A Pocket of Resistance: Good Ship Gone

Tonight, i participated in some email banter about a super bowl pool. i commented on my pick of number 19, the hull number of my last ship, the USS Yosemite (AD 19). One of the emailers asked if it was still afloat. In my response, i included the below, written when i learned of Yoyo’s demise in 2003, with my answer in the negative. i was not thrilled to get orders to her in 1983, but she was one of the best ships i had of the eleven at-sea assignments. From 2003:

USS_Yosemite_AD-19_1988

Yosemite: Good Ship Gone

The news came, as expected, from the Commanding Officer, a man who has Navy blue for blood in his veins. I did not call him “CO” or the aviator term “skipper” – he would have chopped off my head with that insult. I called him “Captain.” Without fail. I now call him Frank and a friend.

The USS Yosemite (AD 19), destroyer tender par excellence is gone.

The Navy radio message, the means of communicating throughout my Navy career, was the bearer of the news, forwarded by the Commanding Officer in the new mode of communication: e-mail.

The message subject was “SINKEX,” as in gone. That means she was sunk as a target in a Naval exercise. Since the message came from a destroyer squadron commander, I hope it was a surface ship that shot her down.

And I mean down. Two thousand, three hundred, and forty fathoms. That’s about 14,040 feet. Deep.

It is right that she went down that way, and hopefully it was shells from a gun mount, not a missile, but I suspect the latter sang the final hymn, read the final prayer for the good ship Yosemite.

Sailors use the feminine gender to describe ships. There is probably some politically correct group out there trying to neuter the tradition. That it is sad because Yosemite and the other ships I served on were true ladies of the sea, elegant, practical and fearsome in their different ways. I loved all of those that carried me as part of their wardrooms.

Yosemite was special. I confess I had to learn to love her. I went to her to serve as executive officer in 1983 for the sole purpose of attaining the necessary qualifications to screen for command at sea. I did not like tenders: they did not go to sea enough. They did not land amphibious troops and equipment; they did not fire guns and missiles; they did not hunt submarines. They did not scream around at twenty-seven knots with the spume of a rooster-tail off the stern and the wake as wide as a four-lane highway extending to the horizon. They did not belch landing craft out of the stern of a well deck in rolling seas.

But Yosemite had been there when I first met the Navy in 1963. She was the flagship of Cruiser Destroyer Force, Atlantic Fleet, tied up at Pier One in Newport, Rhode Island. I was a midshipman on my way out of NROTC because I didn’t have good study habits nor good sense at nineteen. She seemed massive and imperturbable as I walked passed on my way to my destroyer and an eight-week cruise.

She was in Newport when I came back from deployment on my first ship after being commissioned from OCS in 1968. Her deserved reputation was such that we would figure out ways to get our repair work to her, rather than to take it to our “parent” tender.

And she was my last ship, the penultimate tour for me and the penultimate step toward my never achieved goal of command.

She could wheeze out fourteen knots with her four hundred pound boilers, but we steamed at ten knots most of the time. The fact sheet lists her top speed as nineteen knots but that was several tons and numerous years before I became her “XO.”

She steamed like a champion for my tour. We deployed for seven and a half months just a month after I reported aboard. She was the first ship with women as part of the crew who spent extended periods out of port (Most before had transited from port to port and provided repair and maintenance services pier side or moored). She provided repair availabilities for destroyers and cruisers while anchored off Masirah, Oman, and she accomplished in four days what normally took two weeks back in the states. She did that for fifty-five days, took a break and then did it again for forty-five days. She had a crew of 900, including 106 women, and a wardroom of 44, six of whom were female, and gave me a completely different perspective of women at sea: the Captain said it best when he announced, “We don’t have women on this ship. We don’t have men on this ship. We have sailors on this ship and we are going to operate that way.”

She was given a letter of commendation for being a member of the Indian Ocean Battle Group, an unheard of honor for a repair ship.

She steamed as a member of the orange force in a Caribbean exercise, something tenders do not normally do.

She was in the middle of the eye of a developing hurricane, eventually escaping to the northeast before the winds and seas reached full hurricane strength.

