Authors: Patrick Ford
By Patrick Ford
Start Publishing LLC
Copyright Â© 2012 by Start Publishing LLC
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First Start Publishing eBook edition October 2012
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Cover Artist: Kris Norris
Editor: Merrylee Lanehart
Printed in the United States of America
For Susan and her baby
The Flame still burns
New York City, New York, USA
James Baker stood at his station on the forecastle of the destroyer
USS Warren B
and watched the crowds thronging the pier. There was an air of expectation, tinged with war weariness and relief. After a war that had taken the lives of more than
million and had left Europe in ruins, he was thankful to have survived to come home at last. He had had a fortuitous war, he reflected. Not that it
comfortable or without danger, but
had been a lucky ship. Her worst casualty had been a drunken liberty man who had tripped on the gangplank and broken a leg on the iron-
hard timbers of the Liverpool docks. She had sailed back and forth across the Atlantic for three years on convoy escort duty, had attacked without success several U-
Boats, and had fished a few hundred survivors from that cr
el sea. However, enemy bombs or torpedoes never came close to her
a lucky ship indeed.
Certainly, the war had changed
life for the better. He had come from a small ranch in Montana, too small to pr
vide him with any kind of future. The Navy had hardened, trained, and nurtured him. Today he stood as a fit and conf
dent Petty Officer, Second Class, and a fully trained electr
cian. In a few short days, he would be a free man about to marry his sweetheart and tackle the world head on. As
entered the great harbour, heading for the Brooklyn Navy Yard, she passed the famous landmarks of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Staten Island. Jimmy Baker felt a little surge of patriotism; he was not a demonstrative man, but took a fierce pride in his nation and its achievements.
His thoughts turned to his girl. They had met in a dru
store of all pla
ces, on his last leave. She wasn
t a classic beauty, but he found himself admiring her trim figure and dark hair. Her skin had a light milk coffee tone, suggestive of a Latino background. In fact, an ancestor had been a Spanish adventurer who had left a young English woman a widow when his ship disappeared off Cape Hatteras in 1740. He was never to see his baby daughter, but his genes had persisted through many generations.
Her eyes were her most startling feature. They were dark brown and there was a slightly Oriental look about them. Up close, they were deep pools lit from below with a tawny light
one look into those depths and Jimmy Baker was lost.
Marci had been working as a typist for the U
Army for the last couple of years. Soon, her work would no
be required. They had decided to settle in Worcester, west of Boston. Jimmy had a tentative position offered by a co
league of Marci
's father, a manufacturer of wireless equi
ment who had prospered from a couple of Air Corps co
tracts. He was pleased to welcome home a trained man to his factory; the war had decimated his skilled workforce. Right now Marci would be preparing to meet his train at Boston.
slipped into her berth. Amongst the barking of orders, the anchor descended into the murky ha
bour with a great screeching and rattling, releasing a cloud of rust. Jimmy jerked from his reverie, suddenly hearing for the first time the hubbub around him. His shipmates were a
ranging their shore leave. They were making important dec
sions about bars, nightclubs and women, but today he had little interest in such entertainment. His friends were gathe
ing around, exhorting him to join in the revelry.
“Come on, Jimmy,
” said his best friend, Gino Vaselli,
“This is my town. I can sure show you a good time.
âSorry, buddy, I have to catch the Boston train.
“Oh, in about two hours,
” said Gino
's go find the bar at Penn Station and give you a good send-
Jimmy spent an hour drinking beer and recalling the war with his shipmates. They departed, voicing promises of
ions and letters. The last sight he had had of his pals was as the train drew out of the station. They were headed back to the bar.
Goondiwindi, Queensland, Australia
Patrick Michael Riordan sat in his favourite chair on the homestead veranda, cold beer in hand, and reviewed his life with a certain degree of satisfaction. It had begun in the cold New England tablelands of New South Wales, where his parents cobbled together a meagre living, his father using his bullock team and wagon to carry wool and timber and all the essential goods required by the local farmers. In 1909
as a babe in arms, he became part of the cargo, as his family moved west and north to the border town of Goondiwindi.
Over the years, his parents worked hard as did his six siblings. They had set up a portable sawmill and milled the local timber, cypress pine; much sought after as an essential material for the expanding cattle and sheep business. Used to build accommodation for workers and homesteaders alike, Cypress was popular because it was a soft wood and ther
fore easy to work with hand tools, and
â¦it had a great bonus. The voracious termites of the Australian bush would not eat it.
By 1936, the family had amassed enough capital to pu
chase a tract of land, about 5,000 acres, on which to graze Merino sheep to provide fine wool for the world
's garment factories. Paddy Riordan
's father delegated him to clean up the land, install watering points, and erect buildings in order to turn the land into a profitable sheep station. This was no easy task. He shared a tent with his one employee and began to build a small cabin. When that was completed, he started on a homestead, for he was about to be married. There fo
lowed a small workshop, stockyards, and the large
' where the sheep would have their wool removed at shearing time.
The land he worked had a thick covering of a cactus called
', so named for its dangerous thorns and its pear shaped leaves. Thriving in the leaf litter below the
' were snakes and other dangerous creatures. The worst was the Australian Death Adder, a well-
camouflaged and aggressive species. Life was hard in the wake of the depre
sion, money and materials were hard to find. However, sc
ence was about to intervene on Paddy
's behalf in the form of a small moth and its larvae,
. The la
va of this little creature, imported from South America, b
gan to invade and eat the cactus. In a couple of years, it d
stroyed most of the cactus, revealing fertile soils and grasses. The sheep prospered, and so did Paddy. By the beginning of World War II,
, as the station was called, was the envy of many.
There was, however, a major disappointment. Their marriage remained childless. Paddy yearned for a son to ca
ry on his work, and a daughter to spoil, as most fathers are wont to do. Then the war intervened and he saw his brothers leave to fight the Nazi threat. In 1943, his brother Jack, p
loting a Lancaster bomber, failed to return from a mission to Dusseldorf, in the German industrial heartland. Posted as missing, believed killed, his body never found. The end of the war brought joy. First a daughter, and, a year later, a son named Jack in memory of his lost brother. Paddy could hear him now, murmuring in his cradle. He felt a flush of pride; after many years and much hard work, he had a prosperous sheep station, a complete family, and a world
at least for
at peace. He smiled into
the soft summer night
and hugged his wife, Helen.