Bossy’s mom is sitting on the right-hand side of the bottom step—and today is her eighth birthday. Her nickname is Dondi, and this is her first real birthday party with a cake and dresses and pretty packages. Dondi is surrounded by her neighborhood chums, but not pictured is her dog, who is her heart. It’s spring and the war has been over for two years and she’s happy.
Walt is working down at the Ship Yard but things are about to change. Here’s the scoop: Walt has a buddy named Bud, and this fellow went off to the war, but now he’s back and he’s got a wife named Mickey and a daughter only a few years younger than Dondi. And this Bud, he hooked himself up with a job building a refinery in Wyoming and now he wants Walt to join him.
For decades oil refineries have taken crude oil and converted it into usable products like kerosene and gas—but with the sudden proliferation of the automobile there’s some money to be made in the oil refinery business. During the war these refineries figured out how to produce a high-octane fuel that optimized the Allied airplane engines, and those planes beat the hell out of those German planes! There’s some pride in refineries.
Walt and Bert have always liked Bud and Mickey—Bud’s a giant Swede and one hell of a nice guy. And Mickey and Bert sure can giggle their asses off. As far as Walt is concerned, there’s nothing keeping them in New Jersey. The west is adventure and Walt doesn’t want to be just another stiff. Bert agrees to shake things up.
At the end of the summer they will sell off all their belongings—again—and tie a few things to the top of a used Packard.
Dondi doesn’t realize it will be fifty years until her next real birthday party.