She was proclaimed the best repair organization in the Atlantic Fleet.

Her crew was an amalgamation of old sailors, repair personnel who had seldom spent any time at sea, and young wide-eyed men and women, learning how to be sailors. The first lieutenant was the best boatswainmate I knew in twenty years, even though he had outgrown the title. The doc was so new he didn’t know how to salute or how to dress in Navy uniforms. He has become the godfather of my daughter and one of my closest friends. And there was this special woman, the operations officer, a lieutenant, who was one of the best officers with whom I served. And there were many others who had an impact on my life.

She was commissioned in 1944, the year I was born. She was decommissioned in 1994.

It is fitting that she went down the way she did. She spent her life supporting the fleet. She was sunk supporting the fleet, providing one last service.

And she and Davy Jones will sleep well together.

A Pocket of Resistance: Ghost Story

once upon a time, in a place far away, a time long ago,
us’n boys were old enough to drink beer
after obtaining it illegally from the store man way out in the country,
and
pee on the side of the roads with the cigarettes we couldn’t smoke at home
hanging out the sides of our mouths:
oh, we thought we were grown up
but
young enough to still believe in ghosts
or
at least some of us still believed,
and
there was a run-down log shack out on Hickory Ridge Road,
on the corner of a rock road they now call Crowell’s Lane
and
the baseball players were goofing around in a 1953 sludge green Studebaker,
when they decided to mess with George:
they told him the shack was haunted by the black man who died there

but they were young and in the South in 1959;
so it ain’t likely they said “black man”
but, as i recall we did use the proper term of “negro,”
not the now infamous slur

and
they dared George to go into the shack to check it out;
not knowing the plot, i felt sorry for George,
and
volunteered to go with him into the haunted shack,
so,
like the dunce that i am,
i asked him if he would like me to go with him;
somewhat frightened it seemed to me, he agreed
while my buddies urged me to let him go it alone;
i did not
and
when we crossed the threshold of the log hut,
the old Studebaker peeled out, gravel flying,
and
George and i were alone in the country, sitting on the threshold of a ghost shack:

a half century later, i do not recall the meat of our conversation,
but
i remember after the boys returned in an hour or so laughing as they picked us up
and
i realized George was a great guy
and
i learned more about him than i would have ever known
had i not joined him in the dare to enter
the ghost shack.

A Pocket of Resistance: my iPod

i love my iPod, and i haven’t event touched its potential. i’m getting close thanks to George Lederer (thanks, George).

Today, i didn’t work on getting all the playlists organized or recording some more of my LP’s. I had work to do. Maureen had yoga and a birthday brunch with some of her closest friends. So i went to get a few items from Home Depot and pick up something for Maureen from Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Now, i don’t know how your Sunday morning radio programming matches up, but in the Southwest corner, it stinks. i love fishing, but i don’t even understand why any fisherman would listen to someone talk about fishing for three hours (of course, i don’t understand how anyone would listen to any specialty talk show for more than five minutes). My other choices were church services or religious talk shows, which all sound too pious for me, or golf talking, or some ex-jocks telling me how much they know about all they don’t know.

There is some good programming on the FM side, but i just wasn’t in the mood.

So i hooked up my iPod and clicked to “shuffle.” i have 4700 tunes on my iPod.  This morning, i was amazed my “shuffle” seemed to hit my mood. But maybe, just maybe, i fit the iPod mood.

The playlist: Etta James “At Last;” Andrea Bocelli “Cieli de Toscana;” David Newman “Everything Must Change;” Bill Evans “Just You, Just Me;” Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong  “A Fine Romance;” Eliot Fisk, Vivaldi – “Mandolin Concerto in C;” John Lee Hooker “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer;” Nancy Wilson “At Long Last Love;” Charles Mingus “Portrait;” Frankie Vallie & the Four Seasons “Big Girls Don’t Cry;” Academy of St. Martin Orchestra, Mozart “Symphony No. 35; Academy of St. Martin Orchestra;” Percy Mayfield “Please Send Me Someone to Love.”

