They were married a few weeks before the invasion of Normandy. While his young wife, Katherine, spent the remainder of the war with his family in Arizona, L.J. Stewart fought his way from the hedgerows of France, through the cold winter days of Belgium, and eventually into the heartland of the German Reich. But L.J.’s biggest battle was the guilt of returning when so many he cared for did not.
After seven years of a strained marriage, Katherine and their children returned to her parents home in Evanston, Illinois for a visit. She hoped that the distance between her and L.J. would give him time to face the magnitude of the problems between them.
Days later at a rodeo in Raton, New Mexico, L.J. eased himself into a saddle, pulled his old Stetson farther down his brow to secure it, and nodded that he was ready. During the next eight seconds it seemed that he was suspended in time; he didn’t hear the crowd, think about what happened during the war or worry about Katherine and the kids. It was just his skill and the feel of the animal under him. He felt free.
On her sixteenth birthday, Katherine’s father gave her the “Lady K,” a twenty-nine-foot Bermuda rigged sloop. Separated from L.J. that summer she spent her time at the helm with the sun on her face and the wind in her hair. It was the first time in a long time that she felt unhampered by the responsibilities that confined her.