everything there is a season....
We had ours in the days of Camelot when
smoke belching boats plowed the oceans of the world and the men who rode
them owned the sea lanes. In the words of Tom Parks, "They were the shining
A time when a "well done", a smoke,
a soft breast, and a cold beer was as good as any man had a right to expect.
It was a time when beauty was measured in saltwater being sliced by bow
buoyancy then rising up through limber holes and sloshing aft and
cascading over tank tops back to sea - foaming aft through Fairbanks smoke
into a disappearing wake. At night it left twinkling phosphorescence; as
overhead soared seabirds and above them clouds and stars; a time when a
sunburn meant you weren't down breathing dead air and dirty laundry fumes.
But most importantly there was ships' company: the finest men we were ever
to know; though we had not wandered the road of life to that milepost where
you look back and recognize that fact.
My friend Stukey and I dabbled in youthful
indiscretion well beyond the limits allowed, but, we were good sailors.
We did every lousy job ever invented by the subforce and tried to convince
the crew that we considered crap details a skill and that we were the best
at it. Making jokes made hard work easier, I loved the crazy bastard then
- and I love him now.. and I got lovely Janie in the bargain.. he is my
Then the day came where the chief of
the boat drew a line through your name on the "watch, quarters and station"
bill and you cleaned out your side locker, pitched your gear in the lucky
bag, shook hands and tossed down a beer at Bells. You patted Thelma gently
on the fanny, said your "see you bastards someday" --- and you thought
it was over.
His USS REQUIN days
A gentleman I have come to respect,
and whose opinion I value, sent me a post recently and said he didn't realize
I could be serious. That has been the chink in my armor that I have been
hauling most of my life. I sat this past evening and thought about my stories
when I was a kid. And I wanted to convey how much I loved it all: the crew,
the wardroom, the old man and the squadron. Put simply - they all combined
to be the best time in my near sixty years of wandering.
When I left the boat I asked the yeoman
for a photo of the old man. I framed it and it sat on my desk through college.
When I felt like goofing off all I had to do was look over at the old man
and he had this look and I hit the books. He has always been my compass...
my point of reference...my hero.
As I write this he sits on a shelf looking
at me. He lived to see me make GS-15 in federal service and to meet and
love my bride. He gave me faith in myself and took a personal interest
in all his boys.
The stories are about the lad he saddle
broke..and the guys who have lived in the after battery of my heart for
40 years. It's the only way I know to say thanks and to let them know...Dex
Bob, continue to light me up when I
need it. I am a creature of excess and I go overboard...and need to (be)
hauled in from time to time.