Tonight, i watched Vanderbilt lose a close game to Kansas in the Maui Invitational championship game.
i was disappointed but looking forward to the Commodores having a big year.
Vanderbilt basketball holds a special place for me in sports. I was a cub sports reporter for the Nashville Banner when the team won the SEC and should have made the final four except for a very bad call in the closing minutes of their Mid-East regional finals loss to Michigan. Having been a Vandy student for two years, i knew most of the players as good friends, and they asked me to hang around for several events. Admittedly, i am a irrational fan of the team, then and now. I think it’s the only team sport where i truly am an irrational fan. After all, i was a sports writer, and objectivity is a passion of mine.
Now, it is late.
Maureen went to bed to read and is now asleep. I have locked the garage and turned off the outside lights. The full moon was slithering its whiteness through the growing clouds as i locked the garage.
The smoker is set to go. The turkey is marinating. The hickory chips are soaking. The lump charcoal is at the ready.
And for a moment, reality has hit home.
i decided instead of immediately going to bed, i would have one of my discussions with Mr. George Dickel, a long time friend of mine. i poured a jigger into a small glass and sat down at this infernal computer trying to think of something to do that would take my mind off that reality.
Tomorrow will be good. Patsy, Maureen’s sister; and Bill and Laura Boase, Patsy’s son and daughter-in-law (and our nephew and niece-in-law (?)) will join us for the occasion. They are fun to be around.
But the reality is my family, except for Maureen, will not be with me. i should be fine with that. After all, my first Thanksgiving away from my family was in 1967. I was at Navy OCS in Newport, Rhode Island. There have been many more of what i call the family holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, where i have not been with my family, or they have not been with me. i should be inured to the absence. After all, i was in the Navy.
My daughters, grandson, and son-in-law will be giving thanks and eating turkey in Austin. It was rare for me to spend Thanksgiving with my parents in Lebanon after the 1967 departure to OCS. But i could have been with them up until Thanksgiving 2013. My father has missed the last two Thanksgivings here on earth. My mother was not with us last year.
So with the lone office light and the computer screen glaring in the dark of night, George and i talked about who i am where i am. We decided i’m fine. i’ve had my moment of drear. George told me to forget it and move on.
And tomorrow, i will give thanks for who i am, where i am, what i have, what my Blythe and Sarah have, and what Blythe’s husband and my grandson Sam have; for how many family and friends i have; and for being so damn fortunate to be spending Thanksgiving with my wife. We’ve only missed one together (our first one in 1983 when i was deployed on USS Yosemite for Thanksgiving and Christmas).
There are four reasons i don’t have a dog. The first reason is i have had to put two down, and i don’t plan to have another until i am absolutely sure i will go first.
The second reason is related to the first as i do not want the burden of trying to take care of a dog while Maureen and i are traveling quite a bit.
The third reason is i am not sure i want another dog unless i can be sure the last one will be exactly like my middle one. My first (and my ex-wife’s as we got her for our wedding present to each other; but she recognized the bond and allowed me to keep the dog) was an Old English Sheepdog we named “Lady Snooks of Joy” paying homage to her ancestry and my Uncle Snooks Hall. i loved Snooks, even loved the 45-minutes of daily combing to which i adhered most of the time. i have numerous fond memories of her exploits. The last dog Maureen and i had, Lena, was a wonderful dog who did a lot of amazing things. Her affection for us was unbounded and the affection was returned.
Then there was Cass. Cass was my dog.
He was named for Ike McCaslin, the protagonist in William Faulkner’s “The Bear.” It turned out he reminded me of “Lion,” the dog in the story, the bear, and Ike himself.
Cass was a Labrador. Technically, he was a yellow lab, but his coat was golden in color.
Cass was an independent cuss who, for all practical purposes, flunked two obedience classes, the basic in Florida, and the advanced in El Cajon. He loved children anywhere, anytime. He loved people in general, and i don’t recall any incident of him even growling at a person.
Cass would take on any other dogs if they stumbled into his territory, which included two dobermans at one time, and a 125# German Shepard. He bowled over o’possums. He played with coyotes. He chased roadrunners, and damn near broke my arm almost catching one on a trail just east of our old home. He body surfed on Coronado’s dog beach (and would gather an audience from 50 to 100 beachgoers to watch).
