|dex armstrong ...Posted 2008-01-20
After completing that rambling, "all
over hell and half Georgia" diatribe...long forgotten memories began to
parade across the reverse side of my eyeballs.
I had forgotten King's Barbeque south
of Petersburg, Virginia....Old rascal named Ned ran the place. His wife
supervised the kitchen and his lovely daughter waited tables. You knew
that they served great food before you opened the door because there were
five or six Commonwealth Highway Patrol cars in the parking lot. The featured
barbeque platter was less than two bucks and it came with their famous
"bottomless" iced tea.
Between Richmond and Fredericksburg,
there was place called Ladysmith where the RF&P Railroad had a bridge.
You could get under it in the rain, sit on your AWOL bag and wave at passing
cars as they went by....It didn't take long for some patriotic big- hearted
citizen to stop...back up 50 yards...roll down his (or if you were damn
lucky, her) window and ask,"How far you going Sailor?."
"As far north as you're headed (Sir
The world was different then.
There were no Fleet Nannies who did
away with hitchhiking. People felt honored picking up underpaid defenders
of their freedom. Hitchhiking servicemen were part of the fabric of the
nation. Hitchhiking American Bluejackets were one of the United States
best recruiting tools. For many young lads, riding in a car with a homeward
bound youngster in thirteen button blues, was his first contact with the
adventurous life of a seagoing serviceman.
For some, a seed was planted in a daydreamers
heart that germinated in the fertilizer only known to adventure seeking
lads, that was harvested at SubSchool later in life.
The Navy Nannies - the same rascals
that did away with the "never pin Dolphins on a dry shirt" tradition, patronizing
professional ladies, locker clubs, cluttered piers, and settling differences
with one's fists out behind a pierhead quonset hut, shitcanned hitchhiking.
In the reckless pursuit of a "kinder, gentler society". We've tamed the
freebooting participants....we've exchanged the "devil take the hindmost",
don't give a damn, arrogant attitude...for a decidedly better behaved,
highly disciplined, totally professional seagoing technician.
Pissing against the wind, tossing bar
furniture and hitchhiking have become the distant memories of long ago
practitioners of the seven knots submerged. answering bells on the battery,
take her to 350, dead air and secondhand smoke Navy.
Steamboat...MAD DOG, let's face it,
we've become the misunderstood relics of a "never to return, never to be
understood" bygone era in the boatservice. I for one, loved hitchhiking...met
some great people...saw a helluvalot of American real estate at eye level...learned
a great deal about the inner goodness and generosity of the American public....had
many opportunities to exchange ideas with folks I never would have met
Forgive me, I seem to have crawled up
on The Stump of Smokeboat Wisdom and need to step down.
There was a town called Suffolk, Virginia
that at the time billed itself as THE PEANUT CAPITAL OF THE WORLD and international
headquarters of the Planters Peanut Company....Planters hauled peanuts
out of there by the truck and trainload...got caught there in a snow storm
once, spent the night in the entrance vestibule of a locked up Methodist
church...and gave up and returned to REQUIN the next morning when it stopped
snowing. Snow hitchhiking is tough...one can freeze one's doo- dahs off.
On Route 17, before you got to Glouchester
(where the posted speed through town was 5 miles an hour to fleece members
of Arliegh Burke's 2nd Fleet every Friday)....about two miles south of
Glouchester was a Bar-B- Q joint called Eddy's PIT COOKED PORK BAR-B-Q...directly
across the street, was a Mt. Vernon looking structure called the HOGG FUNERAL
HOME. It seemed that with my twisted sense of humor, I was the only dumb
sonuvabitch that found that funny as hell.
Between Glouchester and Tappahannock,
there was a diner with a rather plump lady who ran the counter, took your
order, brought it to you from the kitchen, wrote your check and took your
money at the counter cash register. I forget her name but whatever in the
hell they paid her wasn't half enough...the poor sweetheart did everything.
There was a sign above the cash register that read IN GOD WE TRUST...ALL
OTHERS PAY CASH...and the floral decorations down the counter were plastic
and poked in washed- out pickle jars...It wasn't found in FODOR's GUIDE
TO FINE DINING but it did make a halfway decent chicken salad sandwich
and the plump lady put a nice size set of dents on the front of her blouse.
Somewhere along Route 17 there was an
International Harvester dealership. They would give you a free cardboard
cup of coffee and let you take a whiz in their men's room. If I ever need
a tractor or mechanized manure spreader, I'll buy one from them simply
based on their kindness to an eighteen year old boatsailor with traveling
twenty buck fortune.
It was hard to get a ride across the
Yorktown Bridge, for some reason only understood by God and The Holy Ghost,
people wouldn't pull over and give you a lift on the Yorktown side of the
bridge. Maybe Jesse James used to hop out of the bushes and rob folks...how'n
the hell would I know? You were better off if you simply hauled yourself
and AWOL bag across the bridge on foot....sometimes people would stop and
pick you up on the way over.
Steamboat and Mad Dog...we were young,
we had the whole world to romp around in...we could piss on the petunias,
thumb our collective noses at the accepted norms, accepted conventions
and recognized boundaries of conventional wisdom.
We were qualified Submariners and that
came with a seabag of invisible perks and prerogatives that would have
been the envy of Cromagnon Man, Attila the Hun, Sir Henry Morgan and the
entire Apache Nation.
We weren't bolted to the planet and
had access to Zeus's golf bag full of lightning bolts. Archimedes once
said,"Give me a fulcrum for my lever, and I will move the world."
At eighteen, Mike Hemming once said,"Give
me a pool cue and I'll bust every head in between me and the head...(Bells
Fine Culinary Emporium, Norfolk...1962).