SYNOPSISMost people believe that the United States has never been bombed. This is not true! During world War II, around 300 balloon bombs, out of 9,000 launched from Japan, landed on the United States and Western Canada. They rode on the Pacific trade winds, just as Yoshi does in this new Middle grade historical novel “High wind to Idaho” just released by Amazon.
His secret balloon carries no bombs, only a scared 13 year old boy on a joy-ride that goes terribly wrong. He really wasn’t supposed to take it up, only help his uncle test it for the Japanese Army. Instead, he ends up crashing on a farm in Idaho in the midst of the first UFO scare in the US. This is in 1896. This was a full-blown scare, with newspapers full of ghostly airship sightings and Martian abductions.
Luckily for Yoshi, he survives the crash, saved by Billy, also 13, his mom and younger sister. He fears if the US government finds out about the balloon, they will force him to tell the balloon’s secrets. To do so would betray his family’s Samurai Honor. He vows to return to Japan, or if found out, commit hara-kiri, just like his great uncle Saburu.
He must get back to Japan before anyone finds out about his balloon. He and Billy’s family concoct a plan to escape the clutches of the local sheriff and nosy neighbors, and go by train to San Francisco to find a relative who might help him return and apologize to his uncle. Their plan is thwarted by a vengeful Japanese Army Officer, sent to bring him back in disgrace. In the meantime, news of the balloon has been leaked to the press and the Pinkerton Detective Agency is on Yoshi’s trail, hired by the US Army Intelligence Service.
Trapped in a dingy room, with the police getting closer, Yoshi sees no other way out than to commit Hara-kiri, but is rescued just in time by the Japanese officer. They return to Japan, undetected, for Yoshi to make amends to his Uncle.
As the story begins, Billy is now a Forest Ranger during WWII, called to inspect a downed balloon bomb in the Oregon forest, and it looks suspiciously like Yoshi’s balloon of forty-six years ago. Is Yoshi, his friend, responsible for this terrible weapon? The postscript, set in 1942 Japan, give us the answer.
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ExcerptYoshi lay down on the futon pad in his room later that night, thinking about all the work he had done for his uncle and how he had now been reduced to a lowly helper.
“I know I can fly that balloon. I don’t need a stuck-up army officer to supervise me,” he muttered. “People in America are free to do almost anything. That is what Father William says. If I was there, I would be free to fly any balloon I wanted.”
The more he thought about the airship just sitting out there, ready to go, the more he became convinced he had to show his uncle that he could fly it. His uncle would then have to let him make longer, more important flights. He would become a famous aviator and make demonstration flights all over the world.
“I just have to do it!” he exclaimed.
At four o’clock, as the eastern sky dawned, he got dressed quietly in a shirt and hakama, trousers, and tiptoed to the kitchen in his tabi socks, geta in hand. The servants had put together some food in a wicker hamper for the flight.
He left the house and sneaked over to the laboratory, looking out for Old Taiji. There he was, in a little shed outside the laboratory, reading a paper. His long white hair and stringy beard took on a golden glow from the lantern by his side. As soon as the watchman’s head start to nod, Yoshi ran quickly to the airship. It swayed gently in the breeze; the ropes that held it to the ground were taut. It seemed to Yoshi that the craft longed to be set free, just as he longed to be her pilot.
He climbed up the ladder into the gondola and stowed the food hamper.
All the gear was just as they left it. He had brought a padded jacket for extra warmth, and matches to light the lantern. He was ready.
Or was he? Suddenly he started to tremble at the thought of what he was about to do. Uncle Takahashi would surely be angry after what he had said to the lieutenant; Aunt Yasue would be upset; Lt. Itani would be insulted. But still, his desire to fly the balloon drove him on.
It wouldn’t be any safer with the lieutenant on board, he thought. I would have to tell him what to do, and I’ll have landed before they know what has happened.
Reassured, he started to untie the tether ropes: First the one on the port side, then on the starboard side. He hesitated before letting go of the stern rope. Was he ready to face the consequences of what he was about to do? Was he ready to face an angry uncle, an enraged lieutenant, a disappointed aunt? There was a piercing noise.
Writing came later, with a desire to bring together learning and adventure, especially for boys.
His stories are mainly historical adventure that relate to his experiences and interests.
As well as writing stories, his recent activities have involved restoring old cars, (A 1953 MGTD from England and a 1953 Studebaker Hardtop, designed by the noted Industrial Designer, Raymond Loewy), ceramics, metal clay jewelry, and working in the field with his ‘Best Buddy’, Maru, a miniature wire-haired Dachshund.
Rod lives near Denton, Texas, with his other ‘Best Buddy,’ his wife, Nancy and two more miniature wire-haired Dachshunds, Wrinkles and Lexie.
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