Cass would run away at any opportunity. Boy, would he run away. But i would know he was running down the canyon and through a neighborhood at the bottom of the hill to an open space. i would get in my “family truckster” (as my older daughter labeled my mini-van), drive the two miles to the open space, and open the door. Cass would jump in, his tongue and tail wagging, and ride happily in the shotgun seat back to the house.
i don’t think there will ever be one like him for me. Hence, i am reluctant to get another.
The fourth reason is also due to Cass. He did not eat a turkey, but once, he did clean two marinated pork chops off the kitchen counter as i was preparing the grill for cooking. And when i smoked my first turkey with Maureen, i did use the bucket, normally his water dish, for marinating the turkey.
So Cass was the inspiration for the dog in this recipe. And as long as i am smoking turkeys for Thanksgiving, i don’t wish to have to use the dog’s water dish.
This recipe has been published several times. i am thinking of republishing it every Thanksgiving as JB Leftwich published a recipe of his mother’s (i think) for a Christmas column (i think) every year. – Okay, one of you Leftwich’s, keep me straight on this. So i am starting my tradition in honor of Coach, and, of course, Cass.
This particular version was a column for The Lebanon Democrat:
Notes from the Southwest Corner: Thanksgiving Apologies to the Barefoot Contessa
SAN DIEGO—Holidays, except for the weather, are pretty much the same for me out here in the southwest corner or back in Tennessee. To start, no one will let me smoke the turkey.
When I was growing up in Lebanon, and every time I return there for a holiday, my mother cooks the turkey. When there are only a few of us there, she makes a chicken taste like a turkey. She roasts the turkey, or the chicken, in the oven, and it comes complete with dressing and gravy. When we have a holiday out here, my wife cooks the turkey the same way my mother cooks the turkey. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, I volunteer to cook the turkey. Every year, whether in Tennessee or out here in the Southwest corner, whoever is in charge of turkeys says no. They profess to love the turkey the way I fix it, but they say another time would be better. They say they want a traditional turkey.
I picked up turkey cooking while I was spending some considerable time about two-thirds of the way between here in the southwest corner and Tennessee. The Colonel, grandfather of my older daughter, lived up in Paris, Texas, and he fed me my first smoked turkey. I loved it. Since then, I have modified his recipe somewhat and do cook one fine smoked turkey. Since I can’t have it out here or in Tennessee, I thought someone with fewer traditionalists in their immediate family might like to have the recipe to try for the holidays.
Smoking a Turkey
A turkey. This is fairly important to the success of the whole affair. Pick a good one. The critical part is to make sure it will fit in the smoker
1 container large enough to hold the turkey and cover it with the magic elixir. I’ve been known to use a plastic bucket, but sometimes the dog gets upset as we normally use it for his water dish. This is okay as long as we stay out of biting reach of the dog for two or three days.
1 smoker, probably any kind that claims to be a smoker and any number of possible jury rigs would work; however, if I were using a “Weber” or like vessel, I would make sure that there was extra water in the smoker).
1 bottle of beer. Beer in longnecks is preferable but one should not become too concerned about the type of beer as “Lone Star” is a bit too elegant for this type of cooking. Besides, we wouldn’t want to waste a beer worth drinking on some dumb turkey. If one is desperate and doesn’t mind subjecting oneself to abject humiliation, it is permissible to stoop to using a can of beer.
1\2 cup of Madeira. Again, I wouldn’t be overly concerned about the quality of the wine, and in truth, any red wine is probably okay. However, I would stay away from “Night Train” wine as it has been known to eat through barbeque grills, smokers, and anything made of material weaker than that used in hulls of nuclear submarines. But it is cheap.
Undoubtedly, there are numerous items that I have forgotten to list here, but that’s okay as it really depends on what your individual taste is — I don’t suggest substituting low fat milk for the beer, but most everything else is probably okay — and if it’s really important, I’ll realize I left it out when I get to the narrative of how to use all this stuff and include the forgotten ingredient there.
Thaw the turkey. Take all those weird things that they put in those plastic packages inside the turkey and cook them in a skillet without the plastic packages, turning them frequently. Then feed what you just cooked to the dog. It might placate him enough to keep him from biting you for taking away his water bucket. If there are traditionalists in the bunch, give the stuff to them rather than the dog and let them make gravy.
