All posts by Jim

Book Orders

To all of you who have or might order my book “Steel Decks and Glass Ceilings:” Several folks have informed me they have received notice from Amazon stating the delivery has been delayed and they need to respond by August 30 to ensure their order will be completed. There are a myriad of possible reasons for these delays. My earlier order for a number of books was delayed almost three weeks by UPS delivery problems. All i can advise is to send them notice you still want the book delivered.

A Magic Mist Over Orcas.

 No, not the whales, but the island named, not after the whales of which 71 reside nearby, but a Spaniard of old.

Francisco de Eliza was one of the Spanish explorers who ventured to the Pacific Northwest coast and named the Strait of Juan de Fuqua, the San Juan Islands, and some of the other islands of the archipelago. De Eliza named this particular island “Horcasitas” in the early 1700’s. This name was to honor his patron, the Viceroy of Mexico: Juan Vicente de Güemes Padilla Horcasitas y Aguayo, 2nd Count of Revillagigedo.

 Then one hundred years later or so, the Brits came into the area. Brits, being Brits and not in love their Spanish explorer competition, shortened the name to “Orcas” on their 1847 charts. The shorter version stuck.

The derivation of the island’s name is now mostly forgotten. The Orcas (the whale version) became associated with the island. Even that was misleading. Early whale hunters had named the large dolphins “asesnia de ballenas,” which means whale killer, but then an error occurred when the translators flipped the two words, resulting in “killer whales.”

 i will not go on a rant here about use and misinterpretation of words. After all, all of this above was just a sidebar to what i intended to write about here.

 You see, i was sitting on the porch up on a hill Wednesday morning, early as is my habit.

The porch looks south toward Shaw and Lopez Islands. The home is about a mile nor-nor-east from the ferry landing (the only way you can get to Orcas unless you wish to fly on a puddle jumper), and about 8½ miles from the village of East Sound.

One view from Cy’s porch

That is where i sat at 4:30 Wednesday morning.

Three white hulled sailboats glistened in the waters of Puget Sound, several miles away from the hill. Shaw Island and some smaller ones in the San Juan chain are beyond, lush green of pines and deciduous trees intermixed dominate. A mist wanders among the hills of the islands. The view is framed by similar pines and the tall broad leaf maples from the wrap around porch where i sit.

I frequently imagine getting away from it all…and i mean it all. My never-to-be imaginations mostly dream of an isolated cabin on Old Hickory Lake, which no longer exists, or 40 acres in remote Utah or Wyoming.

This Wednesday morning, however, i thought, “Cy figured it out fifty years ago.”

Cyril Vaughn Fraser, III, is one of my favorite folks of all time. We have been friends…no, more than friends, brothers for about ten years before that.

i don’t think i am special by the way. i don’t know of anyone who has met Cy who hasn’t immediately considered him one of their best friends.

Why?

Cy has always loved life. And, i think, life has loved Cy.

So, in a way, it is perfect Cy ended up on this hill overlooking paradise. Yeh, the winters are pretty bleak, not from, as you might expect, snow, but from the lack of sunshine from November until March.

No matter.

I am here. I am here with friends, brothers and by the connections, sisters. In what’s pretty close to heaven. Here are some photos we took during our stay.

But even those photos or what i have written here can capture the magic of the mist over Orcas. I think old de Eliza would approve.

Cy Fraser, Kathy Huberland, Goofy Guy, Maren Hicks, Alan Hicks, and Maureen Boggs Jewell at Mijitas, formerly Cy’s restaurant “Bilbo’s.”

And then, just like that, it was time to go. i’ll never get enough of Orcas Island, regardless of how it got its name.

We left in the mist, that magic mist of Orcas:

Leaving Orcas, almost the only way.
Magic Mist Over Orcas

Thirty-Nine

We keep working on it. Another big day. 39. We’ve been married 39 years today. Doesn’t seem like it. But we have settled in pretty well. Of course, it didn’t just start 39 years ago. It was over a year before. For me, the story never gets old.

It was early March 1982. i was the Weapons Officer of the USS Okinawa (LPH 3) homeported in San Diego. The Weapons Officer billet was titled “First Lieutenant” on other amphibious helicopter carriers. Regardless, it meant i was charge in pretty much everything not aviation, engineering, operations, or supply related.

One of those responsibilities was being in charge of the quarterdeck where all visitors entered the ship. From previous regimes, we had a large red torah that spanned the entrance into the helicopter deck below the flight deck. It was impressive, but Captain Dave Rogers called me to his cabin one afternoon. “Jim, I want our quarterdeck to be the best quarterdeck on the base. I want it to be the most impressive and known to be the best by everyone homeported here.”

I, of course, replied, “Aye, Aye, Sir!”

i discussed how we could make the quarterdeck renowned  across the waterfront with my division officers and Boatswain Warrant Officer 4 (CWO4) Ellis. The Bosun had a bit of a beer gut. He was married to a wonderful Filipino woman who macraméd  a lanyard for the boatswain pipe the bosun gave me. She was about 4’8″ and almost that wide. Great lady, just a bit wide.

We came up with the idea of a sitting area next to the quarterdeck. At the time, when guests or visitors came aboard, they had to wait for the watch to contact whomever they were there to see. That sailor or officer would have to come to the quarterdeck to escort the visitor. Often, the time it took to get to the quarterdeck was lengthy.

