April 1–2, 1945
Happy Easter! So April is upon us! Well, that’s all right with me. Actually with us hours may sometimes drag, but as a whole time seems to move pretty swiftly along. This time of year reminds me of walks along the railroad tracks beyond old Primus station and especially the one that first made the “Moat” country one of my favorite haunts, an occasion that also brought a certain beautiful picture “to life.” This picture is now, I think, my favorite of all Fuertes plates and has been since then. The background of dead trees, obviously killed by flood, I’d noticed as very similar to the “Moat” country in general and had in fact made me wonder if the foreground could ever be duplicated there, until on a certain April 2 (1933, I believe) it was, a pair of hooded mergansers being glimpsed just before they disappeared behind a point of land, which, however, soon provided a perfect approach and vantage point for seeing them in all their beauty at close range. The male, as handsome a duck as they come, was courting the dusky little female by raising and lowering his hood or crest, a pretty sight indeed. This was the closest I ever got to hooded mergansers (not counting the families seen several years later) except for one time in 1940. I was walking by full moonlight beside a small pond near Ann Arbor when a flash of white some distance from shore caught my eye and hastened me to push out, paddling with my hands, in a conveniently located rowboat towards what materialized, at a range of only a few yards, into a similar courtship display! The flash effect then was the opening and closing of the “hood,” which, when contracted, shows very little white indeed. Since the male’s only other whiteish areas, along the flanks, were the only other parts of either him or his mate that were not more than shadows, the total effect was almost eerie!
Yes, those were happy days! I remember on another April 2 (possibly April 3) meeting two male pine warblers a short distance from Primus station itself, this being by far the earliest warbler date for “Groton” I ever recorded. There were one or two years when I saw tree swallows even before the end of March, and again these were seen from the railroad tracks, that stretch indeed being excellent for observing land birds as well as water birds. I should compile all my notes for that area some day and perhaps, even if only for fun, write up the more interesting incidents.
Those terns and the flying fox were not just red herrings, at least not to the extent of not being real. Tropic birds, which I’ve seen now and then, to best advantage flying around inside dead volcano craters on Hawaii, are not terns, by the way, but in a family by themselves. Its three species, one of which does occur in Bermuda, make it one of the very smallest of all bird families, though there are some with only one!
I was going to make some personal observations of life aboard a carrier this time and so shall now do so. I’ll discuss the flying angle by just saying that take-offs and landings are just routine by now, if still more in the way of events and more fun than the same from a field. The efficiency of even normal operations is amazing, though great efficiency is essential when you consider that for every take-off and every landing the ship has to turn and steam directly into the wind if not already headed that way, which of course is seldom the direction of the task force’s destination. The experience then is something I as a pilot am glad not to have missed, and the duty is perhaps as interesting and exciting as there is in flying.
My room-mates are Lt. Bob Bollinger of Lewiston, Idaho, and Lt. (j.g.) Ward Matthews of Bryan, Texas, both very pleasant and especially congenial fellows, that I’ve mentioned before. They’re both just an inch shorter than I am, the former weighing over 190, the latter around 130! Our room is very cosy and comfortable, though it gets hot in the lower latitudes. It’s really a two man room with only two bunks, so Ward has to sleep on a cot. There also are only two desks, but there’s plenty of drawer space for all. Needless to say my books now overflow the shelves. The ward room is very convenient, and while on that subject I’ll add that the meals are reasonably good—far better than at any shore station anywhere near this far from the states.
Since we don’t have very much to do besides flying, we get plenty of time to rest up between flights. I do far more reading than anything else, not counting sleeping, and I guess letter writing comes in a very poor second. Lately I’ve really dipped into the past and read for the first time, at least in their original forms, “The Tempest,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Romeo and Juliet” and something more voluminous, “Tom Jones,” all of which I enjoyed very much.
Unless there isn’t very much going on or we’re starting or ending a flight we aren’t encouraged to spend much time on deck, where it’s pretty windy anyway most of the time, so on a day off we may not even see the sky. The ship is very comfortable up to pretty rough weather, though we’ve met nothing terrific yet. The news from Europe is almost too good to seem true, isn’t it? This front is no slouch either, though who at home ever heard of Okinawa? In good health and spirits I now say good night.