Like the rest of the country, I was spellbound this week by the rescue of the kidnapped sea captain, most notably by the astounding precision and accuracy with which the three Navy seals carried out their mission.
Sitting in a movie theatre watching Men of Honor and GI Jane is the closest I’ve come to spending time with the Navy seals. I have, however, known some seal wannabes and of all the stories of why that goal wasn’t attained, the oddest came from the scruffy, maddeningly independent contractor who worked on our house. According to him, he was right on track until he accidentally committed an act of war.
Yes, this is the contractor who redid much of our house with the assistance of Darrell, Darrell, Squirrel, and assorted others who came and went. Over the months he spent working on our house it became obvious that his specialty was planning, supervising, and talking. He was storyteller-in-chief.
According to him…during his days in the navy, he was serving on a Navy ship which had just come into port somewhere in Italy when a man in a gondola came close enough to yell up and ask did anyone want to buy a ham. He dangled a large ham enticingly on a pole, calling out, “$30! Cost $30.”
Our contractor and the men around him thought the ham sounded like an excellent idea, so he threw down $30 to the man in exchange for the ham. Except that there was no exchange. The gondola driver took the money and quickly poled away, carrying the ham with him.
Our contractor friend is not one to turn the other cheek unless he’s already broken your jaw on the first side, so he looked for the ham hoodwinker the whole time they were in port. Never saw him.
Now here is where the story gets murky because my memory gets faulty. Never mind HIS memory or whether it’s true or not. This is how I remember him telling it:
Shortly after they had sailed, the captain realized they had left something behind that should have been picked up. Rather than turn back, our contractor volunteered to go back on a smaller ship passing nearby that was headed for the same port. He could pick up the item and bring it back to his ship.
As soon as they pulled into port, he couldn’t believe his eyes. Poling out to meet them was that same gondolier, a ham on the seat. The contractor raced down to the engine room, yelling, “Quick! Give me something heavy that I can carry and that you aren’t going to need any more!”
They gave him a large greasy metal cog of some kind and he raced back up, reaching the top just as the ham salesman was giving his pitch. The contractor bellowed from the bridge, “Hey! Remember ME?”
The gondolier looked up just in time to see the large chunk of metal being thrown into his boat, promptly cutting it in half and sinking it. Our contractor friend picked up the item for the Navy captain and went back to his ship.
Two days later he was called on report. With his gruffy southern accent he explained to us, “I didn’t know those little boats was numbered and registered by the government. Apparently I had committed an act of aggression.”
Yes, according to our contractor, he had inadvertently declared war on Italy over a ham.
The captain suggested that perhaps he might want to rethink re-enlistment.
I’ve thought about that wild tale many times. True? I don’t know. I do know that I saw him eat a lot of sandwiches–burgers, chicken, barbecue, venison, turkey, bologna, PBJ, and pimento cheese. I don’t remember ham.