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“Hal McClintock- American Mountain Man.” The painting is the work of Jean (Crockett) Savage, a member of the Burroughs Class of 1964. The painting is on display at the Reagan Library.

China Lake painting on display at Ronald Reagan Library

By Bruce Auld News Review Correspondent  –

On August 19, 1981, over the Gulf of Sidra, two Libyan Su-22 fighter aircraft were brought down by Air Intercept Missile (AIM) 9L Sidewinders, fired by two US Navy F-14 Tomcats.

The first kill is credited to Fast Eagle 102. Commander Henry “Hank” Kleeman was at the controls, and Lieutenant David “DJ” Venlet rode the back seat.

  In 2003, Rear Admiral David “DJ” Venlet would become the Commanding Officer of the Naval Air Warfare Center, Weapons Division, with his flag residing at China Lake, the birthplace of the Sidewinder Missile. A US Navy  F-14 Tomcat with Lt. David “DJ” Venlet’s name inscribed on the rear seat is displayed on the Reagan Library grounds. (Wikipedia)

Also archived and on rotational display at the Reagan Library is a painting entitled “Hal McClintock- American Mountain Man.” The painting is the work of Jean (Crockett) Savage, a member of the Burroughs Class of 1964. Jean’s oil on canvas painting is currently in climate-controlled storage at the Reagan Library under the auspices and authority of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

It has been displayed at the Reagan Library and on loan to the Young Americans Foundation and California Lutheran University. The painting has its own NARA identification number and file, beginning with “1983,” the year of its gift to President Reagan. The archive technician advised me that a copy of this article would be incorporated into the painting’s NARA file.

There was a direct connection between the early China Lake Crockett family and Lt. “DJ” Venlet on August 19, 1981, when Fast Eagle 102 downed one of two Libyan Su-22 fighters. Jean’s father, Sid, holds the patent for the device that stabilizes the Sidewinder in supersonic flight, the rolleron. “As a young girl, my father told me of the epiphany he had that resulted in the rolleron concept. The Sidewinder team searched for ideas to keep the missile design simple, reliable, and inexpensive. Dad was sketching and thinking and happened upon the idea. Michelson Laboratory at China Lake had a picture of my father standing next to an early Sidewinder vehicle used to test the rolleron design. I am very proud of my father and his role in developing the Sidewinder missile….” (Jean Crockett Savage)

“The rolleron is a classic example of a simple, elegant solution to a technical problem-how to reduce the rate at which the Sidewinder rolled around its longitudinal axis, an undesired behavior that occurred at high altitudes and that increased demands on the GCU (Guidance Control Unit). With the rolleron, the airstream causes a small-notched wheel set into a hinged tab (one on each of the four tail fins) to spin at high speed, establishing gyroscopic torque (resistance to moving outside the plane of rotation). When the missile begins to roll, the torque is transferred to the hinged tab, which deflects into the airstream. That deflection exerts a force counter to the direction of the roll. The idea was devised by Sydney R. “Sid” Crockett, a high-school-educated shop foreman on the original Sidewinder team.” (The Station Comes of Age, by Cliff Lawson)

I was curious about the subject of Jean’s painting gifted to President Reagan, a Western art fan, and Hal McClintock. A Google search revealed Harry McClintock, who wrote and recorded “Big Rock Candy Mountains” in 1928. He looked nothing like the subject of Jean’s painting. I texted Jean, and Jean immediately responded to my text with, “He is a member of the American Mountain Man Association, and I ran into him at a traditional Western enactment and art show in Wyoming. I asked him to model the painting.

At Burroughs, Jean was active in student council, the Girls Athletic Association, Pep Club, head song leader, and a member of the California Scholastic Association. Jean was voted Homecoming Princess and “Best All Around” by the Class of 1964, along with Linc Lippincott.

The Crockett family, which included her parents, aunts and uncles, and her grandmother, journeyed to China Lake in 1948 from New York when Jean was just two. Jean has long retired from professional painting.

This article was suggested by classmate Chris (Auld) Meyers (BHS 1964) and a longtime Burroughs art teacher.