December 6th, 1915
Netheravon, Wilts.

2nd Lt. Swanson was an early riser, the chores given him while growing up on the family farm along the Minnesota-Canada border had seen to that, despite what his personal preference concerning sleep schedules may have been. It was habit now, and one he had come to appreciate. He dressed quietly but quickly and slipped out of the hut without waking Collins or O’Brien. Heavy dew embraced the grass and trees but the air was clear. A rosy glow illuminated the eastern horizon and lit up the underside of the low wispy clouds that dotted the sky. And there was no wind, at least not at the moment. It would soon prove itself to be a wonderful morning for flying. For now though, Swany simply enjoyed having this quiet time as his own.

He walked towards the flying field, removing his maternity tunic as he did so, and as he passed the camp flagpole he hung it on the halyard cleat. He rolled up the sleeves of his Greyback shirt and began to jog, out along the edge of the field, upwind, past the collection of small hangars and sheds that stood there. He made the first turn and continued across the near end of the field, he could already feel the dew soaking into his stockings along the top edge of his shoes and was wishing he'd gone to the trouble of doing up his puttees. No matter, the exercise felt good and he needed it, truth be told he craved it. Years of strenuous physical labor and activity made it so.

He undid his collar button as he rounded the second turn and continued along the far edge of the field. The sun was just about to crest and the trees and buildings began casting long, murky shadows. They reminded Swany of certain early mornings back home when he would be out tending to the cows – or hunting ducks and geese, crouched in a stand of reeds, shotgun at the ready – or having a cup of coffee with his uncle as they prepared for a day of tree felling or milling – or out checking the traplines, hoping for some good pelts that would add more coins to his flying fund. Always busy, always something to be done.

The downwind end of the field had been reached and Swany made the third turn. A sliver of sun now blazed on the horizon. It was a marvelous sight after so many days of rain and gloom. He hoped it would last and allow him and his fellow pilots-in-training a chance at some extended flying. For as far back as he could recall he loved being up above the ground, and began climbing trees at an age far younger than approved of by his parents. He had no fear of heights whatsoever and when Swany turned fifteen his uncle took advantage of this fact by sending him up to top off and limb pine trees before they were felled. The young man adored the task as it gave him the view of the world he craved – the view from above. Kakaygeesick, the chief of the local Chippewa tribe that, for centuries, had inhabited the land which Swany’s family now called home, once told him that he had likely been a bird at one time and that this was why he was always longing to get up into the sky. When the elder heard that Swany would be going off to fly aeroplanes he smiled and said, “animwewebizo”, which was to mean, “he flies away with noise”. Soon others in the tribe, upon seeing Swany in town or along the road, began calling out the same thing. It made him laugh just thinking about it.

The final turn had been reached and the young man covered the last leg of the circuit at a sprint, past the line of large hangars at that end of the field, and back towards the flag pole. He could hear the mechanics getting buses ready in anticipation of the upcoming flights. Upon reaching the pole Swany stood there, breathing deeply, hands on hips, stockings soaked through, and perspiration wet on his brow. He should have been chilled to the bone given the temperature of the early morning air and his lack of tunic, but instead he felt invigorated and warm. Suddenly a voice came from behind him, stating in a matter-of-fact tone, “I can’t decide if you’ll outlive us all or die young from pneumonia.”

Swany spun around. “Jim! What a beautiful morning, huh? I bet we get some real flying time today.”

“I’ll take that bet, but first I need something warm to drink and a bite to eat. You coming?”, 2nd Lt. Collins cheerily replied.

“Be along in a minute, have to change into some dry socks, grab my puttees, and wash my face.”

The two headed off in different directions, but would soon be sharing a quick breakfast and, with a bit of luck, a good day of flying.