Just Soldiering

By Stanley E. Halfhill

Running Lights

    The night is dark and cold. In from the harbor channel drifts the dark salt air and covers Los Angeles City Fire Boat No. 2 with chill beads of dew. In her soft aqueous lair she nestles and gazes morosely, with her running light eyes of alternate green and white, to the wharves across the waters, the limit of her vision.

    Over her looms, dimly, the cavernous structure that canopies her bed and houses her keepers, the slaves of her destiny. Imperiously she rules them for her daily food and drink and spotless dress of white, of red, and trappings of gold.

    A spoiled queen and temperamental at present over the major operation she is undergoing to her nerve centers. The moves that light her eyes and warm her hard old heart with the fires of her mobility. But quiet now with the quiet of the night, softly rising and falling on the bosom of her watery retreat.

    Above and around about, sound the soft foot-falls of a fireman as he paces the cat walk on nightly vigil, lest some less loving mortal seek to do this beauteous Amazon a harm. To still her mighty voice, to chain her sinews in helplessness, come time of need.

    Times have changed for this fire-fighting royalty of Los Angeles Harbor. No more is she only a rampart of defense against man's carelessness that may abound in her own familiar waters but, a bulwark of defense against mans inhumanity to man, in those same local grounds of hers. Not only now, the fire of neglect, but mayhap the fire of the sword brought home to her from many leagues across the sea by an enemy more shiny than any denizen of the mud at six fathoms beneath her fore-foot. More treacherous than her enemy that eats through wood with red-tongued vociferous gusto. An enemy that drops from the sky with a scream and a clap of thunder, that rends and bursts asunder as well as creeping beneath yonder timbered wharves in still of night.

    Her servant sentry slaps his restless pacing, up above, and enters the little watch house on the seaward end of the ramp through a small window looks down on the broad white bow of his mistress and muses thus in his find invective:-- "You old trollop! It isn't enough that I have to labor all day in your foul old innards, or every morning shine your old carcass after a night of your slopping around down there with all your lovers-- the Tom, Dick and Harry's of the Harbor--Flotsam and Jetsam and other scum. No! I have to set out here and watch you half the night lest some scantling-crawler bash you one in your bilges."

   "If it wasn't that I am proud to be doing my bit for my country--proud that you and I and all our brethren are in the vanguard of our home-defense, if it wasn't that we now have a greater more sinister enemy than ever before, Dog-goned, if I wouldn't come down there and sink you one."

    Crabby? No just soldiering.

Mud at Six Fathoms

Joe Koller picked up a Life Magazine the other day and there was Joe Koller pictured on a page . . . . But not our Joe . . . . Just a wounded and captured Joe in an English Hospital . . . . A Nazi----and not as pretty as our Joe...

This article appeared in the December 15, 1941 issue of THE GRAPE VINE.

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