Boot Camp

Boot Camp

By Garland Davis

Fifty-eight year ago, July 20th was my third day in the Navy and my first day in “Boot Camp” at RTC San Diego. I spent the 18th, my 17th birthday, at the Armed Forces Induction Center in Raleigh, NC taking tests, a physical exam, and coughing for the doctor while he held my nuts. I remember wondering what they held while the females were coughing in the other room.

After the tests and physicals were completed for all of us there, they lined us up and an Army Officer came in and completed our enlistment by rendering the oath. Since it was late in the day, we were given vouchers for a seedy hotel (the hookers were probably ashamed to take a John to such a rundown joint) about a block away and told us to report at 0600 the next morning for our records and travel vouchers. We were warned for the first of many times that failure to report when and where ordered by a superior was an offense and we would be severely punished.

The next morning we were given envelopes with our meager records, vouchers for air travel to our respective boot camps’ An olive drab Army bus dropped us at the airport after dropping the soldiers bound for Georgia at the train station. I would fly from Raleigh to Chicago where I would change for a flight to San Diego. There was a long wait in Chicago and a stop in Albuquerque. We finally arrived in San Diego about 2130. We reported to the Shore Patrol booth as instructed and were told to wait for a bus. I grabbed a couple of candy bars from a kiosk and was glad that I did. Breakfast was a long way off.

The bus carried us to RTC. I remember wondering, as we entered the gate what awaited. I had a pretty good idea. I had read the books and seen the movies about boot camps and was prepared. I did push-ups for half a year before enlisting just to be ready. The entire time I was there, no one ever insisted that I do a push up except at PT.

As soon as the doors opened, three or four people were yelling at us to hurry off the bus and line up on the footprints. Another bus came in and they filled out the footprints. Once all the prints in the group had a person on them, a short Chief Petty Officer had us do a left face and told us we were in Company 310, that he was BMC Jones and we would be the best company in San Diego, even if it killed us.

He marched(?) us to an empty barracks full of unmade bunks. He informed us that the place was a shithouse and we were to clean it. Buckets and swabs were distributed and we scrubbed that room. There was a buffer that tried to do bodily harm to us before this geeky looking guy from who Boston finally figured out how to operate it.

About midnight the CC finally admitted that the place was as clean as civilians could get it and pointed to a stack of fart sacks (mattress covers) and blankets, told us to make the bunks and go to sleep. He said, “Reveille is early.” At 0400, he was back, banging on a shitcan with what I would later learn was a foxtail. He chewed our asses out for being scrounges and made us shower. Then we had to clean the barracks again because we had fucked it up.

It was just starting to get light in the east when he marched (?) us to the galley for breakfast. That was the first of many times I heard the term “Nuts to Butts.” I don’t remember what I ate for that first meal. All I had had since Chicago the previous day was a candy bar, I had given the other one to one of the guys who was probably as hungry as I was, so whatever it was I scarfed it up. I remember the coffee was good. I had become a black coffee addict while working the night shift at the original, and at the time, the only Krispy Kreme doughnut facility.

After breakfast, we marched back to the barracks, recovered whatever baggage we had brought with us and went for our haircuts. I had gotten a “Boot Camp” haircut from my ex-Marine barber before I left NC. The guy put me in the chair and ran the clippers over my head. It was his rice bowl, he collected twenty-five cents for each haircut.

Our next stop was Clothing Issue. We went through the line with a seabag, sailors handing us clothing items and yelling for us to move the line. After we had received everything, we were taken to another building, handed a stencil with name and service number and other recruits on their Service Week stenciled the shit out of everything in that bag and the bag itself. After the stenciling was finished, we were made to get naked and dress ourselves in the mothball smelling dungarees. Next stop, carrying that unwieldy bag and our luggage was a place where you could mail the luggage home or donate it to the needy. There was nothing in that old AWOL bag that was worth the cost of mailing it to NC, so I just threw it in the donation bin. All I had left of NC was my wallet and a few pictures.

