Is a tale dedicated to the formation and exploits of Volunteer Pilots of the United States of America who flew for allied air forces from the onset of war.
This was during the period that presidential dictat demanded neutrality from its citizens.
The second-half of the tale foci on Robert; Williams brother.
William was driving home.
Huge plumes of dust spewed out from behind his pick-up truck as he drove at full speed along the dirt highway.
The horizon was flat in all directions and the field’s of corn along either side of the highway were swaying gently in the warm summer wind.
Just at that moment William almost ran himself off the road as the roar of an aero engine startled him.
Directly over his truck and barely feet above him, a crop duster biplane flew over travelling in the same direction he was driving.
Before the plane was out of sight ahead of him, William raised his fist in the air and shook his arm.
He recognised the plane as that of his brother, but he would have to wait until he got home to give him the piece of his mind he deserved.
William pulled his truck into the yard, and parked near the porch.
As he killed the engine, his Father came out of the house and called over to him
“Yes Father” William called back and climbed out of the truck.
William Hudson was the youngest son of a farming family in Wisconsin, they grew corn.
William walked over to his Father and his Father said “William, when Robert’s back can you too get some wood chopped? The pile is getting really low and we have the Brooklyns coming over at the weekend so we’ll be needing the stove”
“Sure father” William said, and walked past him into the house.
He went on up to his room, threw his jacket onto the bed, sat down at his desk near the window and turned the radio on.
After some hisses and crackles he managed to get it tuned to his favourite station, CBS.
When William was not at College, he would be either helping around the farm, crop dusting like his brother, or listening to the radio.
His girlfriend Elizabeth lived some miles away so he didn’t get to see her too often.
It was 1938, and the world was a rapidly changing place.
He was intently listening to the broadcast when the door burst open and his Brother said “Hey!”
Without looking up or around William mumbled something unintelligible.
If he had’ve turned round, he might have been able to avoid the wooden door stop that hit him squarely on the back of the head, and dropped to the floor with a thud.
He looked slowly around and over at his Brother standing in the door way.
Robert said “Pa wants us to go and chop some wood, are you ready?”
“Yeah, give me a minute, I’ll get my jacket on” Robert turned and headed off down the corridor “A-hole” William said after him.
They were out in the yard chopping wood for the burner, both of them working up a considerable sweat in the dying rays of the summer evening “Hey!”
Robert had stopped chopping and leant on his axe, William stopped chopping, did the same and looked over at his Brother.
“Is Elizabeth coming over when the Brooklyns come visit this weekend?” Robert asked.
“Yes she is, I’m gonna go pick her up about five Saturday”
William and Elizabeth had been ‘going steady’ for nearly a year now.
While he had graduated High School the same year as Elizabeth to go to College, Elizabeth had graduated and decided to get a job as a waitress in a coffee shop in nearby Brentwood, a modest sized town for Wisconsin.
Robert liked to tease William about his relationship with Elizabeth.
Somehow Robert had got it into his head that being with a girl, just wasn’t ‘manly’.
For Robert the only path was work, and hard work at that.
They both just stood there for a while, enjoying the sun and the chance to take a breather.
“She staying over?” Robert eventually asked.
“Guess so…” came the lazy drawled answer.
William and Elizabeth had so far managed to keep the fact that they were sleeping together from their parents.
Robert played a crucial role in the romantic subterfuge.
There had been a number of occasions that, were it not for Robert; warning them, covering for their absence, or just plain lying for them, they would have been found out long ago.
William, Elizabeth and all of their respective families and friends were devout church-going Christians.
Robert went back to chopping wood.
When they had finished, William went back to his room to listen to the radio.
He knew it would not be long before he was called down to Supper.
He was listening intently to an interview programme, when his Mother called up the stairs that Supper was ready.
He made the stairs two at time, he was hungry and looking forward to eat.
William walked into the Dining Room and took his seat opposite his Brother at the table.
He bowed his head while his Father said grace.
When he had finished, they all began to pass around the bowls of food their Mother had prepared, until they each had sufficient on their plates.
“William could you pass the salt please?” William’s Mother stretched out her hand.
It had become a habit in William’s family to use meal times as a chance for Robert and William’s Father and Mother to bone up on the current gen of the world outside of their farm lands.
While his Mother and Father could be found in the living room some evenings, listening to music on the radio, it was only William who listened in to the world news programmes.
“Czechoslovakia is being lost” he said, and handed over the small glass salt pot.
Meanwhile, some miles away in Brentwood, Elizabeth was finishing her shift at the Coffee shop, and was putting on her coat to go home.
Her work colleague and friend Mary, was adjusting her hair next to her in the staff cloakroom.
“How is he doing at college?” Mary asked.
The two friends had been discussing their respective boyfriends.
“Oh, he gets good grades…” Elizabeth tailed off, as a thought had obviously just struck her.
She snapped her head around to face Mary “I just remembered” she said.
“William starts his final year, next year” she was obviously really pleased with the realisation.
Mary and Elizabeth had been friends since High School.
They’d been in the same year, and had Graduated in the same class.