Damn near a perfect Sunday morning. i love my iPod.

i hope you had a good one as well.

 

A Pocket of Resistance: Fog

George and Sarah, i killed what remained of your Bulleit Rye, small batch, tonight. It was good, but not quite as good as Mr. Dickel’s, even his Old No 12 Sour Mash. Besides Mr. Bulleit and i have just been introduced. Old George Dickel and i go way, way back, and we have talked into the deep of many a night, as we have done tonight after my brief introduction to Mr. Bulleit.

Maureen has gone to bed. I should have. i must rise early for Friday morning golf. She does not have to rise until she is damn good and ready. i was closing up the evening, setting all for tomorrow, checking the last emails and Facebook postings, hoping to find i don’t know what when i realized i had started a poem this morning, which was incomplete. So George – Dickel that is – and i worked on it some more. Here it is, first draft, which is usually my last draft. One explanation: On old steam warships like destroyers, directly aft of the bridge was what then was called Combat Information Center, or “CIC.” It was all radar and plots in red light to not destroy “night vision” to provide the electronic picture of what was going on in actual combat or enhance the visual perception of the bridge watch during peacetime steaming, either reporting contacts showing on the radar long before they would be sighted visually, or assisting navigation during piloting coastal waters.

i consider myself a lucky man to have been at sea in the Navy before we became so sophisticated and electronic. It was a time, long gone, of a sense of self-reliance, where ship and mariners worked as one, a whole entity against the elements, especially in fog. i suspect i will make several revisions to this one. But George (Dickel), Mr. Bulleit, and i wanted to share it tonight.

fog

i arose this morning to grayness;
morning light was suffused into the grayness;
the street and driveway were gray;
the bright house paints were muted
by the cast of gray mist;
the hills, even the sky itself had vanished
in the thick gray of the fog.

at sea, fog would envelop me and my ship
as if it were a cold, cold blanket
intent on plunging inside and extracting life’s breath
from me and from my ship:
gray unto gray unto gray unto gray;
“set the low visibility watch”
and
two deck seamen fight through the darkness,
the gray darkness
to the bullnose on the forecastle
and
the stern chock on the fantail
to peer into that darkness
but
more importantly to listen, listen
for a sound, a fog horn
hopefully far away
detecting a direction:
unlikely expectations,
and
the conning officer on the bridge
just hopes there are no other lonely transits
on the open sea
or
at least spotted on the radar
in the red lit combat center aft of the bridge
to warn him of the impending danger
as the midwatch wears on into the dark night.

Yet, open ocean fog is a piece of cake
compared to entering port
in the murky mist of coastal fog,
and
the sea detail watch on the bridge
cannot see the bow, much less the channel buoys
and
the watch relies on combat again:
“radar holds us on track,
“twenty yards to right of mid-channel,
“nearest shoal water two hundred yards
“off the port beam,”
the sound-powered phone talker
repeats the words of the CIC watch officer
to the bridge watch
while the navigator stares at the chart
while his quartermasters plot the course
with their own radar repeater
confirming combat’s report
as the conn and the captain
peer into the gray nothingness
hoping to see some dark figure
that might be a building or landfall
from which they might see
through the gray fog
where they really are.

A Pocket of Resistance: The Night After

The birthday wishes, lots of them, are over. Sarah and George are in flight back to Austin. Maureen warmed a splendid ragu sauce and spaghetti dish we had with a salad and a nice merlot for dinner. Just the two of us. She is now listening to the news in the family room with the fire i built earlier dying down.

i may put on another log later and read a bit. There’s this Robert Penn Warren book,  A Place To Come To,  i want to finish. i started reading it about six months ago, and unlike most of Warren’s work, this one is hard for me to get into. Warren and Faulkner remain my two favorite novelists, and this novel is just a bit disappointing. But i find it difficult to not finish any book.

Tomorrow, i plan to start my year of seventy-two. Of course, there is a golf round involved. This one with one of my best friends, Pete Toennies, whom i’ve known since we were both on an Amphibious Squadron staff deployed to the Western Pacific in 1979-80. That deployment was one of the craziest and most rewarding in my span of nine long deployments.

