Barry Corbin: "Maurice is only happy on the edge of civilization -happy in the space, happy in the wild. He has a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering. He's the best traveled person in the world because he's been out of this world. He's very literal-minded, but he would love to be instinctive. That's the part that's missing. He's in anguish over the fact that it's missing."
                         

Joshua Brand: "Maurice really embodies the best and the worst qualities of what it means to be an American. And also, he's a bigot, but he's an equal opportunity bigot."

John Falsey: "Maurice, who's the ex-astronaut...he in many ways really sort of epitomizes the marginal life aspect of Alaska itself."

 

One day, Maurice decided to write his memoirs. He started like this:

"I really nailed her this time. Chapter One: Three score and change in God's green acre, I've decided to take time from the rigors of daily living to look back over the years and chart the course of a life whose challenges and achievements may serve as an example and benefit to those who read these pages."

"How does a lad from Tulsa rise to fame as a United States astronaut? How does he parlay that fame into a vast fortune? We'll meet his early influences: his math teacher, his wrestling coach, his mother. It'll be my contribution to space travel literature. I envision "Book of the Month Club," main selection. I see libraries, schools, maybe a film adaptation -tasteful, of course- with George C. Scott in the later years."

"I had to claw myself up, all the way up the ladder. Rung by rung by rung, all the way up to the top. The place where I grew up, Tulsa. It wasn't a bad place. Nothing wrong with it. But I always knew that there was a big world out there, waiting just for me, and I was chomping at the bit to take a hold of it. Let me have it! Let me get mine! I wanted to make something of myself. I wanted to be somebody. No matter what it took."

Maurice talks about his family history:

"May, 1918. Thomas Jefferson Minnifield returns from the fields of France. While recovering from a mustard gas attack, he wins the hand of his nurse, one Nancy Perkins, a former Miss Tulsa. Together, the two of 'em sink the family flag in 400 acres of Oklahoma hardscrabble. You see the window up there? Arthur, my father was born in that bedroom, then 20 years later, young Maurice Minnifield drew his first sweets breaths of life."

"These (kilts) belonged to my Grandfather. We were MacAllisters on the distaff side of the family. He was a royal highlander, 42nd regiment, Black Watch."

"Ahhh...I can still smell his tobacco, cherry blend. After the war, Granddad moved to the United States and bought a farm in northern Oklahoma. I used to spend my summers there. They were the best days of my life. At night, he'd stand on the porch and play these. The sound of the pipes, filling the heavy, still night air."

Maurice's father, Arthur Minnifield:

"He made airplane parts and he made money. The Spirit Of St. Louis had some parts designed by my Dad in it. He used to invite Don Douglas over for dinner on Sunday nights. The only thing we talked about around our house was airplanes and flying."

"My Dad used to say that at the dinner table: "How was school?" He'd talk about his works and then Malcolm and I'd tell him about school. Of course Malcolm did most of the talking."

Maurice's mother, Bertha Minnifield:

"You know, every spring...my mother would clean the house from top to bottom, she'd get the whole family involved. We'd all have to pitch in. We'd take down the curtains and wash 'em. We'd beat the rugs. We'd scrub everything, until it was, absolutely pristinely clean. It was like...she was driven; she was obsessed. She wouldn't give up until everything was so clean it looked brand-new. I never understood that obsession...'til now."

Maurice's brother, Malcolm, passed away about 11 years ago. Like Maurice, he was also an aviator:

"I had a brother. Malcolm P. ...damn Minnifield. The last of the footloose flyboys."

Maurice's younger days:

"Many sought appointments at Annapolis that year. What was it that set me apart from the crowd? Was it the fire in the belly? The grit? The determination?"

"Eagle scout, class Valedictorian, state wrestling champion at 142 pounds. President of the Young Republican Club. None of that could hurt that year."

"I loved Boot Camp USMC, Parris Island. Everybody else bitched and moaned, but I loved it. Do you know why? Because you got to start over. The Corps divested you of your civilian self. It shaved your head, took away your clothes, tore you down, and then built you up again. You walked in one man, and you walked out another. Everybody should do that once in a while. When they get stagnant. Trouble is, I'm too old for Boot Camp."

