Referencing the editorial next door by the staff know-it-all who, of course, is me, I should disclose that I was in the Coast Guard.
You could say my tour was four years of undistinguished service, except that I learned to tie several kinds of knots, all of which I’m inclined to use at the same time for no apparent reason (I also can hem pants with a stapler, not that there’s much call for that these days).
But as for my knot-tying prowess, all I can say is after I tie down my kayak in the back of the truck, I could drive off the edge of the Grand Canyon and it’s going nowhere.
We’re talking bowlines, clove hitches, sheepshanks, sheet bends, rolling hitches and reef knots holding it securely in place.
“Would you look at that,” the Grand Canyon cleanup crew says a mile below my point of departure, “someone’s tied a perfectly good kayak to a canned ham. Imagine that.”
And, of course, there’s French whipping, which, to be clear, is not an unsavory exercise practiced on willing participants by can-can girls. It’s a decorative series of half-hitches tied around a stationary object so you can look busy when there are other things to do that you would rather avoid.
“Are you going to cut the grass, or what?” she asked.
“In a little bit. I just need to finish tying down the kayak with this cool French whipping.”
“Where is your kayak, anyway?”
“Right here, in the truck,” I replied.
“Hmmm,” she observed in a tone that suggests sarcasm, “it must be hidden under what appears to be an afghan crocheted by chimpanzees.”
The thing is, if you know how to do something, you do it, which brings me to my cargo-rigging and handling abilities, otherwise known in this household as how to yank the rear bumper off your (now deceased) little truck with blocks, tackle and a tree stump with, apparently, roots to China.
I learned about rigging and such on my first week aboard ship, when I was told, “Good news, Dobson, you’re in charge of maintaining the boom.”
“Great!” I replied. “Who’s working with me?”
“That would be no one.”
Not being a big fan of heights, I’d say the very top of the boom rigging was either 750 or 25 feet above the main deck, depending on your point of view.
Nevertheless, and stoutly armed with a grease gun full of (real name unavailable, generic name unprintable), I climbed up to the main blocks, found the fittings and — realized I could shoot long squirts of grease (Wormalube, I christened it) at my hapless peers below.
Unfortunately, Warrant Officer Pierce was not one of them. One errant white worm squiggling through the air and suddenly he’s looking down at a seven-inch stripe of goo on his crisply pressed sleeve and …
That’s the other thing I learned in the Coast Guard. It’s not good to irritate someone who has more authority than you. So, come this weekend, when I’m restricted to base and working off my 28 hours of extra duty, I won’t be in unfamiliar territory.