There’s this bathroom wall i need to mend. i hope to repair at least one fault a week in our 26-year old house from here on out. Houses a quarter of a century old require attention, and i haven’t been very good at addressing aging problems, with the house or me.

It will probably take at least the rest of the month to work out our travel plans and budget for the year. This fixed income stuff is a little tiresome when it comes to our desires to see people and things. So we are going to be a little more proactive and plan ahead. Maureen is good at detailed planning and budgets. i’m not. i’m also, as Ricky Nelson sang, a “Travelin’ Man.” It is hard to get that out of my blood. i’ve seen enough places but there are others i would like to see with Maureen and return to my favorites. Now, i am more interested in seeing friends and family than places, but those friends and families are spread just about everywhere. So travel can accomplish both of my needs.

If it were just me, there would be constant travel, but there is this lady, you see, who likes to spend her evenings with me at this home with a fire in the fireplace with music playing while we read. And she likes to fix me breakfast and eat the same at our kitchen table every morning looking out the breakfast room window and hopefully catching sight of a humming bird. Strange, i think, in the quiet of this evening after the whirlwind weekend with Sarah and George, strange that i enjoy the evenings and the breakfasts and the fire and the humming birds and, most of all, being with her, probably more than she does. And all the while, i’m thinking of hitting the road to somewhere. Strange, indeed.

sam-space_gunAnd as this afternoon wound down, i received a wonderful phone call. Blythe, my daughter, wished me “happy birthday,” and then, Samuel James Jewell Gander, my grandson with the middle names honoring my father, pronounced, “It’s good you have lived so long,” (or something like that: Blythe, please correct because i think his actual pronouncement was funnier).

Here is Blythe’s correction on the Sam quote: “Hey, good job on staying alive for so long.” and i was right: it is funnier.

After  a brief conversation, i asked him how he was, and he replied, “Amazing.”

Made my day, and now, i will sleep well tonight.

Notes from the Southwest Corner: An Old Man’s Reflection

 

i am violating one of my rules to post this today. i normally wait a day to post my column from The Lebanon Democrat. But what the hey? i’m 72 by three hours and i want my friends to read this on my birthday. i will return to my normal column posting practice next week. i have received a grunch of well wishes, mostly on Facebook concerning this event. This morning, i vowed to respond to every one. But there are a lot of them, and i am old. So it will take a little time, a little time, but thanks in advance.

BONITA, Cal. – When you read this, I will have just turned 72.

Jim Jewell, outside of the Jewell residence on Castle Heights Avenue, Lebanon, Tennessee, 1948
Jim Jewell, outside of the Jewell residence on Castle Heights Avenue, Lebanon, Tennessee, 1948

Dr. Charles Lowe delivered me at 7:35 am, Wednesday, January 19, 1944, ably assisted by my grandmother, Katherine Webster Prichard at McFarland Hospital. I’m sure Estelle Jewell was glad to get rid of me, unaware of what she would have to put up with for the next 70 years.

My father for whom I was named was in the waiting room. The next day, he caught a train back to his 75th Construction Battalion in Gulfport, Miss.

I have thought about that day and this day, and what it means to me. I am not sure why 72 seems like such a significant age.

Turning 60, 65, and 70 didn’t bother me. Oh, I celebrated like everyone else on those significant milestones with black balloons and bad jokes, but my participation was to make my family and friends who were honoring me feel good about the celebration. I really wasn’t all that caught up in the symbolic meaning.

But why 72? Why does this year seem different, more significant, if you will?

Perhaps it’s because 1972 was a pivotal year in my life. Perhaps it is because part of that significant year was my first daughter, the beautiful and talented Blythe was born. Perhaps it was because my career intentions as a sports writer took a U-turn: I gave up my sports editorship of The Watertown (NY) Daily Times and rejoined the Navy with a four-month Mediterranean deployment at the end of the year.

My life had been altered dramatically.

Perhaps that is why “72” seems significant.

