As the Wind Walks is the story of two men, their wars, their loves and their families. Both will grow and mature on the cusp of a world changing conflict. As the candle burns low for David, Edmund’s flame and passion are ignited.
The Civil War and World War II sagas encompass the Fifty-Fifth Ohio Volunteer Regiment in 1861-1865, and the Marine Raiders in the Pacific; it chronicles two love stories amongst the misery of war.
Edmund returns regularly to listen to more of his great grandfather’s story. The action of the Civil War is presented from memory and from decades of study by the old man. As the days pass, the story progresses and so does Edmund’s life. He grows from an impetuous teenager into young man. Then his life takes a significant turn. He meets Athena; a neighbor he knew only casually. From that beginning he quickly grows to believe that she will be the love of his life. As their relationship develops, both he, and now Athena, listen to Gramps continue his saga of his march to the sea.
The novel shifts between the 1940-1941 story of Edmund and Athena, to David in the 1860’s, struggling to survive in the Civil war. The story reaches a pivotal point on December 1, 1941. It concludes with the end of David's story and the beginning of Edmund's story.
The story is an easy read for a Civil War novel. Most of the works written about this period are overburdened by facts, names, and places. Usually the Civil War is seen from the perspective of the commanders. My story is centered on the common soldier.
As The Wind Walks begins in the working class streets of 1940 Baltimore. This tale of two young men takes place in two eras, the 1860's and the era of World War II. The saga begins with a ninety year old veteran talking to his great-grandson on the eve of war. On a blustery winter evening, David Werner talks about his experiences in 1861 and his training with the 55th Ohio Volunteer Regiment. As the grandfather reveals his struggles, his great-grandson, Edmund Carter, is drawn to a world he knew very about.
Edmund and David connect like they have never done before. As The Wind Walks is more than a history of combat. It is a coming of age story for David in1862 Ohio, and Edmund, facing a cloud of war in the golden year 1940, just before Pearl Harbor when America was drawn into a fight that enveloped the world. In their respective crucibles of conflict, each young man's life is transformed.
Entertained and delighted, Edmund returns to hear more of his great –grandfather's stories. Each meeting helps the young boy from Baltimore mature. He also experiences the first pangs of love when he encounters a neighborhood girl, Athena Matsangos. Just as in David Werner's case, Edmund's remarkable Love and family are put on hold.
In this tale of common soldiers, the vagaries of war must cooperate. At a snipers den at Gettysburg, to a sniper's confrontation in Bougainville, those who wait at home can only hope and pray for a safe return.
Things began innocently enough; Edmund Carter slouched over his dinner plate, carefully picking the onions out of his food. His mother was chatting about school and complaining about Dandy, the neighbor’s dog. Edmund was paying very little attention to her.
His lack of concentration was interrupted. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed a shadow from the overhead light. He leaned back and stared up at the clear glass bulb hanging by its electrical cord. The glowing tungsten elements, illuminating the room, had generated enough heat to stir the air and set the bulb into a subtle rocking motion.
His attention lingered briefly until another of his senses picked up on the aromas coming from the kitchen. He took a deep breath; liver, fried onions, mashed potatoes, a hint of cooking oil, were all familiar. The smells dulled, along with his interest. He resumed his daydreaming.
A gust of wind rattled the front window. He paused, with a soggy onion strand dangling precariously from his fork. He turned toward the new diversion.
Beyond the window the departing daylight was being absorbed by a graying glacial sky. He didn’t need to check the front porch thermometer. It looked cold.
Out of the blue, a thought popped from his mind and into his mouth. “Mom, I’m turning eighteen soon. When I graduate in May, I’m going to pick up my papers over at Highland Avenue and join the Army. Wait, maybe the Marines.”
Edmund left his last sentence hanging, just like the food on his fork.
He moved his fork again, mixing his potatoes into a mish-mash of meat bits and gravy. He stirred for what seemed like an eternity to him, until the tines of the fork made a screeching-scraping noise that attracted the cat and set its tail to twitching.
Old Walter jumped up on a stool next to the table, following the noise. One stir, one screech, one twitch. While Edmund waited for his mother’s reply he amused himself by conducting a feline symphony. His mother remained unsurprisingly silent.
While he led his catcerto, he imagined her reaction would be predictable; he’d heard it all before. Mom wanted everyone to stay neutral, especially him. Although she rarely lost her temper, she would fly off the handle whenever he brought up the topic of war. Edmund knew she just didn’t understand. How could she? Mom was too old to realize that America had to get into it. Otherwise Adolph Hitler would march into Baltimore, and walk up their front steps and knock on the door. What would she say then? “Welcome, Herr Hitler, can I get you some cherry pie?”
Across the room, his mom seemed calm as she purposely scraped food from her plate into the garbage pail. Yet, he could sense that underneath she was fuming. Frances Carter was one of those women who counted, waiting for the appropriate time to detonate. The time wasn’t right, yet, so she stewed... so completely that a reddish glow crept in around her cheeks.
Edmund could see it was coming. He decided to finish the countdown in his head. Five... four... three... Although he’d started it, his mother was more than ready to scuffle. Just like a boiling pot she finally bubbled to the top... two... one.
“Edmund Jackson Carter, what are you thinking? You’re as likely to join the Army as you were to join the fire brigade. Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that you were sure you’d be a cowboy.”