From there we were marched across the bridge to our barracks for the first three weeks of our training. According to the Chief, they were a shithouse and needed cleaning immediately. We spent the next few days learning the difference between attention, parade rest, at ease, lolly-gagging, and grab-assing. The last two could cause you to run around this big-assed parking lot that he called a “Grinder.” We learned to march and the different movements as well as how to stand in ranks for hours while he dreamed up shit for us to do.

While we were doing all this, we scrubbed all the cotton clothing, because they were dirty, of course. We learned the proper way to fold the clothes and to stow them in the locker. When an inspector found an improperly stowed locker, we all had to rewash our “dirty” clothes and restow the locker. We learned to check each other and make sure all was proper.

Oh hell, I forgot mention Clothes Stops. Our freshly washed clothing had to be tied on the lines with a proper square knot. Nothing as mundane as clothespins. And if the inspector found a knot, other than a square knot, we all had to rewash our clothes because he would cut them all off the line and leave them on the ground.

And we marched, did we ever march. Sometime during all this activity, we were issued 1903 Springfield’s which we hung suspended by clothes stops below the bunk, but if you fucked up for some reason you got to put it inside your fart sack and sleep on it. We learned to march with it, to stack it and to exercise with it. An infraction of the many rules could cause you to run numerous times around the grinder attempting to hold it at high port.

The only time I was individually punished, I was watching an airplane taking off from Lindbergh Field. The Chief made me spend the morning chasing planes as they took off. I had to yell, “Wait for me Sir” as I chased the planes. We were often punished as a group for infractions caused by one person. In the second week, Company 310’s Smoking Lamp was extinguished for the rest of the time we were in Boot. Only if I had taken the opportunity to quit at that time!

We moved off the island to a filthy barracks on the main side which, of course, had to have a field day, though the decks were still wet from the company that had moved out. The first thing after moving was Service week. Company 310 went to the Galley where we washed dishes, pots and pans, scrubbed decks, and helped the cooks. The day at the galley started at 0400 and ended about 2000. Our clothes still needed scrubbing and the barracks turned filthy during the day and had to be cleaned. During that week you went to bed, or as we had learned to say, hit the rack exhausted and awakened tired to the bone.

Some way, we made it through Service Week like the millions who had gone before us and settled into an easier training routine which consisted of classes and practicing for the graduation ceremony.

Somewhere about the sixth or seventh week, I began to wake up feeling good. The classes were easy, the marching was learned muscle memory. I no longer had to think when the Chief gave a command, my body just reacted with the proper move.

The next few weeks are a blur. Everything was routine and mundane. The last week, we received our blues from the tailor and we were marched to the place on the base where we could buy our tickets for home or our next duty station.

The night before Graduation Day, we packed our seabags with everything except the whites we would wear for graduation and the blues we would wear traveling. Somewhere along the way, we had turned in the Springfield’s and the leggings.

I remember Chief Jones shaking my hand and saying, “Good job sailor, perhaps I’ll see you in the fleet.” The moment that I knew I was a sailor

PS: There is so much I’ve forgotten to mention, The leggings, The Duty Belts, The watches, The Chit books, The asshole inspections for dingleberry’s before being permitted in the swimming pool and so much more.

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Seventy Five Years, Who Woulda Thunk It

Seventy-Five Years, Who Woulda Thunk It?

Goals and Milestones

July 18, 2019

Garland Davis

“How swift are the feet of the days of the years of youth”— Mark Twain

More people than ever are living long, healthy lives. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the average life expectancy is 78.6 years for men and 81.1 for women. More relevant, however, is that as people grow older, their total life expectancy increases. So, for those who are now 65, the average life expectancy is 83 for men and over 85 for women. And because I’m 75, I’m expected to live past 83. And these are averages, which means that perhaps half of us will live even longer.

Those of us who are still active and healthy at advanced ages–I qualify–discover that we aren’t quite as capable as our younger selves. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t healthy and workable. But I must admit that I’m getting weaker, with diminished eyesight, hearing, taste, touch, and suffering from the ravages of Parkinson’s Disease. The number of active healthy oldsters is large–and increasing.

