Dan Lavery Reads at Vroman’s Bookstore with IWOSC

Hi Friends: I read a portion of my memoir about the Alaskan wilderness in a yellow panel truck with Joan, me, and our black Lab, Shiva.The occasion was IWOSC’s Reads Its Own on Sunday August 9, 2015   In the picture you can find me in the back row with a grey hat. Everyone brought their own unique, creative style. We all enjoyed the day.

IWOSCrioAug2015

Our first night we stopped at a beautiful lakeside campsite just across the Canadian border. After parking our camper at the top of a hill overlooking the expansive lake surrounded by pines, and conifers, we walked out with Shiva on a leash attached to her red collar as California Law required, gold name tag dangling, her black coat shimmering in the sunlight, and she whined and tugged.

“Take that leash off that dog!” the burly husband said with a smile, “You’re in British Columbia.” After unleashing Shiva she dashed down the hill and plunged in the lake with a glorious SPLASH. A flock of Canadian Geese scattered honking and cackling. Each black head and neck, white chinstrap, light tan breast, and brown back rose in the sunset transforming the spectacle from tranquil to cacophonous, yet picturesque. Shiva swam around, lunged out, and raced back to me panting with her pink tongue hanging out. “Good girl, Shiva,” I said, scratching her neck and petting her black shiny head. She looked up in gratitude and shook water all over me. Joan and our new camp friends laughed and then made a fire for a BBQ. A feeling of freedom, fresh air, and the smell of pine trees, filled us with vigor. A crackling fire, basted chicken breasts, and corn on the cob, put us in the mood for sky watching. The twinkling stars we barely saw in California cities burst forth in the Milky Way galaxy. The “Tea Pot” in Sagittarius and Scorpio’s tail sparkled. We soon were in sleeping bags with Shiva at our feet.

We drove through the pristine roads of British Columbia dotted with pines, oaks, and maples on our way to Prince Rupert. A Tlingit village that featured tall totem poles was celebrating a holiday and offered a canoe trip with a guide who told us their version of the creation story known as the Raven Cycle:

“Raven steals the stars, the moon, and the sun from Naas-sháki Shaan, the Old Man at the Head of the Nass River who kept them in three boxes. Raven transforms himself into a hemlock needle and drops into a water cup belonging to the Old Man's daughter. She becomes pregnant from this and gives birth to a baby boy. Raven cries until the Old Man hands him the Box of Stars, another with the moon, and a third with the sun. Raven opens the lid and the stars escape into outer space. He rolls the box with the moon in it out the door where it flees to the heavens. Raven waits until everyone is asleep, changes into his bird form, grasps the sun in his beak, opens the box, and the sun breaks free into the blue sky.”

“That’s a beautiful and interesting myth,” I said.

“It is not a myth. This is our truth. We teach our children what our ancestors shared with us. Never call the Raven Cycle a myth,” she reprimanded me angrily. Realizing I had put my foot in my mouth while seeking to learn about their culture, it occurred to me in awhile my clients in Alaska had their traditions and stories, which I would respect, and apologized to our Indian guide for using the word myth; but I had caused some damage. You can’t unring a bell.

Once we reached Prince Rupert, we boarded a ferry for the Inland Passage to Haines. We slept on deck chairs outside when the crew secured our yellow truck alongside other vehicles. After ninety miles we arrived at Ketchikan, known as the “Salmon Capital of the World,” home of all five species of salmon who inhabit the streams and waters of the Tongass for spawning, leaving their roe on the gravel. We took Shiva out for a walk along Ketchikan Creek, which flows through the town.

