CHAPTER 1- To Save Us All From Ruin
“My father had a Randall knife, my mother gave it to him.
When he went off to World War II to save us all from ruin.”
-songwriter Guy Clark, The Randall Knife.
January 1942- The Muldoon family farm, NE Colorado
The sun rose on a clear and crisp eastern Colorado day in mid-January 1942. As Seamus Muldoon leaned his tired head against the flank of yet another milk cow, his mind began to wander. He stripped the teats rhythmically making the frothy white milk sing a tinny tune as it sprayed against the inside of the shiny milk pail. Bessy (or was this one Flossy? Or Bossy? Seamus could never keep their names straight) munched placidly on the hay in front of her. It occurred to Seamus that for the last month the cows had been setting up their early morning ruckus earlier and earlier each day. The shortened days of winter seemed even shorter when the cows dragged you out of bed at “oh-dark-thirty”. His father’s words echoed in his memory, every winter morning milking session since Seamus was knee high to a Guernsey his father had cracked the same tired joke. “Hoo boy, it’s colder than a well digger’s ass, and twice as dark!” Seamus usually thought to himself at those times, “Yeah, how would you know?” Seamus knew better than to give voice to those irreverent thoughts however.
Of course, the old man had not been joking much this past month. His jawline had been set in an attitude of grim determination ever since early December when the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor had come. The entire family had huddled around the radio in the living room waiting for “a momentous address from the President” as the surprisingly chipper-sounding announcer had put it. The president’s sonorous baritone voice intoned over the usual faint crackle of static. “Yesterday, December 7th, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”