Fifteen years ago, I bet an insurance company $9,900 in premiums against $150,000 insurance value that I would die before today. I bought a fifteen-year Term Life policy to cover the remaining mortgage on my home in case I died before the mortgage was paid. I either lost the $9,900 or my wife lost $150,000. Either way, the insurance company gets to keep the money.

We each strive to achieve many goals as we move along life’s highway. The Navy and Chief Petty Officer come to mind. When the girl you have fallen in love with accepts your proposal. Earning a bachelor’s degree as a member of the Dean’s List. Being chosen as class Valedictorian although I would be at sea off the coast of Viet Nam when graduation was held. Being instrumental in winning the Edward F. Ney Award, not once but twice. Retiring from the Navy. There are many more that make up the entire list.

I achieved a new milestone this morning. A new personal best. I have lived longer than ever before. I completed another year of life. Tomorrow, July 19, is also another important anniversary. I enlisted in the Navy fifty-eight years ago in 1961.

Today is my seventy-fifth birthday. Many people have lived longer, and many others died much younger. I always thought I would be among the latter. I have ancestors that lived well into their nineties and, as it turned out, I may have lived that long under different circumstances. Hell, I may still make it but, complications of Parkinson’s disease will probably take me before I reach my nineties. I leave no progeny to carry on this line of the Davis clan. I am one of those branches of the tree that ceases to grow and drops off.

I cannot say that it has been an exceptional seventy-five years when compared with the lives and accomplishments of others. Some may think that I squandered opportunities or misused the potential to do much more. But as Sinatra said it in his song, “I Did It My Way.” I consider one of my great achievements something that is given to a very few when measured against the entirety of the population. I served for thirty years and became a Chief Petty Officer in the United States Navy. Life in the Navy and as a Chief Petty Officer showed me that two of the paramount achievements of humanity are the twin concepts of “loyalty” and “duty.”

The psychologists say that humans tend to remember successes, happiness, and pleasure. They conveniently forget or repress failures, sadness, and discomfort. Probably a good thing. It would, no doubt, drive me crazy if I only dwelt on the negatives of my life. Am I proud of all that I did during the past seventy-five years? No, I am not! Am I ashamed of some things that I did? Probably should be, but I just can’t find it. I’ve learned to not worry myself when I make a mistake. Just correct it as best I can and learn from it. Don’t lose any sleep over it. Never blame Garland Davis on anyone but Garland Davis!

I have spent my life reading. Fictions, biographies, histories, religious texts, comics, and comments on toilet walls, the writings of storytellers, scientists, philosophers, clerics, funny page cartoonists, and disgruntled shit house humorists, I have found as much truth in “Calvin and Hobbes” as I did in Plato and Nietzsche. I believe that sin lies only in hurting another person unnecessarily. Other “sins” are invented bovine excrement. Hurting yourself isn’t sinful. It is stupid. In all my reading and discussions with others, I haven’t found any conclusive evidence of life after death, nor have I found evidence of any sort against it. I figure I will know soon enough. I can wait!

Having devoted a large part of the past seventy-five years to an avid interest in history, I have reached the conclusion that any generation which ignores history has no past. Nor does it have a future. College graduates today know less of history than I did as a third-grade student in a 1950’s rural North Carolina country school. It doesn’t bode well for this generation or the country. For some reason, the educational beauracracy equates government-directed public schooling and large amounts of tax money lining their pockets as the be-all and end-all of learning. How’s that working out for the students?

When one reaches my age, that person is considered a wise senior whose advice and insights are valuable. Isn’t it amazing how closely “mature wisdom” resembles tired and lazy? I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the “Old Farts” when I was younger, and I doubt today’s younger generation will listen to what I have to say. But what follows is some advice, some insights, and a few things I have learned.