When she saw salmon leaping up the “fish ladder” they climb to spawn at the top, she barked and raced to the edge filled with an electric charge of energy. I feared she would jump in and directed her back on the path that followed the creek through the primeval forest. The gravel beds are the end of the salmon’s struggle and are so thick with numbers the shallow streams were black with fins and twisting fish. Shiva smelled the dying salmon that had spawned, hurtled over logs, and bolted through underbrush in a frenzy searching for wildlife. Sand hill cranes, trumpeter swans, black-tail deer, porcupines, and wolves roamed the area. Red cedar, yellow-cedar, mountain hemlock, spruce, and shore pine were everywhere. Nature had aroused Shiva and us with such energy, we chased our black bouncing streak laughing with joy. We rested under hemlock and spruce and gave our Lab food and water next to an alpine meadow covered with pink fireweed, blue lupine and yellow poppies. A Ferry whistle brought us back to reality.

After we got underway we saw killer whales and porpoises jumping and playing alongside the ferry. Bald eagles soared on thermals. Dall porpoises have black backs and white bellies resembling killer whales, but are much smaller, and generated a “rooster tail” spray visible for twenty feet. They were “bow riding”—a pressure wave like the blast of wind that follows a passing truck—they sidled up under the surface and rode inside the pressure wave.

At the next stop we left the ferry to see the capital of Alaska, Juneau. The mountains sloped down to the water where it rests along the shoreline. The Tlingit Indians used the adjacent Gastineau Channel as one of their favorite fishing grounds for thousands of years. The native culture, rich with artistic traditions, included carving, weaving, orating, singing, and dancing.

The Juneau visitor center presented a spectacular view of the Mendenhall Glacier, a massive mountain of ice with cracks and fissures that revealed tints of blue and gray. The sound of ice chunks tumbling into the water roared as the waves caused from violent forces shook floating icebergs sending ripples in the surface. The Mendenhall reached its point of maximum advance in the mid-1700s, while its terminus rested almost two and a half miles down the valley from its present position. The mighty glacier started retreating as its annual rate of melt began to exceed its yearly total accumulation. Its bulk now retreats at a rate of one hundred to one hundred and fifty feet a year. Global warming has accelerated the process so the glacier will disappear in several centuries.

(Excerpt from All the Difference, by Daniel C. Lavery)

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The Jewels of Ireland Tour: Dublin

 

Saturday morning August 24,at the Davenport Hotel in Dublin, Joan and I made friends during Irish breakfast(stewed tomatoes, yogurt, sausages, ham slices, potatoes, eggs, bread, apples, cereal, coffee buffet style) with a number of people from our tour: C-I-E Tours International.

 

 We walked to a nearby park across the street from Oscar Wilde’s Apartment clearly marked for tourists with a bizarrely dressed mannequin posing as Oscar strewn out on a blanket with muffler around his Irish hatted head, a fake glass of wine, and bottle next to him. Patriotic fully decked out military officers and soldiers performed a drill in honor of fallen soldiers of the IRA at a memorial inside the park that drew a large crowd and was led by a most serious faced muscular immaculate leader whose features looked carved in stone. His spit-shined shoes glittered in the sun, medals flashed, staccato orders shot out barked loudly as if everyone was under the threat of a military siege that these men would never allow, or die willingly to prevent. They honored the fallen Irish in all their wars at a pyramidal structure-the epitome of a shrine to the fallen patriots of the past.

 Near an ecological exhibit in the park we noticed a statue of a female with harp, many large black and white magpies scooting from place to place and gliding around until settled on the green freshly mowed grass or in a tree rustling leaves until perched. More statues appeared in the relaxed atmosphere of the park away from the military ritualistic shouting and marching that returned every hour, stopping traffic on the boulevard next to the entrance and calling attention to the ceremony with drill sargents passing out literature while the commander stood every ready to explode into action, like Liam Neeson or Colin Farrell.

The Museum of Natural History beckoned us through brick walls and more pristine landscaping, green lawns and huge trees.Stuffed Irish animals filled the glass exhibit scenes with magpies, deer, and giant deer antlers that were larger than any I had ever seen anywhere. Many fish were displayed along with a variety of animals found in Ireland.

