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Jan. 4, 1943

Dear Folks,

It seems that whenever I move from one location to another that things get too complicated for me to write letters for at least two weeks, but by now you should be used to that, There has been the usual red tape of departing (“checking out”) and arriving (“checking in”), first at the main station and then at Lee Field. Then it turned out that all my writing paper was in my big box (still to arive), that no one had any to “lend” and that ship service was closed and even when opened was all out.

Well, here’s what’s happened. We “checked out” of our squadron Christmas morning, and so didn’t have to fly that day, which meant I could have Christmas dinner with the Bud Ritchies. That was very pleasant, and Gracie’s goose was delicious. She is an old friend, whom I once took bowling. Three Brazilian lieutenants from the sub chaser school were the other guests and pleasant. After helping with the dishes I borrowed Bud’s bike and went for a good ride up the beach finally getting away from the suburbanism.

It took all of Saturday to check out of the station, and we were allowed two days to get to Jax. Arranging to drive up with a feller on Monday, a week ago, I hired a car on Sunday and drove through a good deal of the country south of Miami. At Royal Palm State Park, an isolated hammock of pretty much tropical trees and some of the very few natural royal palms, magnificent trees with cement-like boles, I met, by pure coincidence, Frank M. Chapman, the famous ornithologist. He saw in the log book of the “lodge,” where he was staying (in lieu of his place on Barro Colorado Id. , in the Canal Zone), where I came from, and introduced himself saying he had once given some lectures, arranged for by Tooney, at G.S. He’s quite old and obviously not well enough to be very active any more, but he was talkative and friendly and showed me around. It was quite a thrill to meet a man one had always wanted to meet despite his almost meek manner, which, together with his remarks about old times, etc., made him seem a little pathetic, though I don’t believe he’s unhappy. He’s to meet Dr. Barbour shortly, if he hasn’t already. It was quite an anti-climax to drive out to the nearest and largest of the keys, not a particularly attractive island—no beaches, no palms, plenty of mangrove swamps, mostly poor growth of tropical hardwood.

The drive up on Monday was uneventful—straight up the coast, though mostly a few miles away from the shore. We passed many orange and grapefruit groves with the fruit ready to be picked, as well as endless and pretty much badly burned pine forests. One fire was burning fiercely after dark—too bad and yet undoubtedly incendiary. Fire is the worst forestry problem of the whole South, fires being set for every imaginable reason, especially to improve woods pasturage, which it may do, but often injures or kills the trees and in the long run impoverishes the soil. Once a fire starts, it’s hard to stop because of the continuous forest, but fortunately most fires are the less harmful ground type because of the wide spacing of the trees and the absence of many low limbs.

We came out here to report Tuesday morning, but the afternoon of the next day I was ushering, as the head usher, at a wedding—that of one of the nicest of the original Squantum crowd, Roy Merchant, who came over from Pensacola, but could summon only one friend, me. The Motts, the Bakers and several other friends were there, but because of the recent death of the bride’s father, there were no bridesmaids, and no real reception (just a small, mostly family one with brides maids who were to be. It was all very nice, though there was a confusing number of the bride’s relations. The bridal couple was, incidentally, very handsome, though the matron of honor nearly stole the show.

We have been quickly broken in down here, where we used to fly yellow perils, but which is now the equivalent of Miami—more or less. There are both cadets and new ensigns training here, though the planes are not quite the same. SBC–4s are similar to the SBC–3 at Miami, but more powerful and with hydraulic wheels and flaps instead of mechanical (a vast improvement), and they are used for dive bombing instead of scouting because there are no BTs, Land OS2Us, and SNJs are used for scouting, and the latter are used for other things too.

The B.O.Q out here is in an attractive spot by the river shaded by nice hardwoods and is very comfortable. Actually it is just off the base. We are nearly or quite 20 miles south from N.A.S Jax and so around 30 from town. Nice New Year’s Dance even with no “date.” Love to all T.R.

P.S. This duty will again be only temporary—perhaps into March.

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