After Uncle Sam activated Reservist Grant Carpenter into the Army Corps of Engineers in May, 1941, “Carp” could not have anticipated that a December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor would ultimately send him overseas for three years, seven months, and seven days. Before returning home, Carp would serve on Ascension Island, then in Africa, England, and France, making stops in other countries along the way.
In early 2008, my sister Peggy went to visit our folks. She noticed Dad reading some papers and then throwing them into the trash. She asked what he was up to.
“Just reading some old letters I found,” he told her and handed her one. She was stunned to realize they were letters he’d written to his mother while he was serving in the U.S. Army during World War II. She quickly rescued the letters he’d thrown out and asked him not to pitch any more of them.
When I arrived a few days later, she showed me the letters. Once they were put in order, they told a fascinating story. I began typing them into the computer and asking Dad questions about the backstory. He may have been 90-years-old at the time, but he was still sharp and his answers came fast and sure.
This book is a compilation of those letters and his memories. I edited out extraneous bits of the letter, things like, “Sorry to hear about John,” or “That’s good news about Sally,” because there is no mention of what the news is or even who these people are. Those sentences hit the cutting room floor. Then, on occasion, I added a few words to clarify someone’s identity. For example, when Carp refers to “Gil,” I included “my fraternity brother, Gil…” Obviously, his mother would’ve known who Gil was, but those few “extras” should help the reader keep people sorted out without changing the story that’s being told. Other than those minor changes, you are reading the letters as Marg/Toots would have read them.
Before the war, Carp’s mother had been nicknamed “Toots” by one of her friends. That had shocked and/or amused Carp when he first heard it, since it was an abbreviation for Tootsie. And, while Tootsie could be an innocuous synonym for “dear” or “sweetheart,” it could also mean a “woman of questionable morals” – not something that fit his mother, which is why he was amused.
After earning her teaching degree at Penn State University, Susan Carpenter Noble tucked it in her hip pocket and took off for Colorado to become a horse trainer. Somehow, her mentors got the gangly six-footer to where she could actually get something done on a horse, and she won state championships in such diverse events as Reining, Western Riding, and Working Hunter. She also coached students to state championships in Dressage, Trail, and Barrel Racing, among others.
When she’s not out in the arena teaching her Horse Kids, or hiking with her husband, or traveling to see her far-flung siblings and adult kids, she’s usually typing away on the keyboard, telling the kinds of horse stories she would like to have read growing up.
Her debut novel, “Cowgirls Don’t Quit,” and the sequel, “The Free Horse,” were inspired by two of her recent students. The rest of her students are currently on their best behavior for fear she will embarrass them in a similar manner.