   

The Art Museum featured many classic paintings including Sir John Lavery’s we bought on 3x5 post cards:one of him in the background painting his wife and children, goat herding in a birch forest, and his Lady seated with dark hair. Back at the hotel we slept for a few hours after leaving a message for Vince Lavery, a friend we met long ago in Fresno who ran for a political office and gave us his green Lavery political bumper sticker we proudly displayed while working in Bakersfield in1973.

He returned our call, and joined us for dinner at the hotel and a play we invited him to join us for George Bernard Shaw’s “Major Barbara”at the famous Abbey Theatre. Walking there Vincent gave us his unique opinion of Dublin and street walking tour that filled us with historical references, and interesting vistas we would otherwise have missed too many to mention here.The play had spectacular effects, moving parts from the ceiling and walls changed the scene from a castle to a drawing room and then a canon leveled a pretend shot in minutes to the gasps of the audience and our amazement. The shell burst with a crash!

The protagonist was a female Salvation Army Major, the daughter of a wealthy arms merchant. Shaw treated us to the tremendous conflict that a Christian woman devoted to peaceful resolution of disputes and opposed to arms sales and use, had with her father who argued that to preserve democracy we need the most advanced weapons to ensure its survival. She had fallen in love with a dull Greek scholar who was also an idealist.

Meanwhile the community that made the arms represented an advance for civilization rather than a decline, as they had earned a good living manufacturing arms,raised wages for all, and built churches, schools, and provided the most progress for their children and the surrounding community including music, drama, choirs,and everything cultural. The millionaire arms merchant was brilliant, handsome, and a persuasive speaker that challenged his daughter repeatedly regarding her pacifism in the face of real military opposition from dictatorships and fascists determined to destroy civilization and its artifacts. In the end, after 3 ½ hours, she succumbed to his view realizing the challenges to democracy were indeed evil and powerful and could not be moved by prayers alone.She joined his enterprise realizing there was nothing immoral about protecting our civilization from vandals.

Vincent took us by a metal statue that had a bullet through the breast of a Black woman, discussed his politics while in Fresno, anti-Vietnam War views, showed us the statue of Cuchulainn, and love of Ireland and its history.

He doesn’t eat meat but smokes cigarettes and said the Lavery clan is from northern Ireland especially Belfast. Agreed many years ago some French people with the surname LaVerée came to northern Ireland as mine did,and settled there after and during the Norman invasion.Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes is “mularkey” as being over-the-top in exaggerations according to the Irish.

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Memories of Dad on Father’s Day

(Click on photos to read and expand)

Dad 

He was born in Morgan Park Illinois April 28 of 1910

Athletic,scholarly, and musical who became a man of men

Loving animals and horses, especially his own called "Pep"

He was handsome and polished and seldom out of step

Possessed of musical talent he played the piano and the trumpet

Strumming the ukelele he sang about a honky tonk strumpet

An outstanding Morgan Park Military Academy Grad

His achievements, skills, and talents made his family most glad

Appointed to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis

(Dad as a midshipman at Annapolis)

Brought his father, Poppy, and mother, Gammie, exceptional bliss

   Basketball,soccer,baseball,football, lacrosse,sailing, and even polo

At formal recitals he played many a magnificent trumpet solo

While a midshipman he fell for a beautiful debutant: Hilda Crim

                    Her grace and beauty, love of tennis and racoons, made his head swim

        Soon they were married after he graduated in nineteen thirty two

                   During the Great Depression, an insurance career he wisely did pursue

He raised a family with a lovely girl and two athletic boys

      And gave unselfishly to provide for them a multitude of joys

                  Music,stories, travel, camping, sports, fishing to name only a few

                     He filled their lives with these and always found more for them to do

Uncle Sam came a-calling him to return to face the brutal enemy

               In ruthless World War II with fascist dictators and gross barbarity

A gunnery officer on the George F. Elliott, a transport ship

At Guadalcanal what seemed in the smoke-filled sky only a blip

Grew into a descending Japanese warplane known as a Kamikaze

That his blazing guns tore into but instead of falling into the sea

Struck the Elliot broadside in a deadly gasoline fed fireball

              Down to a sea grave slowly went the transport as nothing could stop its fall

  A  friendly destroyer rescued the crew that fearful and fateful day

                  Because of brave me like "Bull" Halsey and a man known as "R.J."

