars though. One, Freddy Arroyo, was a pitcher with an 8-year career in the majors. The other two, Larry Wolfe and Jerry Manuel, were utility infielders with short careers in the majors. Manuel later became a major league manager for nine years with the White Sox and then the Mets.

    Did you play in college?

    • #24
    • August 23, 2019, at 10:11 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  25. MACHO GRANDE' (aka - Chri… Coolidge

    This is a great post, Clifford. Thanks for that.

    Nothing quite as random as a dude back-flipping under the barrel of a King Tiger tank. Buddy of mine used to do standing backflips (and vertical spins) in high school. Kind of thing he’d do standing in the outfield during baseball practice, when he had 10 seconds of boredom to contend with.

    He’s also in the military, Apache pilot, Afghanistan for (I think) 2 years.

    What’s with these back-flipping dudes?

    • #25
    • August 24, 2019, at 4:36 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  26. Old Buckeye Member

    Bethany Rooney (https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0385151/), now a Hollywood director and producer, was my grade school best friend for several years and rival for the highest grades. Back then her name was Beth Ann, not Bethany. I can remember learning to play mancala at her house, which was a really interesting place because her dad was an architect and her mom was an artist. We had to attend different high schools and lost touch but reconnected briefly in college. At that point, I was not cool enough to hang around with her and she dropped me like a hot potato. I was definitely “small town” and she evidently already had her sights set for grander things. 

    • #26
    • August 24, 2019, at 7:06 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  27. Quietpi Member

    No famous people. But, ah, your camera! A Pentax K 1000 served me well for many years in my occupation. It was indeed a great camera. I had determined to stick with film until the digital SLR’s reached 10 MP. Then when I looked again the standard was around 20 MP, and climbing faster than Amazon Smile could deliver. The Pentax has rested in a place of honor ever since. Okay, in a bag at the back of my closet. But I remember it fondly when I’m searching for shoes.

    I recently took a trip to Grand Teton NP. It was so cool, taking pictures of something other than crime scenes and blood spatter. Buffalo are much more inspiring, don’t you agree?

    • #27
    • August 24, 2019, at 11:44 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  28. tigerlily Member

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    tigerlily (View Comment):

    I played baseball against several guys who went on to play in the major leagues. None of them were anything close to stars though. One, Freddy Arroyo, was a pitcher with an 8-year career in the majors. The other two, Larry Wolfe and Jerry Manuel, were utility infielders with short careers in the majors. Manuel later became a major league manager for nine years with the White Sox and then the Mets.

    Did you play in college?

    No RA, high school.

    • #28
    • August 25, 2019, at 5:31 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  29. MACHO GRANDE' (aka - Chri… Coolidge

    Quietpi (View Comment):

    No famous people. But, ah, your camera! A Pentax K 1000 served me well for many years in my occupation. It was indeed a great camera. I had determined to stick with film until the digital SLR’s reached 10 MP. Then when I looked again the standard was around 20 MP, and climbing faster than Amazon Smile could deliver. The Pentax has rested in a place of honor ever since. Okay, in a bag at the back of my closet. But I remember it fondly when I’m searching for shoes.

    I recently took a trip to Grand Teton NP. It was so cool, taking pictures of something other than crime scenes and blood spatter. Buffalo are much more inspiring, don’t you agree?

    This dude does.

    See the source image

    • #29
    • August 26, 2019, at 3:09 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  30. RightAngles Member

    tigerlily (View Comment):

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    tigerlily (View Comment):

    I played baseball against several guys who went on to play in the major leagues. None of them were anything close to stars though. One, Freddy Arroyo, was a pitcher with an 8-year career in the majors. The other two, Larry Wolfe and Jerry Manuel, were utility infielders with short careers in the majors. Manuel later became a major league manager for nine years with the White Sox and then the Mets.

    Did you play in college?

    No RA, high school.

    Then I’d have wanted to date you haha

    • #30
    • August 26, 2019, at 8:48 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  1. 1
  2. 2