Regardless, I feel I have crossed a meaningful threshold today. Except for a number of minor maladies (which a generation ago would have probably killed me) and various aches and stiffness, I don’t feel old. But this weekend, I took my younger daughter Sarah to Disneyland for her adventure with five friends. I confessed to myself I was old.

After I returned from my chauffeur duties, I considered where I have been and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

Although I officially left Lebanon as my home almost a half-century ago, my hometown has been a major factor throughout my life, perhaps more so now than since I left in 1967 for Navy OCS. Lebanon, my family, and my friends have been a wonderful influence on me.

I realized I loved to write and have been doing so ever since Lindsey Donnell and Tom Harris hooked me on writing and J.B. Leftwich hooked me on sports journalism at Castle Heights. The Navy took me to places I would have never seen (even a few I would have cared not to see) and gave me a look at the world and people I would have never appreciated had I not spent about 15 years at sea.

I found websites providing facts about today. One stated my “Life Path” number was 11. I usually ignore such things like horoscopes, fortunetellers, etc., but one of my football jersey numbers was 11, so I read on. My number supposedly meant I possessed “intuition, idealism and invention,” and had “the potential to be a source of inspiration and illumination for people.”

I like that, but it is relatively unimportant when I am 72. The “illumination for people” part intrigues me. I have long thought the older crowd should be a source of information about the past. My mother and father provided me many tales of Lebanon and my family. Their stories enriched my understanding life and helped in my decision making.

Providing stories and observations from the Southwest corner is now my goal. I hope I can provide stories to help younger people make better decisions in their lives – not to emulate me for mine has been a bumpy ride, but what they can consider in determining their own paths.

Sometime today, I will remember a conversation I had with my father when he was 86 and on his last trip to the Southwest corner. We were on a task in the garage, when he stopped, looked at me and said, “Son, I’ve had a good life. I have a wonderful wife, good kids, and great grandkids. Now, I only want one thing: When I go, I want it to be quick.”

Celebrating my 72nd birthday, I completely understand what he meant.

 

A Pocket of Resistance: New Guinea Memory

In my continuing quest to not do anything productive after 3:00 p.m., i have spent most of my late afternoon and evening piddling around with a whole bunch of stuff, including shuffling my piles of things to do into new piles. While doing so, the below photo, included here before fell out of a pile.

papua_new_guinea-statue 3

It still makes me laugh and recalls a port visit filled with unique experiences. This was one of them.

In November 1969, i joined the staff of Commander, Amphibious Squadron Five in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. Most of the squadron ships went from there to Sydney and then through the Great Barrier Reef to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. On one day of liberty, several of the staff officers went out to artifacts shop, a large open-air building with an unimaginable amount of stuff from the natives.

Had i a brain, i would have bought everything i could carry back to the ship. All of it was at bargain prices. i could have made a bit hit financially selling it back in the states. But, of course, i didn’t want to fool with it. So i bought a wooden carving, a rather grotesque face carved into a shield shaped three-foot board. The face had an oversized hook nose. The shop sales person informed me, it was used by natives to hang raw meat from the roof of their straw and mud hut to keep it away from animals before it was cooked.

After i was married to Maureen, she decided my treasure was ugly, scary, not politically correct, and several dozen other things to express her displeasure. After my arguments, aka pleadings, were summarily dismissed, i threw it out.

About six months ago, we went on one of our frequent visits to the Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park, one of favorites. One exhibit had wood carvings from Africa and Southeast Asia tribes, among others. There were a number of such works on exhibit with information attached including the estimated value. i pointed out to Maureen we could have displayed it in our home to show how connected we were with native artwork in many countries or we could have sold my hook-nosed buddy for about a thousand dollars.

She moaned and complained about me listening to hear and complying with her wishes to throw out the old hook nose.

As i roamed around the shop with Conrad Borman, the guy i was relieving as Current Operations Officer, i spotted the statue in the above photo. i gave him my camera and he took the shot. i could not resist placing my hand in a most inappropriate place.

i should have bought the statue instead of old hook nose. Maureen might have let me keep it but with no fondling allowed.

