In this story, we meet Steve Savage as a very young man at his homestead in Mustang River, Wyoming, where the 'only thing my Pa could teach me' was to 'forget you've got eyes - arms - legs - you're not a human anymore - yore the gun!'. The Savages were dirt poor (possibly because Steve spent all of his time SHOOTING THEIR MONEY!), and very unpopular in town, so when Pa passed, Steve vowed to make the whole world recognize the Savage name - to make it mean something.
|Steve Savage utters his awkward mantra for the 1st time while blowing away the last of the family savings|
Though not deemed ready for real war situations, Savages commanding officer is forced to send him up due to a pilot shortage. On this first mission, Savage is to be babysat by 2 veterans, and is told to stay in formation - however, the sight of German observation balloons proves too tempting a target for the hothead, who breaks away from his wingmen and goes in for the kill.
Savage psyches himself up, becoming 'The Gun' and takes out 3 balloons, but the balloons' protective squadron of German Fokkers were able to easily shoot down the 2 other American pilots.
|Guilt - the great motivator|
|Tragic. One of Savage's fellow pilots, deceased, secured to the wing|
This is a very good introductory story for the Balloon Buster - a little tragic as all war stories are. The creepy image of dead pilots strapped to the wings of an aircraft is powerful and helps build Steve Savage's legend as one who, despite an innate decency, will put not only himself, but allies in danger to fulfill his bloodlust which he thinks will honor his father and family name.