Cowboy: interpreter, warlord, one more casualty


Paraplegic vet and his Sharkface sidecar I've been collecting Sharkface designs for nearly thirty years. Until last month, my favorite was a "bow picker" salmon boat in Alaska, but then I saw an article in the Wall Street Journal about Richard Neider, an Army vet who was injured in Iraq in 2005 and over the next eight years gradually lost the use of his legs. He'd been a biker since he was seven, and last year he attended a rally in South Dakota and, thanks to a group called the Veterans Charity Ride, was treated to a sidecar tour that inspired him to get on two wheels again. Early this year, he and his wife bought an Indian Scout Bobber, and with the help of the dealership, a motorcycle customization shop, and various good-hearted people, he modified the Scout and the sidecar. (The shark's "eyes" are headlights for extra visibility on the road.) He went for his first ride on July 3.

Sergeant Neider can wheel up to the Scout, swing himself aboard thanks to the modified handlebars and his own upper-body strength, pick up the wheelchair, and slot it into a rack behind the sidecar, all without assistance. Toward the end of July, he set out from his home in Phoenix with other bikers for the 1,700-mile road trip through Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and South Dakota to the August rally in Sturgis. Just as a "mentor" took him on that life-changing sidecar ride last year, he planned to pay it forward and show another wounded warrior how to get back on the road again.

Over on the Piper Cub Forum, there's darling photo of a J-3 Cub privileged to have a hangar of her own on an estate with not one but two grass runways, with an asking price of just $5.9 million.

And on Remembering Bluie West One, a fond look back by a lad who grew up at the WW2 and early Cold War airbase in Greenland.

This is a grand biography of le grand Charles, who fought in the trenches at Verdun, who helped Poland turn back the Bolshevik tide, who may or may not have invented tank warfare, and who turned up in London in June 1940 to proclaim himself the legitimate leader of an undefeated France. With the occasional boost from Winston Churchill, and to the great annoyance of Franklin Roosevelt, he made the claim stick, and just over four years later he returned to Paris at the head of a "Free French" army. There was no question that he would rule France thereafter, first as an unelected leader of the Fourth Republic, then from self-imposed exile, and finally as creator and president of the Fifth Republic. More than the nation's leader, he was the nation. When he resigned for the first time, in 1949, there was a rush to give him a fifth star and the highest level of the Legion of Honor, but he refused both honors. "One does not decorate France," he explained. De Gaulle is a magnificent read, though it does become a bit wearisome after the war is won, after the colonies are freed, after the Fifth Republic is established, and he must sit down and actually govern. But hang on! It gets interesting again.

Also reviewed this month on the Warbird's Book Club: The Moralist, Patricia O'Toole's fine biography of Woodrow Wilson; and Ex Machina, a movie and a robot worth seeing the second time.

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And I must end with a salute to John McCain of Arizona, an admiral's son who graduated fifth from the bottom of his Annapolis class but went on to become a genuine hero of a despised war. Shot down over North Vietnam, he survived years of neglect, humiliation, and torture, to emerge stronger than ever. "I fell in love with my country," he once said, "when I was a prisoner in someone else's." Blue skies, Senator! — Daniel Ford

Welcome to the forum!

Here are a thousand or so files on airplanes, pilots, and the wars of the past hundred years, grouped under these headings:

Annals of the Flying Tigers
Annals of the Brewster Buffalo
Annals of Poland: war and exile, 1939-1948
Japan at War, 1931-1945
Annals of the Chinese Air Force
Glen Edwards and the Flying Wing
Remembering Bluie West One
The Spadguys Speak (carrying a nuke to Sevastopol)
Annals of Vietnam
War in the Modern World

Plus these excellent places to look for more: