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Battling the Clouds or, For a Comrade's Honor

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The vast aviation field at Fort Sill quivered in the grilling heat of mid-July. The beautiful road stretching through the Post looked smooth as a white silk ribbon in the blazing sun. The row of tall hangars glistened with fresh white paint. On the screened porches of the officers' quarters, at the mess, and at the huts men in uniform talked and laughed as though their profession was the simplest and safest in the world.

Around the Post as far as the eye could reach the sun-baked prairies stretched, their sparse grasses burned to a cindery brown. From the distant ranges came the faint report of guns. The daily practice was going on. Once in a while against the sky a row of caissons showed up, small and clear cut.

Overhead sounded the continual droning of airplanes manœuvering, now rising, now circling, now reaching the field safely, where they turned and came gaily hopping along the ground toward the hangars, like huge dragonflies. And when they finally teetered to a standstill, what splendid young figures leaped over the sides and stretched their cramped legs, pushing off the goggles and leather headgear that disguised them! Laughing, talking, swapping experiences, listening in good-natured silence to the "balling out" that so often came from the harried and sweating instructors, splendid young gods were these airmen, super-heroes in an heroic age and time.

In the shade of one of the hangars sat two boys. They were blind and deaf to the sights and sounds around and over them. The planes were as commonplace as mealtime to them, and not nearly so thrilling. All their attention was centered on a small box on the ground before them. It was made of screen-wire roughly fastened to a wooden frame. One side was intended for a door, but it was securely wired shut. The box had an occupant. Furious, raging with anger, now crouching in the corner, now springing toward the boys, only to strike the wires, an immense tarantula faced his jailers with deadly menace in his whole bearing. One of the boys gently rested a stick against the cage. The great spider instantly hurled himself upon it.

Involuntarily both boys drew back.

"What you going to do with him now you have got him?" asked the taller of the two boys.

"Dunno," said the other, shrugging his shoulders. "No use expecting mother to let me keep him in quarters, and the C. O. won't have 'em around the hangars. I guess I will have to give him back to Lee and let him get rid of him."

"What does C. O. mean, and who is Lee?" asked the first boy.

"Gee, you are green!" scoffed the smaller of the two. "Tell you what I'll do, Bill; I will take a day off and teach you the ropes."

"I will learn them fast enough if I can get a question answered once in awhile," answered Bill, laughing pleasantly. "You can't expect to learn everything there is about the Army in a week."

"It is too bad you are in Artillery," said the other boy, whose name was Frank and whose father was Major Anderson, in the Air service. "There is a lot more doing over here, but of course as long as I am sort of your cousin, why, you can get in on things here whenever you want to."

"Much obliged," returned Bill. "And of course whenever you want, I will take you any place you want to go in my car."

"That car is the dandiest little affair I ever did see," said Frank half enviously. "Just big enough for two of us." He glanced over to the boy-size automobile standing in the shade. It was a long, racy looking toy, closer to the ground than a motorcycle, but evidently equipped with a good-sized engine. "Where did you get it, anyhow?"

"I have an uncle in the automobile business, and he had it made for me."

"Some uncle!" commented Frank. "How fast will she go?"

"A pretty good clip, I imagine," said Bill. "I have never tried her out."

"What's the matter with you? Scared?" asked Frank. "I say we speed her up some of these days."

"Can't do it," said Bill, shaking his head. "There is a speedometer on it, and I promised my mother I would never go over fifteen miles an hour until she gives me leave."

"Fifteen miles; why, that's crawling!" said Frank scornfully....