The Big White Dream Boat

On this date, January 4th, 1967 – I was aboard a flight to Seattle to start basic training at Ft. Lewis, Washington. I had joined the Army Reserve almost a year earlier, but because fighting in Viet Nam was at a peak, basic training for reservists had been delayed. “There’s heavy snow in Seattle,” the pilot’s voice crackled, “we’ll be making a stop in Spokane.” Seattle was getting a rare snowfall of four inches. The city was paralyzed. Later that night, following a bumpy flight out of Spokane, we finally slid and skidded to a landing in Seattle. A drill sergeant herded us into a yellow school bus for the ride to Ft. Lewis. It took longer than normal; the bus bulldozing its way through snow covered roads. When we arrived, tired and cold, they herded us into a barrack to spend our first lonesome night. We had not been issued any army garb or equipment yet, that would come a few  hours later. I climbed onto a top bunk but couldn’t sleep. There was an odd silence in the barrack; a sense of fearful uncertainty filled the room. I cried the whole night. So did others. Back home I had started a career, was married, on my way to a good life. Why am I here? A couple of weeks later, after experiencing the rigors of running in cold and rain, loaded down with equipment, crawling in the mud, being humiliated by drill sergeants day after day, I found a way to partially escape the physical and mental torture. I kept telling myself over and over, “This will end, I will go home, and I will someday have a big white boat.” I pictured the big white boat in my mind constantly when awake; and drempt of it at night, keeping the vision alive. I could see that beautiful craft cutting the waves, its glistening hull reflecting the sun; the picture stayed with me even while crawling under barbed wire with machine guns firing above my head, or peeling potato after potato after potato.  After I finished basic training, I was sent to California for advanced infantry training. It, too, was tough, but not tough enough to sink my big white boat. After what seemed like forever, I did come home. 22 Foot Sea RayAnd, two years after being discharged from the army, I bought my twenty-two foot Sea Ray cabin cruiser. As I put that big white boat in the water, I was thankful that I’d gone through basic training. . . because that’s where I learned to back up a trailer.

4 thoughts on “The Big White Dream Boat

  1. Rocky Stuffelbeam says:

    Coincidentally, on Jan. 5, 2016, Ryan is flying to Seattle for a national math conference. Machine guns not expected to be involved.


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