“Mom, I’m serious about this.”
“Son, I’m serious, too. I have a picture of you on a pony out by the front stoop. You’re wearing a cowboy hat and a big, red, checkered bandana. You loved going to Johnny Mack Brown movies, and when you’d come home you’d gallop around the house pretending you had a horse named Rebel. You were adorable!”
“Mom, that is not even remotely funny!”
“Do you want to know what’s not funny? War is unfunny; it is heartrending and very deadly. Do you think it is some grand game? It’s not like the times you would sit on the floor and play with your tin soldiers.”
“Playing, do you think I’m acting like some kind of a joker?”
“Joker, no, not a joker, you’re acting more like a clown, only without the big red nose and the oversized shoes. No wait, you’re not even a clown; I’d rather say you are a fool. Why in the world would you enlist now? We aren’t the ones at war with the Nazi’s.”
He sputtered, “We will be. Talk to the mothers in Belgium, Luxembourg, Holland, Norway and France.”
“Well, unless I start getting telephone calls from mothers in all those countries, you can just sit there, shut up, and play at being a soldier with your toys. You can join the army when we are actually in a war.”
He jumped up, nearly knocking Old Walter off the stool next to the table. He grabbed his wool coat and exited, slamming the door with teen-aged emphasis. His mother had an exasperating way of finding ways to jumble up his logic. He’d think of a response and she’d come at him with something else. When he could no longer argue effectively he responded by walking away.
Outside the cold blush of December buffeted his cheeks, making him wish he had snagged a hat and scarf too. Edmund hesitated, envisioning the magnitude of his annoyance. His mother’s rebuke was still fresh in his mind but the wind was really cold. He considered if there was any way to go back inside without losing his dignity. The grey skies let loose with a cold blast that rattled the porch swing. He had to make up his mind soon. He summoned up his mother’s angry words. “She called me a fool. I’m no fool!” And, with his position and his mind now firmly made up, he vaulted over the railing of his front porch. He landed lightly; it was a vault he’d made many times before, especially when he was exasperated.
Edmund knew his destination as soon as his feet hit the ground, his great-grandfather’s place. A quick turn to the left and he was on his way to Fells Point, by now he was steaming. The walk would clear his head and give him some time to think. He rehashed his conversation with his mother, noting clever remarks he should have made. Like most people arguing in the past, his comments were very clever...
There was a bone-cold mist blowing over the parade grounds. The gusts and the water droplets stung the faces of the men. Above the grounds the grey clouds were tinged with dark menacing patches. The men on the field below knew that the sun was still an hour away from setting, one more hour of discontent. You could hear the strident voices of the officers calling out orders to the new recruits, dividing them into companies. There was barely enough light to illuminate the field as the newly formed Company C stood idly by, waiting while other companies in the regiment were formed. A great booming voice brought them to attention.
“Get into a line, you sons-of-bitches, I want to see feet pointed north and in a straight line. Stick out your chests and shoulder those muskets. Your days of leisure are over.”
The boys quickly mustered into a semblance of a line under the searing gaze of Corporal Happy Jack McCurdle, a real soldier amongst a bunch of rabbit and squirrel hunters. The rag-tag band of sixty men stood in front of him shivering in the late autumn drizzle. Most had just left their homes and were unprepared for the rigors of military life. McCurdle shook his head. He reckoned they’d all come together thinking they’d save the Union and while they were at it, take a Sunday walk.
He shook his head; with the Lord’s good luck and his training, half of these boys might return to Ohio and their mamas one day. He worked his tobacco plug into a pulp while he walked the line of boys, squinting into everyone’s eyes. He thought to himself that this wasn’t a very promising bunch, all scruffy and done-in-looking, especially after all of two days. He started looking for the dead ones, the ones that would fall first when the bullets started whistling into their line.
He thought he’d found his first one. “How old are you, boy?”
“Sixteen years old, Sir… just last week.”
“Bullshite—what’s your name soldier, and where are you from?
“I’m David Werner, sir, I’m from Kansas.”
“Well then, welcome to the Union, Private Wormwood. Are you from Pottawatomie, where John Brown raised a ruckus?”
David straightened himself up. Jack figured the boy was making an attempt at looking like a soldier. The boy seemed to perk up and he answered boldly. “You can call me Davie, Sir, and Kansas is a town in Ohio. My name is…”
“Horseshite!” Happy Jack glared directly into this young boy’s eyes. Nose to nose he expected to see the boy shaking in his boots; instead, he saw a glimmer of defiance.
“I’m going to call you, Pete. You’ll be Pete until I tell you, you isn’t. I oughta boot you back to your Mommy in Kansas, bloody, Ohio.”
Jack noticed that this youngin didn’t waver; he still kept a steady eye. He spotted the boy chewing on his lip. He guessed that this one was probably biting his tongue. He thought to himself that there might be some iron in this boy’s belly.
“You stay close to me, Pete; when I turn, you turn, when I walk, you walk, when I take a shite...you know what you do Pete?”
“Help you find a cob, sir?”
Corporal McCurdle, who wore a perpetual frown and was never happy, felt an unfamiliar tug at the corners of his mouth, he’d almost smiled. He carefully fixed his eyes on the young boy. This was not the time to show any emotion. The boy showed some gumption. Maybe this was a fresh fish that would swim.