I tell you; it is a great world because there are girls in it! Sex should be loving, warm and friendly. Otherwise, do it yourself. Masturbation is cheap, clean, convenient, and free of any possibility of wrongdoing–and you don’t have to go home in the cold and dark. But it is lonely as hell. I have found that it is better to copulate than not. Flowers sometimes work well as an aphrodisiac, but experience shows that money always works better. “I came, I saw, she conquered.” (The original Latin was garbled and misinterpreted). I have also learned that all men are not created equal.

Marry above yourself! It will motivate you to become a better man. Marry for love and strive to become the best friend of the girl/woman you take as a bride. For without friendship, love can easily become hate and you may reach my point in life as a bitter old man. The other great accomplishment of my life was marrying the woman I did fifty-three years ago (fifty-four next month). She is a good woman, my best friend—And I love her very much.

Get a dog or two! They will love you and in times of loss they can heal your heart and you will never be lonely. You can learn a lot from how dogs interact with people and other dogs. If you have children, remember the quote from Mr. Peabody, “Every dog should have a boy.” And I add “or a girl.” The time will come when the dog’s life must end. Be a man, hold it in your arms and tell it how great a dog it was when the time comes to send it onward. I have had seven dogs in my life, and I am a better person for knowing them.

Watch as little TV as possible! It will rot your brain. The television networks spent a large part of the 1950s developing the TV industry; pioneering programming ideas and techniques. The effluviant they offer today shows that they learned nothing and have regressed. “The Howdy Doody Show” was a better program than much of the crap they pass off as inspired television programming today. Television has replaced books and the art of reading and has contributed to the dumbing down of humanity. I treasure the years spent in the South China Sea and Asia away from the inane, brain-numbing offerings of the American television industry.

Never say no to beer! Cold beer is always appropriate! The fastest method of chilling a case of beer is four gallons of water, fourteen pounds of ice and about five pounds of salt. Cover the beer with water and ice, stir in the salt and within six minutes you have some perfectly chilled beer. I spent many years as a cook and baker and, believe it or not, this is one of my favorite recipes!

Laugh whenever possible! Look for humor and embrace it. You feel better after a good laugh. The doctors say that laughter is healthy and Reader’s Digest claims that it is the best medicine. Who knows? You too may live to see seventy-five!

Do everything in excess! Take big bites. Drink from the large mug. Enjoy life. Moderation is for clerics, monks, nuns, and the faint of heart. Yield to temptations, you may not get the chance again. Avoid important decisions while tired or hungry. You may regret it.

And you know, in retrospect, my life is, and was, fun. If I had it to live over, I don’t think I would change one thing. Changing it would change me, making me a different person. A person I might not like as well as I do this one.

The Bible says in Psalm 90:10 “The days of our years are threescore years and ten.” Seventy years are all that is promised. I guess that puts the next seventy on me!

I’ll end this diatribe with a quote from another “wise senior” who is no longer with us:

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” —George Carlin

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Me and Y’all

I took a shipmate’s idea and totally fucked up Willie Nelson’s fine song Me and Paul. My apologies Willie.

Me and Y’all

By Garland Davis

It was rocking and rolling sailing

But I’m finally standing upright on the deck

After taking several readings

I’m surprised to find that my mind is a total wreck

 

I guess Subic was the roughest

But I know I have been drunk in them all

We received our education

In the ports of WestPac, me and Y’all

 

Almost busted in Pusan

But for reasons, I’d rather not disclose

But if you stay in a hotel there and leave

Take them with you if you want your clothes

 

And at the Landing in Yokosuka

They refused to let us board the boat at all

They said we were not in uniform

But I believe they like to pick on me and Y’all

 

It was rocking and rolling sailing

But I’m finally standing upright on the deck

After taking several readings

I’m surprised to find that my mind is a total wreck

 

I guess Subic was the roughest

But I know I have been drunk in them all

We received our education

In the ports of WestPac, me and Y’all

 

On a TAD trip to Singapore

We watched the parade on Bugis Street

The show was long and we’re just sitting there

They were pretty and sweet but from the wrong side

 

Well we drank a lot of whiskeys

So I don’t know what went on that night at all

But I do believe they may have kissed us

I guess Singapore ain’t made for me and Y’all

 

It was rocking and rolling sailing

But I’m finally standing upright on the deck

After taking several readings

I’m surprised to find that my mind is a total wreck

 

I guess Subic was the roughest

But I know I have been drunk in them all

We received our education

In the ports of WestPac, me and Y’all

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Magnesium Citrate

Magnesium Citrate

Written by Mike Dahlhauser.