                           Yamamoto and his fleet were left limping and slinked back to Tokyo

                       Our proud protectors of liberty forced the foolish fascists where to go

                        On to Korea when duty called  him again in nineteen fifty three

                 Commanding officer of an amphibious ship called an "LSD"

                             The USS Whetstone with Lavery at the helm was a beauty at sea

                                                  ( USS Whetstone(LSD-27))

                                            It was Dad's first command and he did her splendidly

                                    Even rescued capsized Japanese fishermen he noticed  adrift

                                        Opened the dry-dock saving men and boat in a manner swift

                          Earned honors from Japan and our Navy for this humanitarian deed

                     He was never one to by-pass helpless persons at sea in need

                             Rescued hundreds of fleeing Vietnamese from Saigon

                           By navigating the Whetstone in shallow river Mekong

                        His crew enjoyed the way he played his ukelele and sang a song

                        He was a model naval captain who knew and taught right from wrong

                             Gained respect and honor for his naval skill and industrious toil

                               Commanded the USS Chemung carrying to the fleet  precious oil

USS Chemung (AO 30) head on

(Dad when a Navy Captain and The USS Chemung he captained)

                 Retired from Naval Service after a dedicated thirty years

                  And became one of those McDonnell Douglas Quality Control Engineers

               He always provided for his family as he was a frugal man

                         Invested for his and their future and prepared a well-organized plan

                           He cared for his loving mother when she became ill and very old

                              Took her to her many doctors because his heart was made of gold

                         When his sister Jane's diabetes became the brutal brittle type

                  He gave up his Long Beach ocean view and moved close without a gripe

                   As he grew older he fractured his left hip and was forced to use a cane

                     Then a wheelchair, had another fracture that caused excruciating pain

                      He found peace when he played his ukelele and launched into singing

                      To our family and his dog Pablo when on life he was barely clinging

                          Dad, we will always remember you for the memories you left us all

                           And hold high the course you navigated while you always stood tall

                           Duty, honor, country, family and pets, to these you were always true

                          We are proud this Father's Day to always respect and honor you.

(Dad, Uncle Paul, Aunt Jane top

Mom and Val

Val and Aunt Jane)

(Chip an Annapolis midshipman-plebe 1956)

(Dan a midshipman at Annapolis near a wall some people scaled on a boring weekend night)

(Valerie Lee, Dan, Paige and Tico, Dad, and Nicky at Yokosuka 1956)

Richard John Lavery Jr.,  AprDad's Memorial 4 28 09il 28, 1910- March 8, 1998

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A Cultural Awakening in Japan

     (click images to expand)

Every school day at 7:00 AM, Chip and I walked a mile to a small electric train that took us to the city’s main station. We caught a larger train to a city called Sushi passing a huge statue of Buddha’s mother, Maya, in Ofuna, the site of one of the most hideous concentration camps. Enormous crowds of Japanese workers, professionals, and students shoved the person in front until each car was stuffed. From there we walked to a square and boarded a grey Navy bus to Yokohama High School (YoHi) in time to arrive for our first class at 8:15 AM. The one-hour commute covered thirty miles.

 

On my first trip, I looked around and, for the first time, realized what a member of a racial minority felt like when surrounded by people with backgrounds alien to mine, whose skin and hair color, eyes, foreheads, differed significantly from my features. I studied the faces of the people called “Japs,” in war movies, often depicted as inferior vicious buck-toothed warriors, a “yellow menace,” the allied forces had fought in World War II. Fanatic fascists who would never surrender, President Truman felt compelled to drop two atomic bombs, decimating them like so many insects.

