Wednesday, June 21, 2006

September 28, 1954

Dear Folks—

Today I got the opportunity to play the role of a daring adventurer one always reads & hears about, when I went clamoring about the ruins of Fort Barrancas, one of the three Spanish forts in existence in America. It was first built in the early 1700s by the Spaniards to guard the entrance to Pensacola Bay. Subsequently, it has been held &/or razed at various times by various foreign powers and, most recently, by the Confederate States of America. It is a real "movie-type" fort, complete with a moat & rusty cannon all over the place. It stands atop & in a hill which I’m sure must have been man-made, as Florida is very hard put for hills. The elevation of the station here is approximately eight or nine feet above sea level (Rockford is 834 or somewhere along in there); the first breastwork of the fort, or rather the moat, is at an elevation of seventeen feet. Even on top of the fort there is a large mound of earth, which if located elsewhere than in Florida would appear that the fort had been carved out of the hill—here, however, it looks like the hill was built around the fort.

How the cannon ever fired anything for a distance of more than three feet is a mystery to me; and how they could possibly hit anything with those iron bowling balls completely escapes me. There are two major types of cannon, one of which intrigued me; the majority were the regulation 18th-century type, but the other looks more like a witches’ brewing kettle tipped slightly to one side. One of these monstrosities must have weighed two tons & seemed practically immobile. No wonder it was captured so often

I’m going to take some pictures of it, if the sun ever comes out long enough. I don’t know why, but it blazes like mad during the week & hides behind the clouds on weekends.

On my wanderings along the beach before I stumbled on the fort (which is about a half-mile to a mile from the barracks & set back about two blocks from the water) I had a nodding acquaintance with two crabs & a jellyfish (approximate diameter—l ½ inches). One of the crabs was a plain old brown one which some sailors had managed to chase on shore. The other was white, almost the color of the sand, & practically scared the wits out of me when it went scurrying for the water a few feet ahead of me. It went charging along sideways on its rear claws & at the same time was reared up with its two front snappers up, ready to snap off a toe if I got in its way.

Yesterday was my last day of swimming for a while, & they celebrated the event by making us swim for forty minutes. About ten minutes before we stopped, I got terrific cramps in my calves & couldn’t move my legs on the last laps—I just floated on my back & went about with my arms. They still hurt me today.

This morning, I went to a "sub-swimming" class to try to pass on underwater swimming test I hadn’t passed before. I didn’t pass it today, either. I can’t hold my breath under water.
Well, tempus fudget as it always does, & two days—one really—have gone by. It is now Sunday night—I have just put down a fascinating little text entitled "Aerology for Naval Aviators." Then, between sentences, I toddled out to my "cleaning detail."

Unfortunately, the weekends just aren’t long enough. Today turned out pretty well after all, & I got to take all the movies. I sure hope they turn out good—I got a bunch of shots of Florida flora (no fauna this time), took you on a guided tour of Fort Barrancas, showed you where I live (Bat. II), where I used to live (Indoctrination). Then, as a crowning glory, I take you to the waterfront, where we see a destroyer (the first one I’ve ever seen); and then "TA-DA!!" we go on board an aircraft carrier!! I got the biggest charge out of that—I guess I’m still just the same little boy who used to love to go & watch the trains come in—only this time it’s ships.

Well, I’ve got so very much to do & so very little time to do it, I must close now. Until later, I am

As Always,


P.S. A couple of the guys’ parents have come down to see them—I keep hoping for a grey & white Oldsmobile. Ah, well….


Eric said...

Having come of age in the '60's, I always hated the military. Your blogs do nothing tochange my mind! It's not the story of you in the military that intrigues, but the insights into your younger self - how you react to crabs scurrying on the beach, to an old fort, to Jim Crow in the South - that are fascinating.

Dorien/Roger said...

I'm really so glad you're following my blog. It certainly wasn't intended to be a recruiting poster for the U.S. Navy.. The entire blog is just one example of the fact that we do what we must do, and try to make the best of it. And I do hope that by reading it, you get to know a little more about how Roger became Dorien