What happens when you drink 10 oz of Magnesium Citrate? I’m glad you asked…

12:05 pm: It’s time. You shotgun a 10 oz bottle like it’s a lukewarm PBR and you don’t want to be a coward in front of your older brother’s friends. It’s supposed to be grape flavored but it’s becoming quite clear that whoever led the R&D team that day has never actually tasted anything grape in their life. You are already regretting this decision.

12:06 pm: You deep throat a cupcake like you’ve been saving it for the apocalypse because let’s face it…that time is here. It’s going to turn to liquid form before it even clears your throat but you don’t care. All is right in the world at this moment. Hold on to that. You’re about to enter a very dark period in your life.

12:37 pm: First sign of life. The pressure is growing. You already have 5 lbs of crap in your colon and you basically just drank the “safe for humans” version of Drano. You feel a poop coming on finally. You think it’s time. You’re wrong. You get a little snake turd as a teaser. Take note…this is the last semi-solid thing you will see leaving your body for the next 24 hours.

12:57 pm: That little science experiment you got cooking is about to reach it’s reaached the boiling point. Your stomach is angry now. It hates you…you can feel it. You have exactly .3 seconds to make it to the nearest toilet but you can’t run… NEVER run! You pray to god there is enough elasticity in your butthole to keep the gates closed 5 more steps as you start to preemptively undo your pants to save valuable time. Almost there. 3…2…1…

12:58 pm: Sweet Mary, mother of God…is this real life? Your cheeks barely hit the seat and all hell breaks loose. The crap/water mixture you’ve just created comes out with such force that it actually sprays the back of the toilet bowl at a 45-degree angle thus deflecting it in every direction but down. Is that blood? False alarm. That’s just the remnants of a cherry pie you ate at Thanksgiving…when you were 5. The smell is horrid…the sound is frightening. You try to clench what’s left of your butthole to soften the blow but it’s not working. The whole house just heard your liquid shart as it gurgled out of your ass.

1:06 pm- 8:30 pm: Everything’s a blur. You have shit out everything you have ever eaten since the day you were born, everything your ancestors have ever eaten since the early 1800s, and your butthole now feels like you have a flaming hot Cheeto and the tears of a thousand Jalapeno seeds stuck in it. You’re now curled up in the bathtub ugly crying because you have to remain within arm’s reach of the toilet at all times. You have the poop sweats. You meet Jesus.

8:37 pm: Your family will never be able to unsee the things they’ve seen in the last 8 hours. You’re broken. Your butthole’s broken. Your spirit’s broken. Life as you know it will never be the same. But…tomorrow’s a new day. You’re going to wake up, throw on the only remaining pair of underwear you have that doesn’t have a shit stain on it, and you’re going to run up to Target with the last shred of dignity you have left…and buy yourself a new toilet brush. You’ve earned it.

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WOW!

WOW!

By Joseph Werner

Things that run through my mind… Proceed with caution or stop reading now.

I joined the Navy in 1975. After training, I was stationed in Hawaii and then deployed to Asia. As an 18-year-old, I loved to wander the streets and towns of Asia. My home port soon became Yokosuka Japan. What an adventure for an 18-year-old. I quickly found out there was some really cool stuff outside NY. I stayed in Asia until 1986, often visiting places like Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Ceylon, Iran, Oman, UAE, and once in a while, sailing over to Africa.

After the Navy sent me back to the States, I sought out commands that would deploy me back to Asia. I only did one tour in Europe – stationed in Iceland; the good thing about this was I could visit other countries easily. I was able to see Germany, England, Spain, and Norway.