Put the turkey in large container. Pour beer and Madeira over turkey. If you have not allowed about 24 hours for the turkey to thaw or about 8-12 hours for marinating the turkey, call your invited guests and advise them that the celebration will be about two days later than indicated on the original invitation.
Sprinkle other ingredients over the turkey. Be plentiful. It’s almost impossible to get too much.
Crunch the garlic cloves I didn’t mention in the ingredients and add to the container. I normally use about four normal sized cloves for a normal sized turkey. Also add the previously omitted bay leaves, about 6-8 for that same normal sized bird.
Add enough water to cover the turkey although it probably wouldn’t be a disaster if a leg partially stuck out. Then put the container in a safe place, unless of course, you want the dog to be rapturously happy and not bite you until long after his teeth have fallen out.
Allow to sit undisturbed for 6-10 hours (longer is better and ten hours is not necessarily the upper limit but exceeding ten hours may have some impact on when you either eat or get tired of the turkey taking up all that safe space).
Put the turkey on smoker grill above water pan after lighting the charcoal (one or two coals burning well is the best condition for the charcoal) and placing soaked hickory chips, which I also forgot to mention, earlier on the charcoal — again, be plentiful — after soaking the chips for at least 30 minutes. Pour remaining magic elixir over the turkey into the water pan. Add as much water to the water pan as possible without overflowing and putting out the fire below. Cover. Do not touch. Do not look. Do not peek…unless it doesn’t start to smoke in about thirty minutes. Then peek. If it’s smoking, leave alone for at least six hours for a large normal sized turkey. It is almost impossible to overcook if you have added enough water at the outset. You should check and add water or charcoal throughout the process. I have found that mesquite charcoal is the best, as it burns hotter. Regular charcoal will do fine but will require more checking.
The secret to the whole process is to cook extremely slow, as slow as possible and still start the fire.
Serve turkey, preferably without the garlic cloves or bay leaves. Now is the time for “Night Train” wine or the good beer. Serve “Night Train” very cold as indicated on the label.
The turkey’s also good cold.
Shoot the dog.
i was kidding about the last paragraph. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving…and give thanks for what we have.
We called her Judy. i never learned her real Japanese name. She was one of a bevy of beautiful and bright young women who worked in the Stand Bar Butterfly in Sasebo, Japan, when i was spending about six days out of every twenty-two as the Military Sealift Command (nee Military Sea Transport Command) replenished our transport ship, USNS Geiger (T-AP 197) and later the USNS Upshur (T-AP 198).
Now before i go any further, Judy and the Stand Bar Butterfly were not what you might be imagining now. The bar, which also served appetizers, was far from the red-light, Fiddler-Green craziness of sailor town, a red light district of more than 250 bars (i know because Miles Humphrey and i counted them, but that is another story). It was in downtown Sasebo; a “stand bar” was a legitimate bar and not a front for anything else, and the women who worked there were on the up and up. They were bartenders.
My fellow officers of MSTS Transport Unit One took me there my first night after reporting for duty. We had been out carousing and drinking at the “Town Club,” the Navy’s officer’s club, which had been the headquarters of Admiral Yamamoto when he planned the attack on Pearl Harbor. As we grabbed a cab for downtown, the CO, Hank Fendt informed me the Bar Butterfly was like a base of operations for the unit officers, which were the CO; me, the XO; two doctors; and a chaplain.
The bar was located amidst office buildings with a movie theater nearby. It was a narrow room with about 20 seats at the bar. There was not enough room for any tables.
Usually, there were four to five bartenders, all female, working the bar. It opened around noon and stayed open until at least three a.m. every day. On the very first night, i fell in love with Kazyko. Kazyko is altogether another story. Below, i have included a poem about her and Maureen, but let’s return to Judy.
