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The Kandy Kolored Rickshaw Test (VAROOOOOM!)

In the mid 1950s, William H. Goetzmann and Tom Wolfe were classmates at Yale University working on graduate degrees.

Dr. Goetzmann, who turned his Yale doctoral thesis into a Pulitzer Prize-winning book that revolutionized the way historians viewed American exploration of the Western territories, died of congestive heart failure Sept. 7 at his home in Austin.

The other day, I spoke with Wolfe, a Washington Post alumnus who became a best-selling writer of non-fiction and novels, and asked him about his friend, Dr. Goetzmann, and their time together in New Haven.

Wolfe had the perfect story: The "first annual" gin and jinrikisha race.

Wolfe recalled how he and Dr. Goetzmann decided to spice up the social life for the doctoral students by having them get together, jury-rig their own rickshaws, and have plenty of gin on hand for race day motivation.

Wolfe said that the race was a success among the competitors but that nobody was sober enough to determine whose rickshaw team crossed the finish line first. There never was a second annual race.

By T. Rees Shapiro  |  September 17, 2010; 9:15 AM ET
Categories:  T. Rees Shapiro  | Tags: Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, Tom Wolfe, William Goetzmann  
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