Upon careful inspection, however, each face had a wide variety of unique characteristics. They had long or short noses, relaxed or tightened mouths, and different hair styles. Many wore hats and long, or short dresses, or silk kimonos of all colors, and black school uniforms with white shirts. Others sported three-piece suits with brief cases and wore glasses of every kind imaginable. The males had their hair slicked straight back, wavy, crew cut, or bald. Their skin pigment varied from dark to light, and every shade in between, some were clean-shaven; others had beards or a mustache.

They did not move like the automatons, or simplistic people portrayed in newsreels I had watched. The Japanese stereotypes portrayed in the movies had propagandized and prejudiced me. These people appeared from what was presented to me, as inferior. The Japanese were actually far more complex and distinctive.

When I attempted to communicate in my broken Japanese, they were responsive in either good or broken English, courteous, and welcoming. They seemed delighted when an American boy showed enough interest in their culture to ask a question in elementary Japanese and were as intelligent, industrious, and, often, as athletic as any American. This awareness helped me understand one of life’s greatest lessons: we are all part of one race-the human race. No race, because of any attribute, over which they have no control, stands inferior, or superior, to any other.

   A Cultural Awakening in Japan

Nearby the bronze statue of the Great Buddha majestically rose above stone steps encircled by natural vegetation. A Japanese garden rested behind the immense meditating figure that induced a sense of tranquility from his facial expression, folded hands on his knees, his seated posture, and the ambience of the surroundings. The adjacent Hatchiman Shrine held the Shinto god of war and archery, in an old reddish-orange wood building with a sloping roof.

Located at the top of stone steps on the other side of a park, a long approach formed a tunnel ending at a large vermillion stone entrance with a black lintel known as Torii. For those who follow Shinto, this structure divides the spiritual area within from the profane region beyond. Shaped like two T’s, their trunks straddled the cherry trees, whose white blossoms spread like dancers on branches.  Petal blizzards covered the ground like pink dotted snowflakes mixed with shiny green leaves while gangs of squirrels romped, darted, and danced.

 

Thousands of bystanders watched a traditional spectacle featuring mounted equestrian archers in black shaggy wigs, adorned in hunting costumes of feudal samurai warriors from the Kamakura period (1192-1333). The horsemen shot arrows from quivers slung across their backs as they raced at three targets set up along a straight riding ground eight hundred feet long. The turnip-head arrows made a whistling sound as they flew through the air. The large crowd loudly applauded each time an archer scored a direct hit. They shot, quickly reloaded, pulled out, and launched arrows in a swift coordinated motion. A few hit all three targets that caused a thunderous roar.

  

I shared first trumpet with a senior for the YoHi orchestra and became first trumpet my sophomore year performing solos that made me contribute my individual ability, as well as meld with the orchestra like a teammate. My instrument was a Martin that had gold plating and fancy carvings and Dad played at MPMA while in high school. Chip and I were in the Jazz band that met weekly during lunch playing Glenn Miller’s “Little Brown Jug, “In the Mood,”  “Moonlight Serenade,” and other popular tunes.

Our six feet six inch director, Paul Mayerson arranged for us to collaborate with a Japanese high school’s orchestra on music from both our cultures. We practiced for two weeks in anticipation of the performance. Paul required the males to dress in dark suits, white shirts, and ties. The females wore formal dresses. We all put on our best shoes and made sure they shined. He led us into an auditorium for the performance that buzzed with two languages mixing in a mumbled chatter. We entered in single file down one aisle while our Japanese counterparts marched in an adjacent one in their black school uniforms with white collars. We took every other seat to make room for the Japanese musicians.

I welcomed the Japanese trumpet players on both sides, “Konichi Wa” and they responded, “Good Afternoon.” To my left sat another first trumpeter with a music stand we shared. It seemed to me none of us could converse beyond the simple words we spoke with our language barrier. How could they expect us to read the music, as I hadn’t learned to decipher Japanese calligraphy consisting of Kanji, and Kana? However, our sheet music contained no written language, but only international symbols for notes, emphasis, rhythm, beat, and volume, so a musician from any background could play. Paul had prepared us for another moment of cultural enlightenment.