So we decided we could create a sitting area with panels, some chairs, maybe a sofa, and hang framed photographs about the Oki on the walls. That way, the visitor wouldn’t have to stand around in the working bay of the helicopter deck. Great idea.

We had to decide where and how to get panels. Since the Bosun and his first class were going to make a supply run Friday, the next day, i asked them to check out panels while they were on their run. Liberty call was early and the Bosun and his first class left around 1300. They were dressed in their standard liberty civies. The Bosun had on Levis with a blue tee shirt with his thick black hair combed back as much as it could to resemble a ducktail. His first class had on his biker’s jeans, white tee shirt with a leather jacket and a silver chain dangling down from the jeans. He had straw blond hair also combed back and the gap of a missing tooth was the final touch. They left for their mission.

i had a bunch of paperwork to work through and continued on after liberty call. The bosun came into the office with several boxes of toilet paper (i never understood why he didn’t get it through supply).

“i didn’t think you would be coming back to the ship, Bosun,” i remarked.

“Well, i didn’t want to keep this stuff at home over the weekend,” he replied.

“Did you find any panels?”

“Well sir, we went to Dixieline (a local lumber and home center). They didn’t have them, but they told us to go to Parron-Hall.”

“Parron-Hall?” i puzzled.

“Yes sir. They’re an office furniture place downtown across from the county admin building. We went there, but that place was way too classy for us. They had desks in the showroom worth more than my house.

“You are gonna have to go down there and see about them panels.”

“Aww, come on, Bosun, i have a lot on my plate.”

“No sir, you are gonna have to go down there. It’s on Ash Street.”

Then he added, ” You know sir, the woman who waited on us was really pretty. i noticed she didn’t have a ring on her finger. i’m pretty sure she’s single.

“And she’s way too skinny for me.”

Epilogue

Maureen, 1983

Midday on Monday, i drove down to Parron-Hall Office Materials. i asked the receptionist to see the person who had given her business card to Bosun. i stood at the entrance to the showroom. She came walking across with the sun shining in the window behind her (think Glenn Close in “The Natural,” only prettier). She claims i had my piss cutter on my head. That, of course, is not correct: i am a country boy from Lebanon, Tennessee raised correctly by my parents, Army ROTC at Castle Heights, a Naval career and, by the way, an officer and a gentleman. My hat was off.

We had numerous discussions about the panels, which required about four or five “business” lunches over the five or six weeks for the panels to arrive. When the deal was done, i asked for that date to see John Lee Hooker at the Belly Up. We attended several events over the summer including sailing with JD in the “Fly a Kite” race where we became (or at least JD became) a legend. We went out to dinner too many times to count.

And, as i have noted before, one night up in Mission Hills, i was driving and just pulled over and parked in a residential area overlooking one of canyons. We talked. And i realized we thought a lot alike. It took until early February before we determined it was, as they say, it was meant to be.

It will be relatively quiet for our 39th. We just returned from Orcas Island with friends (more on that later). Today, we will go the San Diego’s Museum of Art after considering LIttle Italy’s Farmer’s Market and a walk on the beach. Who knows? We may do one of the others or both as well. It matters not. i love her, and amazingly, she loves me. i think that is about all one can ask.

Dark Clouds at Sea

i have seen the dark clouds mounting
on a sea of gray foreboding,
the wind whipping up the spume
to splay the sea with a froth of foam;
the wind howling like a banshee
coming o’er the horizon
like death out on the prowl;
the ship plunging into waves
to climb and crash again;
the waves smashing on the forecastle
to pound the bridge seventy feet above;
a rogue wave whacking the port side
sending the ship to a heel just shy
of the point of no return.

i stood amongst the bridge watch
with impending doom at our hatch;
i marveled i was not afraid;
in midst of all the terror
an angry sea could throw at me,
i marveled at the beauty
of this mistress we call the sea.

steel decks and glass ceilings

About my book

This website continues to be updated. i hope i and Walker Hicks , the brains behind this website being as good as it is, plan to have the update complete by the first of next week. Then, there will be a page for comments about my book, Steel Decks and Glass Ceilings. But i wanted to share three comments from good folks who have read it:

I have just completed a most marvelous journey and I wish to thank you for taking me with you! What a well crafted narrative. I now truly believe you when you say, “I’d rather be driving ships”. This book was much more than a chronological narrative. Who knew that an “old salt” SWO could gain satisfaction and much more from a tour on a tender. You deserve a “Literature ‘E’. BZ. — Marty Linville, Maj., USA (retired), Awarded Silver Star for his service in Vietnam.

My tour in Yosemite was my most rewarding and far away my favorite. BZ! You did a great job as XO and as the author of this most interesting book. — Francis J. Boyle, Captain, USN (retired) and the Commanding Officer of the USS Yosemite.

I have now immortalized CAPT Boyle’s admonishment regarding the inclusion of female personnel on board the USS Yosemite: “We don’t have men on board this ship; we don’t have women on board this ship. We have sailors aboard this ship. And we are going to act like that.” Oh how I wish there was a Chief in the US Border Patrol that would have enunciated that same sentiment about Border Patrol Agents back in 1975 when I entered on duty and began knocking on that impervious glass ceiling.. a great read, wonderful insights into a sliver of naval history, all sprinkled with valuable management lessons. — Chris Davis, Border Patrol Officer, executive level, retired.