Maurice the flyboy:

"Yulong Valley dogfight. My first kill."

"I have 15 confirmed kills over Pusan."

Maurice served under Col. Gordon McKern's command. He was one of Maurice's major influences and one of his heroes as well:

"Col. McKern wasn't an astronaut. He wasn't about to be stuffed into a can and shot into space, not Col. McKern. He was an aviator. If he couldn't drive it, he wanted nothing to do with it. He was also my C.O. in Korea."

"There was a GM dealer in Houston, giving cars to all us Mercury boys. I was gonna grab a Vet like everybody else. But Col. McKern said: "Minnifield, at this moment in history you embody the American dream. It's only right and proper that you DRIVE the American dream."

During his military days, Maurice made some mistakes, and one day, a former Russian spy, sold Maurice his dossier, which had something revealing:

"I'm talking about my reputation. Listen to this: "Saturday, November 3, 1959. After sexual intercourse, Minnifield bragged to agent Furtseva that the Atlas Booster, a military rocket modified for a one-man capsule was capable of 360,000 pounds of thrust." This never happened!"

"I had...sex with a woman by the name of Linda who purported to be the desk clerk at The Coconut Palm Inn in Key Biscayne, Florida."

"I'm a military man, born and bred. I know the meaning of classified! I did not spill the beans here!"

"I'M A BONA FIDE AMERICAN HERO! I'm-I'm in books! I'm in museums displays! People look up to me!"

But Maurice knew it was true:

"30 years ago... I... betrayed my country. In a moment of braggadocio I... said some things that I probably shouldn't have. Fortunately, there were no repercussions, and after a time, I put it out of my mind."

Maurice's 30th year:

"That's a very important year in a life. That's the year that separate the men from the boys. That was the year I made full Colonel."

"We were like stallions in the desert. Coop, Shepard, me and Schirra. In my 30th year, leaving the glory of our youth behind us and embracing our middle years."

Maurice went on to became an astronaut:

"I was an astronaut, son."

Asked if he ever went into outer space, Maurice said:

"I took my ride."

However, Maurice thinks that his Dad maybe wasn't too proud of him:

"No, not really. Malcolm and my Dad had the right stuff. As far as they were concerned, I was spam in the can."

Maurice also regrets he wasn't one of the original Mercury Seven:

"You know what I think of when I look at the moon? Al Shepard's feet (chuckles). They were peculiar-looking things; long, and skinny, and pointed like a stiletto."

  "Most people, when they think of Al, they think of the first flyboy that rode a rocket, Freedom 7. Fifteen minutes of shake and bake, then splashdown. Hell, he didn't even get into orbit. But he got his ticket punched for the moon."

"Apollo 14 should have been my ride. I was as fit as he was. I was younger, but they wouldn't let me into the program. I wasn't one of the original Seven, not like Al. February 15th, 1971, Shepard and Mitchell touched down on the Era Maura formation. (Chuckles) I don't know how he even got fitted for moon boots. But his footprints are there now."

"I've always wondered, "Why Al? Why Al?"

But Maurice became famous, and was treated like an American hero:

"I spent some time on the east coast. Mostly around Washington, D.C., Satellite Beach, Florida. I've only been to New York one time, for a parade. Tickertape. We went down 5th Avenue in the back of an open Cady."

Then, with a pioneering vision, Maurice moved to Cicely, Alaska:

"And so began my north country years. One of the pioneers of Cicely was tavern master, Holling Vincouer. When I first met Vincouer I realized I had found a kindred spirit. I walked into his establishment and introduced myself: "Minnifield, United States astronaut," I said. "My friend, together, you and I are going to make this town a crown jewel in the final frontier."

"When I first came here 20 years ago, there was nothing but natural surroundings, unseen by white man since, oh...before time began! The first thing I did, I bought 15,000 acres of land. Second thing I did, I started a radio station and a newspaper. Why? Communications. If a man's got something to sell or something to say, he'd better get it out there. And by Golly, I had it. And I still do!"