Once I retired from the Navy, my love of travel did not go away. Just luck I married a woman who loves to travel. The difference is now, it costs money. Beth and I seek ways to travel. Always in search of those WOW moments.

The metric I use to grade places visited is whether I look at something and say WOW! This has happened only a few times. My first day in Japan, first trip to Taiwan, the Philippines, Hong Kong, first time I saw a redwood tree (it was at this point when I realized God is true and good, and religion is nothing more than man’s commentary), Yosemite Valley, Kilgobinet Ireland – the church parish of my Irish ancestors, having breakfast on the roof of our hotel in Venice, Italy – the view was surreal, first trip to a Navy reunion in Branson, MO, looking around the room and saying these guys walked in many of the same places I did. I wonder if they also said holy shit WOW.

These trips are much better with great food, outstanding beer, whiskey blessed by God, and my partner, my beautiful wife, Beth Kallman Werner.

My bucket list is long and still growing.

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Theodore Roosevelt, The Rest of the Story

Theodore Roosevelt, The Rest of the Story

Theodore Roosevelt was an American statesman, politician, conservationist, naturalist, and writer who served as the 26th president of the United States from 1901 to 1909. Before becoming President, he was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. He resigned in 1898 to organize the Rough Riders, the first voluntary cavalry in the Spanish-American War. The U.S. was fighting against Spain over Spain’s colonial policies with Cuba. He is known for sending the Great White Fleet around the world to display American sea power.

The story doesn’t end here. Flash forward to June 1944 and the Normandy landings.

Brigadier General, Theodore Roosevelt Jr. the son of President “Teddy” Roosevelt, was the oldest man to hit the beach on the D-day invasion. He was also the highest ranking person to directly participate in the beach landing invasion.

He was supposed to be with the other command staff in England. Gen. Roosevelt knew the importance of the mission, he knew much of the invasion force were new, untried soldiers who had never seen combat. His requests to join his men were repeatedly denied, but he persisted, even when his superiors told him he faced near certain death.

He was granted permission after explaining how his presence would inspire confidence in the invasion plan. The Commander of the Allied Forces, General Eisenhower wrote Roosevelt’s eulogy before the invasion.

On the morning of the attack, as he requested, Gen. Roosevelt was in one of the lead landing craft. He led his men across the beach to a rally point under heavy fire. Being pinned down, it appeared they were going to be wiped out. Roosevelt took charge and led a move over the sea wall.

At that time, he realized other troops were trapped back on the beach, and cut off. He returned to the beach and led these men to join the attacking force. He repeated this action several times, under heavy fire.

For these actions, he received the Congressional Medal of Honor. The official citation is below:

“For gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 6 June 1944, in France. After 2 verbal requests to accompany the leading assault elements in the Normandy invasion had been denied, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt’s written request for this mission was approved and he landed with the first wave of the forces assaulting the enemy-held beaches. He repeatedly led groups from the beach, over the seawall and established them inland. His valor, courage, and presence in the very front of the attack and his complete unconcern at being under heavy fire inspired the troops to heights of enthusiasm and self-sacrifice. Although the enemy had the beach under constant direct fire, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt moved from one locality to another, rallying men around him, directed and personally led them against the enemy. Under his seasoned, precise, calm, and unfaltering leadership, assault troops reduced beach strong points and rapidly moved inland with minimum casualties. He thus contributed substantially to the successful establishment of the beachhead in France.”

What the citation does not say, is that Gen. Roosevelt was a combat veteran of WWI, where he was disabled by being shot through the knee. He required a cane to walk due to his injury. Gen. Roosevelt was 56 years old at the time of the invasion. He literally stormed the beach at Normandy with a cane in one hand and a pistol in the other!

When the beach was secured, later that day, command staff began to arrive. They were met on the beach by Gen. Roosevelt who gave a full report on the invasion operation.

Six days later, Roosevelt died of a heart attack. He is buried in France. He has been called “the toughest man on the longest day.”

