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Authors: John Farris

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All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By

BOOK: All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By
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John Farris



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John Farris


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he quotation on page 93 is from
Fabulous Beasts and Demons
, by Heinz Mode, originally published in 1973 as
Fabeltiere und Damonen
, translated from the German by Edition Leipzig. English edition published by Phaidon Press Ltd., London.


The italicized quote on page 115 is the last line from
Peter and Wendy
, by Sir James M. Barrie.


prodigious amount of research preceded the writing of
All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By
, and I'd like to thank my sister, Su Mead, of Memphis, Tennessee, for making necessary contacts, arranging interviews, providing arcane source material, and lending invaluable support and encouragement during the months the novel was in progress.



In your eye

was the sea,

in the sea

a fish,

in the fish

a dream,

in the dream

a stone,

in the stone

the seed

of the flower

that breaks

the stone.


January 4, 1978

"Take what you want,"

God said. "And pay for it."







Gaston, Virginia

May 23-25, 1942

The honor of your presence is requested

at the marriage of




Saturday, the twenty-third of May,

at two o'clock in the afternoon

Cadet Chapel

Blue Ridge Military institute

Gaston, Virginia

From the Journal of Captain C. R. Bradwin,

Fifth Regiment, First Cavalry Division,

U.S. Army


Saturday night, May 23


he horrors have ended; or at least I have them at a distance. For now.

I've always wondered about my ultimate capacity for good sour mash sipping whiskey, and now I see that I've nearly finished the bottle which the indispensable Hackaliah brought to my room about eight this evening. It is now shortly before midnight. And I am cold staring sober. True, there is numbness along one edge of my tongue that might be attributable to drinking. But my hand is steady, and I easily read that which I have been setting down in these pages; read without the faintest blur, or those appalling moments of frozen blankness that troubled me earlier. (Curious that I can write at all. Another discipline well learned, what Boss calls the "taxing art of self-revelation.") I suppose, rather than drinking myself into a stupor, I've achieved a state of dreamlike consciousness in which I can function creditably, as a professional soldier should, touched but not paralyzed by the tragic circumstances that by the dreadful tragedy we have almost lost control. I am not as remote as I thought. I felt drastically unbalanced on a narrow ledge of the mind, about to go crashing—not into the aisle below, that aisle already packed with hysterically shoving men and women., but into a dirty dark drowning oblivion . . . another drink wouldn't hurt. And the pain in my ankle has reasserted itself. Fortunately it isn't broken. Soaking has already reduced the swelling by half.

Is there a taint of smoke in the room? The wind must have freshened from the mountains. An hour ago soft rain fell, but not enough rain to dampen the inferno still raging in the George Washington National Forest a few miles away. Fires are burning from Georgia to New England this spring, the most destructive outbreak in memory, with millions of acres of prime timber in peril. It's sabotage, of course, the work of what the president has called a "sixth column" operating in this country. Those cadets who have not yet taken leave for the summer have been in the mountains all day, supplementing the weary fire-fighting crews of the park service. This lovely old town is in. no danger, but I have only to walk (to hobble) across the room to the balcony doors to observe that the eastern sky is a billowing blood-red


blood everywhere spurting

soaking into the

The mind balks. But, quite apart from the conscious mind, the pen writes on as I sit and watch it, writes scarcely faltering, clean legible words words words waiting. Waiting for me to. And I must. If I am to have my sanity, then before memory is sealed like a grave I must account for it—all that I instinctively reject as inexplicable.

God grant there
an explanation: not to be found in poor Clipper's face; oh, my dear brother, nothing there but the harrowing madness . . . I need to look elsewhere to begin, to understand.


oss could have used his considerable influence with our chief of staff to arrange a week's furlough, for me, which would have meant precious additional days with Nancy. Despite the stunning naval victories in the Coral Sea and the jubilant talk one hears now of total victory in the Pacific by year's end, I doubt it will all be over so quickly. Who knows how many months, or years, we will be separated? Of course only in wartime is it possb1e to win promotion as quickly as I hope to. Just two years ago Eisenhower was a Lt. Colonel with the 15th Infantry and, it must be said, not particularly well thought of; Patton, in my estimation a great soldier, advanced only from captain to colonel in the twenty years between the wars.

