He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother

Pete gives Al a hand up

Painting Completed
November 2008
17  x  24 inches, Textured Acrylic With Moondust On Aircraft Plywood

Falling backwards in the one-sixth gravity of the Moon wasn’t a big deal at all.   In the reduced gravity I fell much more slowly than here on Earth, so there was usually time turn and either run under my center of gravity thus not fall to the at all or just turn and fall forward and catch myself in a simple push-up position.

Now, getting up wasn’t all that hard either. From the push-up position I could bend my arms and give a quick push to standing. I remember the first time I did this. I gave a strong push and I went upright and almost over backwards the other way. I was surprised, but quickly turned and ran under my center of gravity.

Twice when backing up to take a photograph, I tripped over a rock partially hidden in the dust and couldn’t turn fast enough and fell backward. It was not a hard fall but now turning over and pushing up would require some extra effort and Pete and I were always trying to conserve as much energy as we could for later use. Both times Pete was not far away so he moved over to help me up.
The first time, he extended his gloved hand and I grabbed his in mine, and we both pulled.  I came up a lot faster than either of us anticipated and we bumped.  We both had to move fast to keep from falling.  We laughed and got back to work.

The second time Pete just extended his first finger and I interlocked his with mine. This time he pulled a little more gently and this time it was a perfect assist.

Pete and I had been friends since he was my performance instructor at the Naval Test Pilot School, but we were never closer than the 31 hours we spent on the Ocean of Storms in November of 1969. I think about him and miss him every day.

I especially like it that, while Pete and I were on the Moon and he was helping me up, back on Earth the hit song, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” was playing on radios all around the world.  The Hollies, a popular British band, made it a hit. It was especially appropo for the crew of Apollo 12. The 3 of us were long time friends from the Navy and we were more like brothers than friends or crew members. Indeed, there was nothing ‘too heavy’ to help each other.  That never changed.