Oct. 13, 1943
They assigned me to a new outfit under another full instructor (at a guess several years my junior, but with the Navy Cross to his credit) before we had finished up the last outfit. Apropos of this job of mine and the closing remarks in your last letter, Ma, there is considerable comfort in the thought that if it turned out that I got only one good chance to dive-bomb an enemy ship or something and made a great big miss, my training would still not have been entirely in vain.
Well, despite the new outfit they let me escape for a day and a half before going to work again, and I picked out a spot on the Gulf Coast for a real change of air—Clearwater, which is just northwest of Tampa. Though almost the most reasonable nice spot, it involved a night each way in the train as well as changes at Jacksonville, there being no east-west trains to speak of in the peninsula, and like a fool I went by coach, the coaches turning out to be the uncomfortable, old-fashioned kind. Still I had a good day’s outing around the offshore islands, several miles each on 1: bicycle (hired), 2: foot (bare, on beach), and 3: rowboat (almost got stuck when the tide went way out while I was enjoying “2.”). I saw two new birds more or less as expected, Cabot’s Tern and Cuban Snowy Plover, both common summer residents on the Gulf, but absent from the east coast, as well as six marbled godwits, which are rare shore birds breeding in the very middle of the continent. They are huge for shore birds (almost crow size), cinnamon in color and have long legs and long, slightly upturned bills. I also collected all the shells I could conveniently carry and brought my collection up to more than fifty identified species. Where I got most of them and saw the godwits (I forgot to mention at very close range) was on an island several miles long that is supposed to have one family living on it, but not a soul was seen except a man fishing for crabs who helped me get my boat from the mud to the water.
Already, by pure coincidence, along comes another day off, but I think I’ll take it easy and perhaps look for more shore birds and shells on the New Smyrna side of the inlet south of here, which will involve a short train ride and only a few miles by bike. More about this later.
Love to all
P.S. I almost forgot to thank you, Ma, for Dr. Barbour’s book, which arrived yesterday. I expect to be through it in no time.