The First Thanksgiving

THE FIRST THANKSGIVING

At noon I joined the mass of uniformed cadets in a dash to the New London train station. I turned from the platform into the first car…to join what seemed like a million college students from every school north of New London. The railroad always claimed they put on extra cars for Thanksgiving. I never believed it.

All I knew was that I made the entire trip standing, suitcase on the deck, squeezed between my ankles, fighting the swaying train with one hand on overhead rack. The air was close and reeked of sweat and stale cigarette breath. The crowd, already worn and hot, had randomly flung their coats, hats, and scarves all over the car.

The coeds, while still chatty, didn’t smile, their beauty lessened by their weary trip. My flesh never touched fewer than three other people at the same time during the two-hour ordeal to New York.

At Penn Station, the car doors opened and before the wheels stopped screeching in a shower of sparks, and a herd of twenty-somethings, like fire ants scattering from their mound, stampeded into the oblivion of New York City. I boarded a shuttle bus to Rockefeller Center and the Erie Railroad office where I would begin my lonely overnight trip to Salamanca, NY. Continue reading “The First Thanksgiving”

Rescue of the Minnie V. Pt. 2

Cape Knox New photoWhen I ended my last blog post on the Minnie V Rescue, the Coast Guard Cutter Cape Knox CG95312 was trying to save a fisherman from the stormy waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Criss Wolcott, who couldn’t swim, was too scared to let go of the keg he clung to and grab the lines we had thrown right over his arms. He was drifting down the port side back into the dark sea. The Chief was right. He was never going to let go of that keg. I needed to make another pass. 

“Keep that light on him, Chief, and everyone pointing at him as we come about. If we lose him now— he’s done for.” The violent pitch as we knifed through the waves flooded the deck with a soaking spray. Continue reading “Rescue of the Minnie V. Pt. 2”

Rescue of the Minnie V. Pt. 1

His name was Criss Wolcott. I first met him at two o’clock in the morning on the storm tossed entrance to the Chesapeake Bay. He was in near freezing water, desperately hanging on to a small keg. His barge had sunk. He couldn’t swim. He thought he was going to die.

Criss Wolcott
Criss Wolcott

His name was Criss Wolcott. I first met him at two o’clock in the morning on the storm tossed entrance to the Chesapeake Bay. He was in near freezing water, desperately hanging on to a small keg. His barge had sunk. He couldn’t swim. He thought he was going to die.

The buzzer on the sound powered phone jarred me awake.

“Captain!” An automatic response. I was now fully alert.

The CG 95312 was my first command; I was twenty-four, the only officer assigned to the 95-foot patrol boat in Norfolk VA, a busy port with lots of Search and Rescue action.

“Captain, this is Barker on the bridge. The Cherokee has lost her tow! She’s about five miles northwest. Five men are in the water. I just changed course to head to her.”

My feet barely hit the deck when I heard the familiar start-up whine of the two Cummins V-12’s that roared to life just like the big rig truck engines that they were. Sitting on the side of my small bunk, I grabbed my pants. I stumbled as I threw on my shirt; the Bay had really kicked up since I had gone to bed. Continue reading “Rescue of the Minnie V. Pt. 1”