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The major influence upon him as a child, he feels, were his summers spent at the small island his family owned, eleven miles off the mainland in Maine's Penobscot Bay. Boats were the chief preoccupation on Bear Island, and here young Bucky reveled in the lore and learning, puttering and fixing and improvising of the nautical world. Winters he went to prep school as a day pupil at Milton Academy in Massachusetts, an oddball, lonely child whose hazel eyes swam grotesquely behind the thick-lensed glasses he wore to correct the extreme farsightedness he was born with. Bucky was small but sturdy, and he was aggressive enough to achieve the position of quarterback on the football team, though he could never see the ball until it was on top of him, and was haunted by the fear that his bad eyes would trick him into running the wrong way.
Wrong Turn. When he got to Harvard in 1913, Bucky soon realized that things were going to go badly wrong. His best friend at Milton did not room with him. Other Milton classmates explained that they could not afford to associate with him much because he was obviously not going to make a club. When he tried out for football, he broke his knee. So, as he explains it today, "I deliberately set out to get into trouble."
He cut his midyear exams and took off for New York, where he went on a spending spree that included wining and dining Dancer Marilyn Miller and her chorus line, whom he had got to know by standing outside the stage door in Boston with his family's white wolfhound as conversational bait. When considerably more than his year's allowance had gone up in the heady smoke of this lonely freshman debauch, Bucky cabled a rich cousin and was promptly packed off in disgrace to a cotton mill in Quebec. Harvard gave him a second chance, but Bucky was not having any. "Once again I determined to get fired simply by spending more money than I had. I succeeded."
Long Drinks. Fuller was married in 1917he was 22to dark and beautiful Anne Hewlett, daughter of a prominent New York architect. In World War I, Bucky, despite his bad eyes, enlisted in the Navy as a chief boatswain, showed such promise that he was sent to the Naval Academy and commissioned an ensign. Studying logistics, ballistics, navigation and early naval aviation, he suddenly found himself in a world rapidly moving from "the wire to the wireless, the track to the trackless, the visible to the invisible, where more and more could be done with less and less."
But the troubles piled up. His daughter Alexandra sickened and died when she was four. For the next five years, Fuller worked out of Chicago for a company set up to market a building material invented by his father-in-law. They actually put up 240 houses, and Bucky learned a lot about building, but he was a hopelessly poor executive and as much of a fool about money as he had been at Harvardliving wildly beyond his means and rapidly laocoönizing himself in debts and superdebts. He was also hitting the bottle. "The minute I was through work for the day," he has written of that period, "I would go off and drink all night long, and then I'd go to work