When my rejection from Kazyko ensued, Judy and i became fast friends. i think she wanted me to feel better about what happened with her friend Kazyko. As i had done with Kazyko, i would shut down the town and end up at the Stand Bar Butterfly until it closed at some indeterminate time around three or four in the morning. Judy and i would get a bite to eat, talk, and often we would take a taxi to her small home on a hill over looking the Naval base. We were friends, and although i would often hold her in my arms, it was as a thankful friend only. Nothing else happened. After a couple of hours of sleep, i would walk back down the hill, about three miles, to the base and my ship berthed at an installation outside the naval base proper. i remember the early morning sunrise, the beauty of the land, spoiled only by the strong aroma of the benjo ditches.
Five years later, i went back to Sasebo. Stand Bar Butterfly had moved and downsized. Only one of the young women worked the bar when i found it. She told me Kazyko and Judy had both married U.S. Naval officers and moved to the U.S.
Sometimes i miss Judy and the Stand Bar Butterfly.
Kazyko and the night rain
Before i lost her –
well deserved, i might add –
Kazyko and i walked in the night rain.
She was tiny,
a sense of humor, loving american jazz
sometimes a flash of brilliant anger.
i could understand the latter:
her parents died in Nagasaki
from that bomb
while she visited an aunt
outside of Sasebo
where she lived when i met her
visited, feeling out of place,
too large for the propane heated
small house on the hill
for dinner of
ramen and sushi
with Kazyko and her aunt.
Kazyko worked at a stand bar,
but in downtown Sasebo
in the business district,
not in the red lights of
bawdy sailor town.
She didn’t fool around,
we went to movies
early morning, 3:00 a.m. dinners
in small, only Japanese diners,
quiet, away from the clamor,
once we walked in the rain,
the night rain in the city of Sasebo:
her gleaming black hair,
bobbed at her shoulder,
clung to her skull,
revealing the delicate neck,
considered erotic by the Japanese,
i was taken
i lost her.
the love of my life
is similar to Kazyko,
although there was no
intent to reincarnate
my beautiful Japanese experience
when i met this lifetime dedication:
she too is exquisite, fine,
once she had her hair bobbed,
we swam together in the ocean
her hair clung to her skull,
revealing her delicate neck,
considered erotic by the Japanese,
i was taken
for my lifetime,
i am writing a personal account of my life for my grandson, Samuel James Jewell Gander (his two middle names honor my father, not me). Both of my grandfathers died before i was born, and i have always regretted not having a chance to know them. Since Sam is in Texas and i am in the Southwest Corner, our time together is extremely limited, and i wanted to give him some idea of who i am/was and how i thought about things. i’ve always wondered what my grandfathers thought about life.
i have written about half a dozen chapters and sent them to Sam as they were completed. i suspect he is not too terribly interested about who the hell i am at this stage of life, but i wanted him to have it for later years when he might be curious about such things. There are still some things about my father i do not know and wish i had asked while we were together.
So when i started organizing my cache of old photos and ran across my football photos, i skipped few years and wrote the below. It will be a later chapter in Sam’s book, but i wanted to share with all of you now.
American football at any level today is not football i remember while growing up. i shall not comment on what football has become, at least not here. i prefer to think about my football.
i loved football. My uncle Snooks Hall gave me a football for my second Christmas and i had one with me pretty much all of the time until i finished my last season at Castle Heights in 1961. Even afterward, i sought out pickup games and played some version until around 1973 when Earl Major and i played with a group of junior Navy officers on the lawn of the Worcester Sauce baron’s palatial estate at the beginning of Newport, Rhode Island’s 10-mile drive of mansions (Earl and three other officers attending Destroyer School (as was i) lived in the huge apartment which had previously been the dining room, kitchen, and adjacent rooms of the mansion.
i loved baseball and basketball and not many other sports even existed in my mind, but i loved football. i dreamed of being a college star running back and defensive back and idolized almost every running back that came across my attention span. But mostly, i wanted to be like Clifton Tribble, Lebanon’s star fullback when my father first started taking me to Friday night games. i continued my dream into the pro ranks. i wanted to play football forever.
i played organized football exactly six years.
At Lebanon Junior High, i was introduced to the realities of the sport. Surprisingly, i loved the practices in unmitigated August heat and humidity on the hard, crusty earth most frequently used as the Highland Heights recess playground. i watched and supported the eighth grade starters as they ran through an undefeated season.