Cicely:

"This is it. This is Cicely. She and Roslyn founded the town 97 years ago. Rumor and innuendo notwithstanding, they were just good friends. A hippie passing through painted that picture on the wall. He was so high on the weed that he forgot the apostrophe "s". I had to squeeze that
in myself!"

Maurice has never lost his faith in making of Cicely an important city:

"It's coming, son, it's coming! There'll be Burger Kings, shopping malls, 31 flavors. It's all gonna be here. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but it's coming. I can guarantee you that."

Shelly Tambo:

"Vincouer and I over the years established a very warm bond as men sometimes do. But it was not without its tribulations. The trouble was over a woman, as is often the case."

"I was the one who originally brought Shelly to town. I first met her right after she was crowned "Miss Northwest Passage." I was one of the judges. She was not the best-looking one of the bunch, but she had this look about her. You know what I mean?"

"I guess he (Holling) told you that story about Shelly, too? About how she came into the bar one night and said "I'm yours if you want me." That's bull. He was after her from the beginning. With a vengeance! I never expected to be ambushed like that. Especially by me best bud."

"I couldn't wait to introduce them. I thought we'd make the perfect threesome...But he was just waiting to steal her. We'd done 500 miles on the Alcan and were looking for a quick bite before heading home. Shelly had a headache from the long drive and was having trouble opening a bottle of aspirin. I started to help her, but Holling stepped between us, and took the bottle from her hand. Then the die was cast. Just like with the picture. I was blinded by my own trusting nature."

Ingrid Klochner:

"Sexual promiscuity's De Rigueur for rockstars, but do you have any idea, ANY idea, of the amount of tail that astronauts have to contend with? A lot! Now, yours truly usually refrained from dipping his wick into the oil lamp, but Ingrid was one groupie that I never had the wherewithal to say not to."

"Some women when they see a man brave enough to blast off into the darkness of infinity in a thinsulite suit...A lot of women get excited."

"Sweet? We're talking sex here, pure and simple. Now, it may be a lot of things, but it's not sweet. What Ingrid and I have is comparable to a fully loaded X-15 firing at 57,000 pounds of thrust. You may not understand that now. But when you get to be an old bear like me...you will."

One day Duk Won, along with his mother Yong Ja and his son, traveled all the way from Korea to Cicely, Alaska, only to meet his father, Maurice Minnifield. The problem was, Maurice didn't know he had a son.

"Everything checks out; letters, documents, blood tests. I acknowledge...He's my son."

"I was very young in Korea. I was sixteen. I forged my father's signature so I could get in the Marine Corps. I was a boy in a man's body. I did some foolish things."

"I had a lot of relationships with women in those days. I was young, unattached, in a strange country. There was a place that I used to frequent in Seoul."

Initially, Maurice couldn't deal with the idea of having a son who wasn't white:

"All my life I've dreamed of having a son. A little towheaded tyke I could bounce on my knee, teach to ride, hunt, fish. What do I get? A middle-aged Chinaman."

But later, he realizes that Duk Won is a fine man, and tells Yong Ja, how proud he is of  both:

"I just want to tell you that you did a good job. It couldn't have been easy without a husband, without a father figure. But you should be very proud. Duk Won, he's a fine man. He's smart and strong, very, very
strong."

Barbara Semanski:

"So full of purpose. So dedicated. So thorough. That is a real pro. I'm in love! (chuckles). It's like when I first experienced weightlessness. I didn't know whether I was gonna tumble up or down!"

"The thing about Barbara, is that she is just so much fun to be with. I've always differentiated between men and women. To me, men were comrades, friends, confidants. Women were objects of desire, admiration, nothing more. But recently, with Barbara, it's like we've become...(soul mates)."

Show tunes and gourmet cooking:

"I brought you some things from home. I'm not gonna be needing them anymore. Pasta maker, cuisinart, souffle dish. From now on I'm sticking to barbecue."

"Fondue pot, I've had some good times with this baby. Let me just say this! All the great chefs in the world were notorious womanizers, real skirt chasers. You know what I'm talking about? Well, they were."

