About six years ago, the brother of my former co-worker, Jim Lowman, was fishing off the shore near Cocoa Beach, Fla., and noticed several grayish objects bobbing in the water. He retrieved them and learned they were pieces of solid rocket fuel.
The discovery was made shortly after the 1999 launch of the space shuttle Columbia, which - like the shuttle launched this week - was commanded by Elmira native Eileen Collins.
The theory is that the material probably came from the shuttle's booster engines, which detach from the spacecraft and fall back into the ocean after the fuel is spent. Pieces of the propellant were mailed to Lowman in Elmira.
The material was highly flammable - spitting out blue flame and resembling a Fourth of July sparkler when lit.
Lowman and his neighbor, who told me the story, used up the fuel two years ago chasing woodchucks from the burrows the animals dug in the men's yards.
When the woodchucks were spotted going to the hole, the pieces of fuel were lit with a match and quickly tossed in behind them.
I told you that story to tell you this one.