Mary had not done quite so well as Elizabeth, Elizabeth had got top grades and her tutors had expected her to continue on into College.
It was Mary who had helped Elizabeth get the job they shared at the Cafeteria “What is he going to do after he gets his qualification?” Mary asked.
Elizabeth scowled at her, but didn’t reply.
Elizabeth could be a very direct and outspoken girl if she wanted to be, and Mary certainly didn’t want this side of her character to spoil their evening out after work, so promptly guided the conversation along a different avenue.
“I forget!” she said light-heartedly “What is it William is studying again?”
“New Media Studies” Elizabeth is preening “It will qualify him to be at the Radio Station” she smiled at Mary hoping for some reflection of what such a grandiose position in society that could mean for the both of them.
Mary didn’t look impressed.
“You actually believe that William’s Father is going to allow him to get a job in a Radio Station?”
Mary had a good point, Elizabeth thought.
The corn farm had always been the Hudson family concern, and letting one of the sons of the family move away from the work that needed to be done there, might be a problem.
“We’ll work something out” Elizabeth said “Are you coming?”
They left the coffee shop and set off down the road.
Suddenly Elizabeth stopped, and turned to Mary.
“Are you busy this weekend?” she asked.
“Not sure…” Mary said “Why?”
Elizabeth began to study Mary’s face as though she were looking for an insect she had seen crawling over it a moment before.
She kept this up until Mary took her friend up on why, she was behaving so strangely.
“Elizabeth what is it?” she asked, becoming concerned.
Elizabeth broke the spell “You like Robert don’t you…”
It was a slight question, but mostly accusation.
Mary exploded in a whirl of indignant denial.
“How could you say that?!” she spluttered.
But it was too late, Elizabeth had burst out laughing.
“It is just not true” Mary insisted adamantly, and stamped her foot to emphasise the point.
Elizabeth began to walk away.
“Elizabeth, how could you say that” Mary was catching up behind her fast.
Elizabeth stopped, and turned to face her friend.
“Mary” she began patiently.
“I was at High School with you. I saw how you used to look at Robert, if he’d have spoken to you, you would have died…”
Elizabeth had put Mary off her stroke.
She shuffled her feet uncomfortably.
If there had’ve been a stone to kick away, she would have kicked it.
“Well he was sweet” she said “In a dumb kind of way” she grinned at her friend.
Now that Mary had calmed down a little, Elizabeth levelled with her friend.
“There will be a lot of people at the Hudson’s over the weekend, I could invite you if you’d like?”
Mary looked at the expression on Elizabeth’s face.
Thankfully she trusted her.
If it had been anybody else, Mary would not have taken it too well.
Elizabeth; although a few months younger than Mary, tended to become that elder sister that Mary had never had.
“Not everybody has that fall of luck you’ve had with William, Elizabeth. It isn’t fair to tease me like this”
Mary was obviously a little crestfallen.
“I’m NOT teasing you Mary, it will be a huge party and among the crowd I thought you might enjoy being around Robert again”
“Why are the Hudson’s having this party anyway?” Mary pouted.
“Some friends of William’s father are coming over from Europe” Elizabeth looked a little puzzled herself.
“As far as I can understand…” she went on “..these friends need to know which of the farmsteads, around and about, would be willing to offer their home’s to families and children…from Europe..”
Elizabeth fixed Mary’s eye with a determined and serious look and explained.
“..they’re in danger where they are, because they have Jewish families…”
The gravity was not lost on Mary.
She looked away, and her gaze lowered in thought.
Eventually Elizabeth looked up and over at Mary to see she had also just raised her eyes and was looking straight back at her.
They both smiled and another brick in the wall the two girls had lovingly created around them had been realised and was in place.
They were inseparable friends, and they both knew implicitly that the love they held for each other was no place for anybody else, but themselves.
They had both known instantly that they had no desire to dwell on the subject, and it was time to change it and move on.
“I need to get back in time for dinner” Mary said.
“Let’s go” Elizabeth shook her head as if to clear away the memory of a bad nightmare, and her long hair, freed from the collar of her coat got caught in the gentle breeze as they continued walking.
William began to tune through the stations on the radio.
After listening to the world news, William enjoyed finding a station that played the contemporary Big Band or Jazz sounds of the period and settle down and study and read.
This particular evening there were no pressing studies that required his attention, so once he had found a station that was playing a particularly good Artie Shaw tune, he picked up his favourite periodical and folded his legs across his bed and settled down to read.
Having been brought up on the sweetcorn farm, many of his formative years had been influenced by flight. It wasn’t just that a crop-spraying plane was an essential piece of machinery for the work that needed doing on the farm, William had learned to fly at a very early age, to prepare him for the furrow of life carved for him by destiny.
This was a golden age in the development of heavier-than-air aircraft and little fascinated William more than reading about emergent designs, the latest breaks in the world air speed records and all of the incumbent technological inventions that were being developed in parallel with the more steamlined and more capable flying machines.
He was reading about the post-flight assessments and crew recommendations that arose, following a test flight of the latest Boeing four-engined monoplane currently being developed in Virginia, when the door swung open and Robert strode into the room.
to be continued