"Do you like Judy Garland? How about Gwen Verdon? When I mention show tunes to you, what image does that conjure up in your mind?...There you go! Two deviants, whom I unsuspectingly invited into my home, deduced from my things -things of beauty- things that I used to get innocent pleasure from, that I was in fact, a fellow traveler!"

"Maurice Minnifield has never had an impure thought about another man in his life! Well, there-there was one unsettling dream where I was wrestling with David Niven...but I swear to you: NOTHING HAPPENED! I will not be perceived by anybody as anything other than a died-in-a-wool hetero."

Maurice's fantasies:

"Let me ask you something, hypothetically. Say, you've known a man for many years. He's a leader in his community. Say you find out about this guy, that he has fantasies about...oh, women's undergarments, or nurses' uniforms, or even shoes. Are you telling me you won't feel differently about him?"

The "hidden" Maurice:

What others think and know about Maurice:

Dr. Joel Fleischman: "Maurice, can I be frank? You're no good on the radio, your choice of material is -um- well, it's awful. And your personality is like...lox, or olives, or a strong cup of coffee. It's -um- it's an acquired taste."

Chris Stevens:  "You've got a furtive mind, Maurice. What I mean is: It's like the waters of the big muddy. It's hard to see the bottom of it. It's deep where you think it's gonna be shallow, and it's shallow where it should be deep."

Chris Stevens:  "Maurice J. Minnifield, our generous host, friend and employer. I'm sure I join everyone here in saying thank you for these very fine, fine eats and drinks. You ARE a real American, you're an ex-Marine and astronaut, you ARE America. You're rich, you're rapacious, you're progress without a conscience, paving everything in its path. You're five percent of earth's population, yet consuming 25 percent of the earth's natural resources. You pay a lot of taxes, you do a lot of charity work, most of it's tax deductible, but your heart's in the right place. One thing's for sure, chief: You have an impeccable taste in the booze."

Adam: "Maurice Minnifield: Age 53. Two-inch birthmark in the shape of Madagascar upper right trapezious; enamel replacement, left lateral incisor; average rate of respiration while engaged in sexual intercourse..."

Ron: "One thing you can count on: there's no hidden agenda with this man. Maurice Minnifield is not gonna stab you in the back. No, you're gonna see him plunge that dagger right into your belly, pull it up and twist, and twist, until your guts spill right onto your shoes. Maurice, my dear friend, you're a homophobe and a bigot, but you have a marvelous aesthetic...and a truly superb collection of Gershwin LP's."

Maurice thought he was immune to aging, until he had a coronary episode...

"Event? What the hell does that mean? Are you positive about this? I mean, I've had indigestion that was worse than this."

"I have a check here from the Social Security "Admini-Damn-stration" Did you put in for that? $284? What the hell am I supposed to do with $284? I AM NOT READY TO COLLECT SOCIAL SECURITY! I DON'T NEED IT! HELL, I DON'T EVEN BELIEVE IN IT!

"Golden years" my ass! I don't need your old-age benefits! YOU PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO KILL ME! ALL OF YOU! With your special benefits, and your bonuses, and your--your...YOU'RE STICKING PINS IN MY DOLL!

Maurice's dreams: The truth about Tranquility Base.

"Do you know why I really bought this place? Because I wanted a family compound, kind of like what Jack Kennedy had in Hyannis port. Touch football on the lawn, deal making on the porch. Children underfoot. (Chuckles) Oh, well. A lot of my other dreams came to fruition. "The tumult and the shouting dies. The captains and the kings depart."

But later, Maurice did propose to Barbara and she accepted with the condition there would be no big announcement or splashy wedding. It's been about 6 years since we last saw them...We can imagine that by now they have a little "towheaded tyke," or as Chris said, a "mini-Maurice". We can only imagine too that Maurice keeps trying hard to make of Cicely the crown jewel in the Final Frontier.

 

 

 

 


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Background clip: Barry Corbin as Maurice Minnifield in "Northern Exposure," episode 3.20 "The Final Frontier."

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