Gigantic Paul and the diminutive Japanese director, barely five feet in stature, stood before us with raised white batons. My juvenile sense of humor kicked in as I thought they resembled a Great Dane and a Chihuahua at a formal dog show trying to corral a herd of puppies. Total silence ended the idle talk and my smile as our leaders led us for our first piece.

They moved their bodies about with arms changing positions in rhythmic patterns like synchronized dancers. From our first notes to the last, we spoke an international musical language with our instruments that erased our cultural differences while we entertained the audience and ourselves. We played Japanese and American popular and traditional songs to appeal to our multicultural listeners. When we finished, we stood, bowed to the audience, and shook hands with our new friends.

  

Upon leaving I noticed murals depicting the traditional Japanese tea ceremony in the large hall outside the auditorium. One had Buddha seated in a field of flowers with a serene expression on his face. Others had bamboo shoots randomly rising to the blue sky, and a tranquil sunset behind Mt. Fuji. A female host explained, “The Japanese tea ceremony originated in Zen Buddhism. Its guiding philosophy rests on Wa, which means Harmony. Kei - Respect, Sei - Purity, and Jaku - Serenity.” How germane that the images of the display echoed our music? My desire to experience this land’s images and ideals were enhanced by a new harmony within me. My previous prejudice melted into appreciation.

         
                                                                                                         

(Click on photo of birthday party to zoom)

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Vietnam Confrontation with Senior Officer

  A Confrontation in Vietnam with a Senior Officer 

As the Oakhill navigator, any officer could call me to the bridge, including the Captain, if they wanted me to assist them in  dealing with our location, tides, currents, weather, or something else. Our Captain observed us carefully to verify the accuracy of our observations and calculations. He had many years of naval experience and had previously commanded a submarine. I stood watch at least for four hours during noon to four daily. Always two officers stood together for four-hour watches on the bridge twice daily while at sea.

 

The Executive Officer (XO), a Naval Academy graduate and a Commander, occasionally joined the Captain on the bridge, or came up during any watch to test us on any area of nautical knowledge. He’d just finished a tour in Vietnam as a Navy Seal. A rugged physical specimen, he showed his athleticism whenever we played a softball, or a basketball game together during a break while in port. I had surprised him by competing favorably.  Some officers, like us, tried to show that officers and enlisted men could engage in athletic games that increased the moral and that we accepted a leadership role without arrogance by associating with them in physical competition.

      

The weather and currents were important for me to know to warn the officers in the night log whether to expect fog, rain, or other potential hazard. In addition to a morning position fix, I took a sun line at noon by using the sextant to calculate the altitude of the sun from the horizon. That allowed me to determine our latitude accurately from our star and sun daily observation charts. Knowing that line allowed me to estimate our position on our course until the evening when I used my sextant observations of star altitudes.

  

We spent two days in Hawaii, which allowed me to take a swim at Waikiki and do some body surfing. Saying goodbye to the surf, swaying palm trees, and the tropical paradise I plotted a course for the Philippine Islands.

   

Our voyage proceeded to our duty station in Vietnam. Continuing to learn from progressive magazines, I discovered additional reasons to oppose the war as I. F. Stone’s Weekly, Ramparts, and the New York Review of Books lambasted the strategy, conduct, and propaganda of our Vietnam adventure. We killed hundreds of thousands of unarmed civilians revealed in operations reports,  and heard first-hand accounts from Marines and naval officers, including the XO,  who said, “Navy Seals killed ‘long haired ones too,’” referring to women.

     

Finally, our ship entered the Vietnam War zone and anchored in Camranh Bay. Jet aircraft armed with bombs and rockets zoomed by and destroyed something in the countryside with an explosion that left a spiraling plume of smoke. Despite such occasional bursts it seemed hard to imagine a war raged a few miles away. Soon, I asked the petty officer who ran a liberty boat to shore at Danang to go with him so I could pick up Oakhill mail as our postal officer.