A Pocket of Resistance: Mount Miguel Morning

This morning as usual, i walked out to our driveway to retrieve the Sunday paper. Making the coffee and retrieving the paper while Maureen makes one of her wonderful (and healthy breakfasts, sometimes even including a sausage patty for me). Breakfast and newspaper reading has become our daily routine, interrupted only when i play early golf.

But when i looked up over my neighbor’s house across the street, Mount Miguel once again took my breath away. The photo below is not as clear as it could be because i took it quickly with my phone before the clouds rose or burned off. It doesn’t do the scene justice. Still, it is an awesome sight and encouraged me to post a poem that has been here before and included in my book: A Pocket of Resistance: Selected Poems.

mt_miguel-2

Mount Miguel February Sunrise

East north east of my front door,
Mount Miguel wore a shroud this morning;
Low clouds draped across her shoulders
below the peak at sunrise.

By circumstance, my front door faces east,
greeting the sun god
like the Navajo’s hogan door has done for centuries
over in Four Corners, a mountain or so
east of here.

Man’s antennae now reach skyward
on Mount Miguel’s peak,
silhouetted black against the rising orange orb,
before it slings white hot heat and light low to the south,
moving through the day,
bowing to the Baja lands of Mexico,
as it is wont to do in the winter months
here in the high desert.

The instruments of new fangled transmission look foreboding:
Spanish castle towers of the inquisition;
I wonder if the Kumayai once sat atop,
above the cloud shroud,
lifting their own clouds of smoke,
transmitting their own news of the day.

The city folks implanted here
tend to forget what this land beneath them was;
really is.
We have learned to just add water
to get paradise,
now overrun with those that forget
to look East at the sunrise
silhouettes of the ghost talkers.

A Pocket of Resistance: Captain J.C. Hayes

 

 

jc_hayesCaptain J. C. Hayes is someone i will never forget.

I met Captain Hayes in August 1980.

I had been high-lined from the USS Cayuga to the USS Belleau Wood as Amphibious Squadron Five was en route to Vancouver Island, British Columbia. I had been serving as executive officer of the Cayuga for two months due to the standing XO having a breakdown (another story). When the new XO arrived, i returned to my job as the staff’s current operations officer (by high-line).

Captain Hayes had just relieved as commanding officer, and was senior to our commodore, Captain Jim McIntyre, an E2 pilot who preferred to be known by his aviation handle of “Silver Fox.” This seniority business made things, i later found out, a bit awkward.

After the high-line and settling back into my quarters, i made my official visit to the ship’s commanding officer, Captain Hayes, in the late afternoon. He was a big man. We hit it off. The captain was from Easley, South Carolina, which made it easier. I enjoyed our visit and decided i liked him. The surface line officers stuck together in the amphibious environment where many senior aviation officers went to get their major sea command tours for furthering their careers.

I later was told in World War II, Captain Hayes had been a coxswain of an LCM3 (5 generations earlier of the landing craft LCM8, which were the state of the art during my service). His ship was involved in the invasion of Okinawa. Captain Hayes, then a third or second-class boatswainmate, took supplies into shore after the beach head had been established. As the story goes, when he returned from his run, he could not locate his ship: Japanese gunnery or a Zero fighter had sunk it.

He also was in a underwater demolition unit (the origination of Navy SEALs) in the Pacific, was awarded a masters degree in nuclear physics from the Navy Postgraduate School in Monterrey, California, and was in Admiral Byrd’s command in the admiral’s last exploration of Antarctica.

He was legendary among surface sailors and had been known to go out on a bridge wing and cuss out the line handlers on the forecastle several hundred feet away. And they heard every word. He was an old school surface mariner, my kind of Naval officer.

After getting back on the Belleau Wood for the next couple of days, i was deeply involved with catching up on my duties. I had been on Cayuga for over two months. I saw little of anyone except at the morning message meetings with the staff.

After we entered Puget Sound and set sea detail for going into Esquimalt, the Canadian navy base, the staff assembled on the flag bridge directly below the ship’s bridge. As the Belleau Wood closed to the harbor entrance, we received an intercom message from the ship’s bridge. The boatswainmate of the watch told us the port master wanted to talk to the commodore on the bridge-to-bridge UHF radio, which was not on the flag bridge.