The next year, was my best year, as far as playing in games. i was the fullback on the 1957 squad. My position nearly became a lineman as the weight limit for backs in our junior high league was 125. At five-six, i weighed in at 124 liberal pounds, sometimes creeping up to 126 without telling anyone.
i scored one touchdown on a punt return. i think i’ve mentioned before my father was in Atlanta on a business trip for Pontiac and did not see it. It is the only touchdown i ever scored.
Our team in my eighth grade year lost one game. i was devastated. i did not think that was supposed to happen.
When my parents told me i would go to Castle Heights for high school, i resisted. All i wanted to do was to be a Blue Devil football player with my friends at junior high and be the second coming of Clifton Tribble, who by that time was the coach. Parents won.
At Heights in my freshman year, we played hard, and even now, i think we had a pretty good team but ended up 1-2-1.
The next season i went out for the varsity. i never even considered i might not make the team. But when everyone else began their growth spurts, i stopped. That sophomore season, i remained five-six and weighed 128. i was on the “T” squad who scrimmaged the first string. We ran the single wing, and the subs job was to give the first stringers, primarily post-graduates en route to college careers, a look at what they would face during the Saturday games. In our single wing, i was designated blocking back. The position and i never really became friends.
On defense, i excelled, at least as much as a tiny linebacker could excel against older and much bigger first stringers. i was the only sub who could consistently tackle our incredible fullback Snookie Hughes. Snookie, from Carthage, was about five-ten and weighed about 195, all muscle. He was redheaded with a cheek scar from a youthful run-in with a barbed wire fence and a smaller forehead scar he received when another baseball player let go of his bat, which caught Snookie in the on-deck circle. When Snookie got hot, his face turned red and those scars turned lightning bolt white. He would run lowered to about waist high. He looked like a locomotive coming through the line with the ball. But i was small enough i could get under his helmet and torso and hit him around the ankles.
It impressed the coaches so much i made the traveling squad on our first road trip, a doozy to Marion Institute, which is about 80 miles south of Montgomery, Alabama. i was the only sophomore to make that trip and made all of the rest of them through my four varsity years. The team had a 3-5-1 record. The Marion junior college team beat us, 28-7. It was a really physical game, and they were big. The coaches had me enter the game in the fourth quarter. Crazily, i was a linebacker. We were typically in a 6-2 defense, occasionally 5-4, and if we sniffed a run coming, we would go into a 7-1.
When the Marion quarterback saw this little goofy kid at linebacker, he called an audible. The tight end who went to Alabama the next year and reputedly made All-SEC, was 6-4 and weighed about 220. He cut across the middle. It was my job to defense against him. i could not get around him to knock down the pass. After he caught it, he pushed a stiff arm at me. Unable to do anything else, i grabbed his arm. He slung me across the field like a rag doll. i slid through the sandy red clay field for about ten yards. It felt like thirty. There was little grass. Thinking it was macho, i had rolled up the sleeves of my maroon and gold jersey before the game. When i got up from the fling, both of my arms were raw red skin from the slide. i never wore my sleeves up again.
My junior season was pretty much the same as my sophomore year. i had settled in to the defensive roll and really don’t recall playing any offensive except in practice. i was also the second team punter. We finished the season 4-4-1. My highlight was at Baylor. They beat us, 22-0. the loss was our eighteenth straight at the hands of the Chattanooga school. My Aunt Evelyn and Uncle Pipey Orr arrived at half-time to see their nephew in uniform. Coach Stroud Gwynn put me in shortly into the third quarter. i never knew if they thought it was time for a substitution, or if coaches Jimmy, Allen, Frank North, or David Robinson had realized i had relatives there.
As i went in, there was some confusion, and we were directed into a 7-1 defense. Johnny Hagewood, another junior and significantly larger than me, and i tried to determine who would be in the line and who would be linebacker. With Baylor breaking the huddle, there was no time for discussion. i lined up next to the nose tackle. i was splitting the gap between a 245-pound guard and a 255-pound tackle, both of whom made all-conference and both garnered football scholarships to Georgia Tech the next year.
Once again, a fairly bright quarterback noticed the pipsqueak on the line to his immediate right and called an audible. Being fairly bright myself, i understood they were going to run right at the smallest player on the field and quite possibly the smallest defensive guard in the history of the game. Realizing i was about to be creamed, i launched a pre-emptive strike for self-preservation. i dove low in what what we call “submarine.”