   

On my first chance to set foot on Vietnam soil a carryall for the mail waited to drive me to the distributing location. As I walked to the vehicle, Navy jets streaked overhead in thunderous roars from various directions dive-bombing areas a few miles away. In front of our mail truck stood an Army vehicle containing expert riflemen at the ready in case we ran into any trouble. The men showed no sign of battle fatigue. They did a job nobody else wanted to do in a place far away from their homes and would do as ordered to try to win the War. Some of the infantry men in jeeps and other vehicles rambling by on the dusty dirt roads looked like hardened helmeted killers with Uncle Sam‘s best weapons to fight an elusive, but poorly equipped insurgent enemy. None of their sweaty sun-baked faces smiled.

 

A week or so later I had another mail run to go on and jumped aboard the liberty boat, picked up the mail, and started to give the commands to return to our ship just as our chief engineer arrived. Generally, the senior officer controlled the actions of such boats if they come from your ship, but no one strictly enforced the rule, especially when a senior officer arrived late as the boat prepared to pull away. My rank as a Lieutenant, J.G. (Junior Grade) was below a Lieutenant, but I had qualified as a department head, the navigator, and CDO (Command Duty Officer) with extensive emergency ship-handling and small craft experience. When I arrived at the boat, I qualified as the senior officer and could easily control the boat safely to our ship.

At the last minute, our chief engineer jumped on board with fifteen sailors and a few ensigns with packages filled with gifts. He had begun his naval career as an enlisted man, and eventually qualified as an officer, which made him a “Mustang.” He outranked me as a Lieutenant. Since I had carefully studied the chart of the area as the navigator, and had taken control of the boat, I gave the commands for the two mile run to our ship. About a mile into the run, the chief engineer yelled loudly, “You’re going to run us aground on that sand bar ahead; I relieve you of command.”

“I‘m in charge of this boat,"I screamed louder than the engineer.  "We are not going to run aground. Boatswain, full speed ahead on your present course.”

“You don’t know these waters like I do; you are going to damage the boat and injure someone on that sand bar. I relieve you of command," thundered the red-faced angry engineer in an ear-splitting blast.

“I’m in charge and know our course is safe. Boatswain, keep your speed and course,”I screamed back with confidence.

The engineer enjoyed challenging my authority to try to embarrass me in front of the sailors. We had engaged in a few arguments in the wardroom during meals regarding: the Vietnam War, the republican position on everything, and his disgust with protesters whom he accused of being spoiled impudent snobs. Challenging him when those listening deserved a different perspective seemed a way to enliven our otherwise bland discussions, but this time he took my remarks as disrespecting a senior officer.

Eventually the boat pulled up to the Oakhill. By this time, the engineer had moved to the bow to disembark first. He smirked as he shrieked at me, “Mr. Lavery, you’re going to face a court martial for gross insubordination.”All eyes stayed focused on both of us as this was extraordinary behavior for two officers from the same ship. My body shook from the heat of anger at a conspicuous show down where I had determined not to let him intimidate me. He charged up the ladder to the gangplank trembling with rage and dashed into the Captain’s stateroom like his feet were on fire. I strolled behind gradually coming under control confident in the predicament he had caused. Soon he walked out and ignored me staring ahead expressionless. We stood like two khaki statues at attention against the grey bulkhead awaiting  resolution.

After an exasperating minute, the Executive Officer appeared unperturbed and calmly said, “We aren’t going to waste our time on something like this.”The captain’s perceptive assessment of the dispute left the engineer snubbed and an angry adversary thereafter, but he knew I had taken a stand and called his bluff. Glad my knowledge of the chart had proven his ploy did not dissuade me, I had stood up to him in front of the very men he had intimidated whenever he felt like it. The grins covering the sailors’ faces and the beam in their eyes revealed they were delighted I had challenged the harsh and egotistic Chief engineer whose eyes glared with malice. I had learned valuable lessons at Annapolis with difficult personalities, but no longer shied away from asserting myself when confronted by a higher ranking officer.

        (click to zoom Dan at Annapolis 1961)

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