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Curse of the Japanese Watch

Curse of the Japanese Watch

Michael McGrorty

I spent about a year homeported in Yokosuka, Japan, a base the Japanese graciously presented to us as a goodwill token after the misunderstandings of 1941-45. I understood this before I came to the Navy, courtesy of an uncle who had experienced difficulty owing to the Japanese habit of killing American sailors with suicide aircraft. For some reason he held a grudge, probably due to the five or so years he spent in the hospital trying to get his scorched lungs to function.

Uncle Bill did not use terms of courtesy to describe the Japanese. Nor did any of the men on my block who had fought against them. Three decades after the official end of hostilities I found myself in their country. I had no animus toward either the Japanese or their Navy, but it was interesting to deal with them.

Their sailors never looked us in the eye, and their officers were even more distant. I imagine it would be the same if they had taken over 32nd Street in San Diego and given us the lousy berths. Despite the passage of time, one felt he was really in a conquered land.

Not long after my ship’s arrival, I went to the exchange and saw the wonderful merchandise available for sale. Any sailor who’s been there recalls the audio equipment and other stuff. But my eye fixed on the wristwatches. I’d never owned a watch and I needed one. That’s what I told myself, anyhow. Eventually, I made a bargain with my conscience: I’d buy myself a watch if I could also get one for my brother if only to prove that it wasn’t just about me.

So, I got him one of those complicated diver chronographs with all the little dials and stuff, and a plain day/date model for myself, deep blue, with a thick, flat crystal. His I mailed home and mine I just stuck on, but not before having to take out numerous links so it would fit my skinny wrist.

My brother was actually grateful for his gift, and I was happy with mine. My uncle heard about it and said that he’d never accept anything made by the [fill in racist terms here]. I had my watch a few weeks and then one day I swung my arm against a doorway and the crystal cracked. I had it fixed, and cracked it again, this time against a fireplug in a passageway. When that was fixed, I made sure to keep my arms out of trouble, but then the rope of a heavy mailbag caught on the bracelet and snapped it. I put the watch in my locker and left it alone for months.

Meanwhile back home, my brother went around displaying his diver’s watch to anybody who’d look. One night he was drinking at a bar called the Prairie Wagon, a country western dump a block from our home. Two guys came in with guns and robbed him of his wallet, money, and the watch. A few days later the robbers tried the same trick at another place and were shot dead.

Flash forward a few years. I’m a civilian now, working at a 7-11 store. Two guys come in the door and hold us up. A month later it happens again. I decide to quit working at 7-11 stores for my health. Not long after this I was drinking myself into a mild stupor at the Prairie Wagon when (wait for it) two guys burst in through the back door to demand everybody’s money. They were so inept that they failed to collect mine, but one customer resisted and was shot, and then beaten pretty badly by the robbers with pool sticks. It was a rather ugly evening.

What did all these events have in common? I was wearing that damned blue Seiko watch. This occurred to me, as well as that I should perhaps not patronize the Prairie Wagon any more. I tossed the watch into my took kit and forgot about it.

About a year later I was out in the desert, shooting at targets with some friends, one of whom asked to borrow a screwdriver, which was of course in my tool box. While searching for it, he found the Seiko, and asked why I’d put such a nice watch in a grimy box. I gave him its history and he laughed. I offered to give him the watch, and he accepted, but I added one caveat: he could have the watch if I took a shot at it and missed.

I set the watch up on a stick at about 25 yards, with the face toward me. I said “One shot. I miss, it’s yours.”

I am a terrible pistol shot who suffers from the usual tendency to pull to the right, so I lifted the Smith and Wesson .357, held it about six inches left, and gently crushed the trigger. The watch disappeared. I found the case shot clean through and the innards blown to timepiece heaven. That was it for the blue Seiko.

I could say that I’ve never been robbed since that day, except by an ex-wife, and that’s true enough. Nowadays all my watches come from China or the Philippines. I had the chance to pick up a German one a few years back but didn’t want to tempt fate.

The ex-wife? I got her a Seiko the same time I got the other two. She was mad because it didn’t have any diamonds.

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