For a reason i do not understand ’til this day, the behemoth guard and tackle double-teamed me. One of them could have easily wiped me out. Why both? With my submarine move, they ended up squarely on top of me, 500 pounds of mass. My face, my entire body was in the dirt as i lay spread eagled under the load. My arms from the forearm out were the only parts of my body visible. i started waving my hands in desperation, hoping the big boys would take pity and let me up.
The halfback cut through the hole in what a play-by-play guy would have described as “big enough to drive a truck through.” As he cut, his left foot caught my frantically waving left hand. He went down with a thud. No gain.
The coaches took me out, quite possibly having some concern about whether i was a walking dead person. i was the hero. Teammates were pounding me on the back, yelling and laughing hysterically. My aunt and uncle were on the sideline behind our bench cheering for my derring-do. It was a perfect irony.
My senior year, i remained five-six and had gained weight, topping out at 145 pounds. My offensive contributions stopped completely. i entered the season alternating at linebacker with Harper Ruff, a 5-10, 190-pound post graduate who played fullback on offense.
Castle Heights and Lebanon High School, had an unheard of pre-season scrimmage at what is now Stroud Gwynn Field on the Castle Heights campus. It was pure smack-mouth football. A number of Castle Heights post-graduates had played for Lebanon the previous year. i remember feeling like i had just got the hell beat out of me. David Grandstaff, the Blue Devil quarterback and punter extraordinaire, told me forty-five years later, it was the toughest game they played all season. Lebanon went through the season undefeated. Heights won the mythical Mid-South Conference championship for prep schools with a 6-2 record.
We lost our first two games, the second, 19-0, to Tennessee Military Institute in Sweetwater, a team we should have beaten handily.
i think it may have been a letdown after the loss to Ferrum Junior College, 6-0, on our home field the previous week. Ferrum was the number four ranked junior college in the country. The Virginia team’s starting line up had only one player, a halfback at 185, under 225 pounds. The quarterback weighed 225. Every other starter was bigger. Harper and i were alternating on each defensive series when Harper suffered a knee-injury on a fullback run midway through the first quarter. Coach Gwynn sent me in when we went back to defense with the admonition, “We’re depending on you, Jimmy.”
To this day, i’m not quite sure how it happened, but i had my day in the sun (it was a night game, but the sun was shining on me). i suspect a great deal of what happened was the huge Ferrum players either couldn’t see me because of my size or they simply ignored me, treating me like a gnat.
Regardless, i had a total of sixteen tackles for the rest of the game, about half of which were solo tackles. It seemed like no one blocked me. The one tackle i clearly remember was on a sweep when the 185-pound small halfback turned up field, and i hit him about five yards behind the line of scrimmage. It was a classic tackle. i caught his midsection with my right shoulder, picked him up and drove him into the ground.
It remains one of the sweetest feelings of success i have had.
The next Wednesday, i was rushing the punter in a scrimmage toward the end of practice. i dove in vain to block the punt. It just cleared my fingertips. i landed squarely on my left knee. It hurt but i got up and when the coaches asked me if i was all right, i said of course and went back into the scrimmage for the three of four remaining plays hurting like hell.
The next morning my knee was about the size of a basketball. i was on crutches for about a week and only played a couple of token plays against Maryville Junior College and the Lees-McRay College “B” team. Not being put in the Columbia win, the last game of the season still hurts me to think about. We won 20-7 on our home field in a game that included a bench-clearing brawl, which only lasted about thirty seconds. As i took my gear off in our locker room after the game, i broke down and cried, damn near uncontrollably.
After the season, Coach Gwynn sent the Ferrum game movie to Centre College in Kentucky. They were interested in my playing football. The school did not have athletic scholarships, but i was offered a $2000 academic scholarship with the intent for me to play football. It was where i really wanted to go, more for football than any other reason. When i was accepted for an NROTC scholarship to Vanderbilt, i could not turn down a full-ride to such a prestigious academic school, and my last opportunity to continue playing football faded.
The rest is history.