Weighing every consideration, I felt that 72 hours was as much time as I could spare. My troop is combat-ready and the entire "Hell-for-leather" is long overdue for assignment. Marking time on border patrol is hard on the men, and there can be no more boring place to wait than the dry, brutally hot plains of west Texas. After months of crack training, morale is our chief problem: Men who are spoiling for a fight and who feel they are being ignored by the high command (we are dismounted cavalry, to be sure, but still looked upon as quaintly out of fashion) soon lose heart. I have confidence in Lt. Neal (Blue Ridge '39 and a K.A. brother) and his ability to command; perhaps he does have an unfortunate tendency to ingratiate himself with his superiors. No matter, I would have felt derelict enjoying so long an absence from duty at this critical time.

With only 72 hours at my disposal it was not possible to attend both the graduation exercises at Blue Ridge and the wedding two days later. I chose to arrive the night before the wedding. Nancy and I would then have nearly all of Sunday to ourselves. (I thought her decision not to join me at Ft. Bliss was a wise one. The old post is wretchedly overcrowded; because of her allergies she would find the heat and the punctual, twice-a-day sandstorms all but unbearable. Also, without a family to care for, there is not very much at the fort to keep her occupied. I was afraid of another spell of deep brooding, heartbreaking lament for the lost child. For the duration I felt she was better off at Dasharoons, with Boss to look after her—and she did seem to get along very well with Nhora.)

My transportation was arranged by the Air Service Command. I would fly from Ft. Bliss to Kelly Field to Ft. Bragg in North Carolina. Boss would have a car waiting in Fayetteville.

Unfortunately an engine, of our transport overheated, resulting in a delay of three hours in San Antonio. The flight was subsequently diverted to New Orleans to take on high-priority cargo, which turned out to be the household effects of an air corps brigadier reassigned from the Canal Zone. By the time the plane was loaded, heavy weather prevented our taking off. Assigned to an uncomfortable billet at the airport, I was sleepless throughout the night, always hoping that the next hour would see an end to the fog and drizzling rain. The roof leaked, and the Louisiana mosquitoes made me yearn for the comparatively mild nuisance of the flies at Bliss.

By daybreak Saturday (only this morning? How could so much of my life be destroyed in a single day?) the weather was still dismal. Fortunately I was able to complete another long-distance call to Boss. I regretfully told him that I couldn't make it. Then I tried to talk to, and console, Nancy, but we were abruptly cut off. I spent an angry ten minutes in a futile attempt to replace the call.

"Are you Captain Bradwin?"

What a small world it can be! The speaker was Lt. Colonel Milo Cotsworth of Malvern, Arkansas, Air Corps Ferrying Command. Col. Cotsworth's father, a state supreme court justice, was a friend of Boss's (but nearly everyone of consequence in the state has been to Dasharoons at one time or another). As luck would have it, Col. Cotsworth was returning East, having flown a number of distinguished British visitors, among them Field Marshal Sir John Dill, to observe mechanized maneuvers at nearby Camp Polk. He'd heard of my predicament and offered a solution on the spot.

"Captain, I'm flyin' to Washington when it clears up enough so I can see to get off the runway. Now, I believe that new landing strip at Camp Pickett, Virginia, is long enough to accommodate my airplane. How far's that from where you want to be?"

"Camp Pickett? A two-hour drive, at the most. But—"

"Don't worry about the weather, wind's northwest at 23 knots now, should blow most of this crud out to sea in another hour or so. I'll talk it over with the limey brass I'm haulin' around, but I don't think they'll raise a fuss about havin' you aboard." He looked thoughtfully at me. "I could drop a name or two, I suppose."

"Only if necessary, colonel. And thank you, sir. This means a great deal to me."

BOOK: All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By
8.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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