Okay, okay, okay ... so maybe it was more accidental than an accident.
A little introduction and some background: My name is David, I’m fifteen and the county/district springboard and platform diving reigning champion. I’m the second of four children; two boys, two girls. Pops is the District Attorney. It’s a small county and not all that busy so he has a general practice on the side. Mom is/was an elementary teacher. Daddy is an only child and mom is the oldest of nine siblings; seven sisters and Harry.
Daddy is insanely handsome; square jawed with a chin dimple, perfect teeth, hair so black it’s purple and blue eyes. Daddy works out ... they didn’t call it that in my hometown ... they called it lifting rocks so one could mow the yard.
The rocks come sprouting up all mowing-season long ... my town is built on glacial till left over from the last Ice Age. The rocks dropped by the melting and receding Ice Cap begin their upward migration through the dirt every thaw and don’t stop popping up until winter. We have a hell of a rock pile between the sauna and the observatory.
Mother is one hundred percent Finn ... if nothing else explains the sauna in the backyard ... a Finnish mother should. Mom is a tall, chestnut haired, green-eyed slightly overweight beauty; plush is the term. Daddy was engaged to someone else when he met mom ... six weeks later they were married. Mom wasn’t overweight then.
Mom was slightly spectacular. Mom was Nose Art.
That needs explaining.
Mom’s brother Harry learned to fly in high school at a little grass field outside Hibbing, Minnesota. The airfield was outside Hibbing; where the taconite mine was The airfield was there first; the taconite mine was a war expedient. The high school was IN Hibbing. He received his private pilots license immediately after high school graduation. Since he was a smart athlete, college life began in the fall. Admitted to Hibbing State Junior College, Uncle Harry, the only male of nine siblings, was inducted to the military right after Pearl Harbor.
In college since the fall of 1939 Harry had his private pilot license and managed to pass the tests for Army pilot training; not every pilot passed the military tests. They were hard ... and slightly stupid. After the war effort got wound up, getting to pilot training was a lot easier.
Two years of college and math credits qualified Harry for OCS in the United States Army Air Corps. As is typical of military service, the young Harry Bleeker, so acclimated to the cold blue skies and heavy snows of northeast Minnesota, was posted to California.
Shuffled between bases and stations while the Army and Navy squabbled over possession of said bases, Harry eventually found himself stationed at an airbase with no runways or airplanes; Sunnyvale California. There, he learned the ins and outs of Officering but none of the ways of military flying. Anything he learned about military flight he learned from books.
No matter ... he knew how to fly ... quite well. Possessing logbooks accounting for nearly five hundred hours of single engine solo time, he was SURE he would be assigned to fighters ... if he ever found an Army airplane.
While he was paying for private aircraft rental ... to keep his hand in ... the Army changed. Harry had started as Signal Corps ... then Air Corps ... and now he was in the Army Air Force.
One thing about it ... Stanford was just up the way and Berkeley was across the bay ... and that meant girls. In 1942, college women were willing to sacrifice their ALL for the nations military ... especially officers. Pilot officers were the cream of the crop. Harry had a lot of cream and shared it.
In late 1942, just before he did something stupid, the Army came through. Two weeks before he was scheduled to say “I do,” he was posted to Texas ... Randolph Field, for “flight training.”
His instructors were disconcerted to find he could fly better than most of them ... and he was extremely good looking. The better pilot they could handle. It was his movie-star appearance that got him shuffled off to England as fast as possible, Cutting a wide swath in narrow female slits, it was only a matter of time before colonels and generals were discovering their daughters were in interesting conditions.
England ... watch out.
Revenge came when Harry was assigned to B-17’s ... not P-47’s like he’d planned. To make matters even worse ... he was a replacement. The bomber crews trained together in the states ... everyone knew everyone on the crew ... but not Harry. Harry was the unknown interloper ... untested and untried. It took some time before Harry found acceptance. When he finally did, he was settling in when his experience found him in the left seat of a brand new Flying Fortress with a completely rookie crew.
One thing that Harry did helped ... at his request ... seven sisters posed for a local photographer ... in the swimsuits of the age. Not only in suits ... but looking back over the shoulder as the top was slowly fitted ... sister lending sister a helping hand inside a kerchief top arranging breast flesh. Slipping on stockings while seated ... very enticing ... and a reminder of just what the men were fighting for. The photos ... in living color ... were posted on Lieutenant Bleeker’s wall ... and very much admired ... so ... when Harry got his new aircraft, the company sergeant artist painted Vera on the nose.
Eventually, all eight sisters graced the noses of eight B-17G’s. This is all in the past ... even before I was a gleam in daddy’s eye. I was born on May 8th 1942. As an aside ... the US fleet carrier Lexington was sunk during the Battle of the Coral Sea on the eighth of May, 1942. But, then again, the war in Europe ended on May 8th, 1945. Ah well, win some, lose some.
In 1957, just north of Bass Lake ... which is north of Pentwater...
Oh wait ... Pentwater, can’t be leaving out Pentwater. West coast Michigan, south of Ludington. A town ... village really, of 1200 locals year round and 5000 tourists during the summer weekends. We have relatives there. With eight siblings, mom has relatives all over the place ... but generally located in the Mid-west ... mostly. On Daddy’s side all we have is his mom’s sisters ... Grand Aunts ... no males. Just gorgeous old ladies ... short, busty and vocal. Pentwater is where we summered ... along with wealthy Chicagoans.
Summerfolk (one word spoken very fast so it comes out sumerfuck) is only polite in the summer; the rest of the year it is pejorative expressing contempt or disapproval. Our acceptance was because we were relatives of locals. We were Those Austin’s, you know ... Jean and Al’s. Which brought immediate nods.
So ... now you know about Pentwater ... not much of a place.
North of Pentwater, in 1957, there’s a geologic. Between 17000 BCE and 1900 AD, the water used to be as much as 100 feet deeper than today. Visit the area northeast of Traverse City on Google Maps and you can see a myriad of former shorelines. They really show up from outer space. The deeper waters undercut many high bluffs and sometimes the undercuts collapsed.
King’s Canyon is just such a collapse. The collapse and erosion washed out a lot of the stone and deposited them just offshore; from the high bluff south of the canyon those deposited stone formations look like children’s blocks ... from the height, they do. From the beach at the foot of the bluff they look like factories. The height of the bluff is a favorite gathering spot for drinking parties. Every year or so, some drunk damn fool teenager takes a wrong step and rolls down the face of the bluff. Sometimes it’s fatal ... the fall is always detrimental to the faller. Not all the fallen are found. The water gets deep fast, the undertow and rip current around the huge blocks carry objects out to the deep cold waters and the cold prevents the formation of rotting gasses ... the body stays submerged. Another missing teen.
So ... when I stepped off the edge, I sobered up pretty damn quick. The first strike is about 20 feet below the edge; the first bounce set me to spinning the next few feet and I was spinning but facing the sand and rock face when I reached out and grabbed a good sized rock. My momentum was such that I was still falling holding onto this pretty big boulder but the stone stopped my spin. Another bounce and the boulder split in two. Inside the half I was still riding... “Ooo, dats purdy...” Hey! I was drunk ... drunken ... and I knew that my mother was right.
“David! You will come to a bad end,” she said.
Well ... it was looking like she was right.