So this goofy guy played organized football for six years. i was knocked out three times, separated my shoulder, suffered knee ligament damage that almost kept me from being accepted to the NROTC program, and numerous other minor injuries. My ego would not let me admit my size would keep me from my dream of being a major college triple threat. In many aspects, i would have been much better off if i had not been so devoted to the sport and spent more time of activities that would have served to make me more academically qualified for college, like studying.
In today’s world, i don’t think i would recommend football as a pursuit for any youth. i’m am glad my grandson is not interested (and his mother would not let him play the sport even if he was interested).
But those six autumns were some of the happiest days of my life. i couldn’t wait for classes to end so i could get to the practice field and knock heads. i loved the physical aspects of the sport. When i suited up in our game day uniforms, i felt like i was walking on air, that i could rule the world.
Undoubtedly, football was a major influence on how i ended up where i am today, both good and bad.
For those of you who may not have ever met a coot – and no one i know has ever met just one coot – he, she, or they are not very productive members of our society. For golfers, especially golf course greens keepers, coots are an anathema. They flock to water hazards, destroy the fairways, and drop their rather disgusting green droppings on the greens.
To the point, they are pretty much worthless contributors to the food chain, and, unless you are a very hungry coyote, damn near worthless.
Today, while playing golf on my favorite golf course of all time, Sea ‘n Air, on the Naval Air Station, North Island, i thought of a win, win, win, maybe even another win situation.
I suggested to my golfing buddies we should create a business. We could offer to train 50 terrorists in killing skills. At the same time, we could contract with all of the San Diego County golf courses, which nearly all have a major problem with coots and contract to get rid of the problem.
When the terrorists arrive, we could arm them, provide some training and have them hone their skills by killing all of the coots. Then we could have security forces kill all of the terrorists.
The world would be rid of 50 terrorists. San Diego golf courses would be rid of the coots (for a while). PETA would be please we killed the terrorists who killed the coots. And our business would have profited about five million dollars.
My golfing friends were not optimistic, to say the least.
For the past two days, i have been considering writing my Democrat column for next Tuesday about Pattaya Beach, Thailand. It was a great liberty port with an interesting way to get to shore. I was even going to submit the column two to four days earlier, hopefully pleasing Editor Jared Felkins.
This evening, as i prepared to write and while copying a photo to run with the column, something was nagging me. So i did a search of back columns and found the one below i wrote in 2009. My old memory has some holes but occasionally nagging thoughts serve me well.
Since i can’t use this for The Democrat, i decided you might enjoy reading about our exploits in 1981. It is the cleaned up version.
SAN DIEGO – In the Southwest corner, there is some historic land bordering San Diego Bay.
“Historic” is in the eye of the beholder. Many consider this land historic because it was in several scenes in “Top Gun,” the Tom Cruise blockbuster.
An aside: my cousin Angelyn Jewell, was the inspiration for Kelly McGillis’ character. Angelyn, born to Wesley and Barbara Compton Jewell after they moved from Lebanon to Oroville, CA, received her doctorate in mathematics and flew in F-14s in her work on fire control radars for the Center for Naval Analyses. She and her husband, Scott Berg, now live and work in Washington, D.C.
But from 1923 to 1997, the 361 acres at the base of Point Loma was the Navy Training Center. The Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC) decreed its 1997 demise. Now it is called Liberty Station, a hodge podge of housing development, commercial areas, parks, and some Navy historic edifices.
The name could have been derived from “liberty” as in Patrick Henry’s quote, “Give me liberty or give me death!” in his speech to Virginia’s House of Burgesses in 1775.
But I don’t think so. To mariners, Navy “liberty” is getting off the ship in a port without taking leave. My most glorious adventures and craziest moments occurred during such liberty on deployments.
Reduced deployment time and the new Navy with ship crew swaps and heavy operating tempo in the Indian Ocean have greatly decreased port visits. With women now an integral part of Navy ship crews, the wild times of earlier liberty has been greatly tempered.
It ain’t what it used to be and that ain’t necessarily bad.
In my days, sailors would go to extremes to go on liberty and be extreme while there.
In 1981, I had one of my best years on liberty. I spent ten out of 12 months in the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean on the staff of Amphibious Squadron Five and later joining the U.S.S. Okinawa as Weapons Officer.
During that summer, the USS Belleau Wood, the squadron’s flag ship went to Pattaya Beach, Thailand. Originally, Pattaya Beach was a small fishing village at the southeastern side of the Bay of Bangkok.
