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A young headstrong, carousing student from a college which had been frequented by his forebears is pulled up short by the dean and sent to the purgatory of the military recruitment office. Through a series of lucky breaks he heads off to Pensacola, the “Cradle of Naval Aviation.” He finds himself at the controls of a variety of Navy aircraft, pulling off one aeronautical stunt after another. And there’s an intimate look at a love affair at home, back in Massachusetts, where a seemingly innocent romance becomes a father’s vendetta. Lives and fortunes are at stake unless the ties that bind are unbound. There’s a bailout from a burning seaplane that is high excitement. It happens on a training flight that is the final one before the wings are to be awarded. It’s right over the Great Dismal Swamp and Cadet Foster finds out later that it’s all a mistake! Just after earning his wings, Ensign Foster checks into his new squadron at NAS Patuxent River. Because he was in need of a check flight in the squadron’s SNB Beechcraft, he was assigned a hop that first day. Either he or his instructor pushed the wrong feather button during the flight (and after fifty years I can tell you it wasn’t Foster) and they ended up crashed in a corn field. Flying became more frightening as his time in the squadron drifted by. Their aircraft had very touchy engines which balked if you looked at them sideways. Whether it was a faulty supercharger, oil cooler or part of the hydraulic system which caught on fire randomly, these were all things which made this ensign less happy in the cockpit. Almost exactly one year later he was being carried by stretcher out of a major crash of a DC-3 in Naples, Italy. He had been a passenger on a flight from Malta to Naples on a Sunday afternoon to do some shopping. On the return trip the severely overloaded aircraft lost an engine during takeoff and all hell broke loose. Ensign Foster’s life after that is less about airplanes but still about high adventure. Taking to the high seas with his new bride in their rebuilt wooden schooner and living for eight years in the Caribbean. One of the most satisfying days of this trip was in the beginning when they sailed down the East River in Manhattan where a Foster had spent twenty years in the advertising business. And so they lived on this wonderful schooner in the Caribbean for eight years with a year off to study in Rome so that Bob could finally earn enough credits to graduate from Bowdoin. At sixty four he marched up the same steps as his forebears to accept his degree. Before his eightieth birthday he vowed that he would solve one last mystery. There had been this girl and they were very happy at eighteen. After sixty-two years she was found. She had become a woman of means who owned homes in all of the famous watering holes but had been through two divorces and the loss of a young child. She’d climbed major mountains around the world, learned the basics of bull fighting in Spain and water color painting from young Wyeth in Maine. She and her brother sat on the board of a billion dollar corporation. But she was having such trouble forming her words during the first few sentences of that first conversation. “I have Parkinson’s and I really have trouble talking. There are nurses to take care of me, but I can’t walk on my own anymore.” Bob and she still talk on occasion but it is such a struggle for her and painful for him that the calls are fewer now. And so she’s dying, but aren’t they all? It’s really just a matter of how and when. But why did this awful cup get passed to her? Maybe when this exercise they call life has wound down and everybody is standing in line to get their ticket punched, they may realize that they too are about to embark on the greatest adventure of all. Maybe after a while someone will get back to the uninitiated and let them know if it’s the Great Oz or the land of milk and honey.