The Commodore was loath to leave his post and directed me to go up to the ship’s bridge and talk with the port personnel.

I climbed the ladder to the bridge, feeling a bit awkward. The port should be talking to the captain of the ship, not the commodore, and there was this aviation-surface tension, not to mention the reverse seniority awkwardness. As i arrived, Captain Hayes in his gravely booming voice directed his junior officer to give me the microphone to the bridge-to-bridge radio.

The port officer pointed out crosswinds had picked up significantly, the harbor entrance was narrow, especially for a ship such as a helicopter carrier, and the tight berth would be difficult for ship of such size with the wind to moor without some damage. He then asked if the commodore would agree to going to anchorage, a mile-long liberty boat transit for the liberty party.

Feeling proud of myself for my tact, i pointed out to the port officer the commodore was not in charge of the ship, but i would ask the commanding officer, Captain Hayes, what he thought was best.

“Thanks, Lieutenant Commander,” Hayes began, “Tell them i won’t enter the harbor and will go to the assigned anchorage.”

“Aye, sir,” i replied. Then hitting the transmit button on the bridge-to-bridge, i told the port officer, “Captain Hayes said he can’t get the ship to that berth in these conditions and will take the ship to the anchorage.”

Then i heard Captain Hayes in full force:

“GODDAMMIT BOY, I DIDN’T SAY I COULDN’T GO TO THAT BERTH, I SAID, I WOULDN’T!”

“Yes, sir,” i replied meekly. “I apologize,” quickly retreating down the ladder.

The ship went to anchorage. I went on liberty, caught a hydrofoil to Seattle, rented a car and picked up Blythe, my ten-year old daughter at the airport. She and i spent a day in Seattle, rode the hydrofoil back to Victoria, stayed in the Empress Hotel, one of my all time favorite places, took a ferry to Orcas Island where we stayed with my long-time college friend Cy Fraser, spending the night in sleeping bags on the small patio of his log cabin to wake up and watch the deer grazing between us and the rocky beach of Puget Sound about thirty feet away.

Blythe and i went back to Seattle where i put her on a plane back to Austin. It was one of the nicest weeks i have ever experienced, all because i was with Blythe.

And to this day, i feel a kinship and understanding with J.C. Hayes. He taught me the difference between “can’t” and “won’t.”

Captain Hayes retired in 1983 after 40 years of active duty. He returned to his home in South Carolina where he passed away last year.

Sleep well, you wonderful mariner.

 

A Pocket of Resistance: A Joke

Norm O’Neal, who was on my first ship, the U.S.S. Hawkins (DD 873), in 1968 -69, and i reconnected through Allen Ernst who was the Leading Petty Officer of the sonar gang in 3rd Division of which i was division officer. Allen passed away a couple of years ago, but Norm and i have maintained contact along with several other sailors on the “Hawk.” Unfortunately, i have not been able to meet with them at several get-togethers/reunions. Norm is a great joke teller and frequently emails them to me, a highlight of my day.

His latest just came in this afternoon, and it is just too funny not to share:

A Priest was leaving his mission in the jungle where he had spent years civilizing a tribe of natives, when he realizes that the one thing he never taught them was how to speak English.

So he takes the chief for a walk in the jungle.

He points to a tree and says to the chief, “This is a tree.” 

The chief looks at the tree and grunts,  “Tree.” 

The Priest is pleased with the response.
They walk a little further and he points to a rock and says, “This is a rock.” 

Hearing this, the chief looks and grunts, “Rock.” 

The Priest was getting enthusiastic about the results when he hears a rustling in the bushes.  As they peek over the top, he sees a couple of natives in the midst of very heavy sexual activity. 

The Priest is really flustered and quickly responds, “Man riding a bike.” 

The chief looks at the couple briefly, pulls out his blowgun and kills them both.

The Priest goes ballistic and yells at the chief, telling him that he has spent years teaching the tribe how to be civilized and to be kind to each other and now, how could you just kill these people in cold blood? 

The chief replied: “My bike.”