In the 1960s in part due to the U.S. Air Force and the Vietnam conflict, it became a popular location for rest and relaxation (R&R) for U.S. military personnel. It is now a resort destination for that part of the world.
For a large Navy ship, there were some problems going to Pattaya Beach. Due to the shallow gradient, the USS Belleau Wood anchored five miles from the beach. Large pontoon boats loaded about fifty of the liberty party onto each boat and carried them to about a mile from shore.
The pontoon boats would lie to while “longtails” would come alongside for the passengers. The “longtails” were narrow, wooden canoe-like boats which could carry about 15 people. The boats got their name from the shaft of the outboard motor. The shafts were roughly twenty feet long, sticking out astern. This allowed the propellers to be in deep enough water to drive the boats as close to shore as possible before going aground.
With the shallow gradient, even this was not enough to get the “longtails” ashore at low tide, which of course was the condition when I went ashore. Passengers took off their shoes and socks, rolled up their pants to above their knees, stepped over the side and waded about 100 yards to the shore.
I felt like McArthur returning to the Philippines except for the numerous para-sailing tourists zooming over my head.
In 1981, Pattaya Beach surpassed even Subic Bay on Luzon in the Philippines for wild and wooly liberty. Yet it also had high end resort hotels and fine restaurants. Even though I was single, stories of the dangers kept me out of the bars and “off-limit” areas. I had some fine meals with fellow officers, enjoyed the scenery, and shopped for exquisite jewels at ridiculously low prices. I bought my mother a gift.
For a change, I was a good boy and did not cut a wide swath through Pattaya Beach liberty. However, many friends did, and the stories were astounding but too risqué to relate here.
But when I think of liberty, I think of Pattaya Beach, not a development in downtown San Diego.
To all of my well-intentioned friends, right or left to many different degrees:
We don’t have the answer. You don’t have the answer. The sweeping, all-inclusive approach to the terrible problem which confronts us is not the answer.
The answer is not simply love, empathy, and goodness, hoping it will spill over and inoculate the world. It certainly is not the grand sweep of labeling all groups not of your ilk or your upbringing as evil.
Regardless of where we/they come from, the religion to which they were exposed, their skin color, their education, their country, their financial situation, there are good people, bad people, and in-between people everywhere.
All i can say is if our response to such terrible tragedies as what occurred in Paris is based on hate and self-protection, or sympathizing with the misunderstood, we will not reach a satisfactory conclusion. We need to figure out the proper amount of support, sympathy, and appropriate use of force, including eliminating the guilty who wish to dominate, to move forward toward a better world.
Yet, the overriding feeling i have with all of the responses and comments about what has occurred is sadness: sadness that many of my friends have chosen hate and blind prejudice as their path. It will consume them, if it hasn’t already.
i hope you realize that hate and prejudice will only make matters worse.
Co-Captains Jimmy Gamble and the goofy guy who had about as much sense then as he has now with the Lebanon Junior High Colts Homecoming Queen, Jennifer Brewington, 1957. If i remember correctly, she wore his ring around her neck, not either of whom was me. We won.
he sang inka dinka do;
i thought inka dinka don’t
i was crazy about the old bald man
with the big nose and gravely voice
i laughed at his antics
thought his kicking the bucket
was the highlight of
mad, mad, mad world,
i always wanted to meet
wherever she was.
i think of this poem i wrote about eight years ago almost every morning i walk out to get the newspaper in the morning. i often stop and pause, looking at the mountain, a steep hill really, with the sun peeking over her apex, and i imagine this land, this high desert nestled by the Pacific when Richard Henry Dana entered the bay on the Boston brig Pilgrim in 1935, an area with a population of about 200.
Mount Miguel on a February Sunrise
East north east of my front door,
Mount Miguel wore a shroud this morning;
The low clouds draped across her shoulders
below the peak at sunrise.
By circumstance, the front door of my home faces east,
greeting the sun god
like the Navajo’s hogan door has done for centuries
over in the Four Corners a mountain or so
east of here.
Man’s antennae now reach skyward on Mount Miguel’s peak,
black in silhouette against the rising orange orb, which will later
sling its 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 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;
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.