I was educated as a warrior, although I am not comfortable with claiming that title today. I entered the United States Air Force Academy in 1967, graduated and spent a career as a pilot until medical retirement ‘clipped my wings.’ I really can’t think of another ‘job’ that is more fun than flying single-seat, single-engine, Mach 2+ fighters, and to be paid for it??? Are you kidding me? Same old thing every day: put on your flight suit and combat boots, strap on your parachute and go play Steve Canyon while defending the skies of America. How boring can life get? Back in those days, we survived on black coffee, cigarettes and booze.
As F-106 Interceptor pilots, my mates and I generally spent 10 days each month ‘round the clock playing ping pong, eating, playing pinochle, eating, watching movies [on reels] and sleeping 50 feet from our armed and loaded fighters waiting for the Russkies to penetrate our airspace. We must have done an excellent job because it never did happen. You get to know your fellow pilots pretty well in that type of environment, and there are plenty of stories to share during happy hour when you are back at your home station and off alert status.
Gerry Czeiner was one of those free spirits in our squadron, the 49th Fighter Interceptor Squadron. We claimed Griffiss AFB in Rome, New York as our home base. One night midway through a weeklong alert assignment, Gerry and I were sipping stale, lukewarm coffee wishing they were bottles of beer. We started talking about booze and drinking. As pilots, we were pretty good about watching out for each other. I remember one night when George Mehrtens drove me home from the O’Club and deposited me in the foyer of our home in Holland Patent. Marie wasn’t very pleased, but – bless George’s heart – he got me home in one piece. I retrieved my car the next day….
Anyway, Gerry told me how he would get rid of drunk drivers. The solution Gerry described to me that night back in the late 1970’s is the same solution that Harold Huck, the protagonist of DWI pursues in his personal vendetta to rid the streets of drunk drivers. I’ve carried Gerry’s ‘solution’ around in the back of my head for nearly 40 years.
While I enjoy writing historical novels, I had to clear this story from my brain. That, however, is where the idea came from: a late night conversation with Gerry Czeiner while we pulled alert duty in Presque Isle, Maine nearly forty years ago.