Recollections of Plum Island Seeing The Light

By David Robb Home Back

Painting and panting

Not all watches were stood at night. For example, if you had the forenoon watch from 8:00 AM to noon, you returned to the station, ate lunch and worked the rest of the day until 4:00 PM when everyone would knock off and clean up.

One of my assignments was painting the front porch of the station. The previous day, I had sanded it by hand and removed all the old, loose paint. This day, I figured it would take but an hour to lay down a coat of nice oil based gray alkyd gloss with a four-inch brush. As I was walking away from the gleaming albeit wet porch, Bud, the playful stray Golden Retriever that was brought over from nearby Washington Island (commonly referred as 'civilization') burst past me with an uncooked T-bone steak in his mouth. I knew in a flash I was in trouble. Dinner was to be the all too infrequent steak on the Bar-B-Q. I had placed them on the picnic table nearby in preparation for cooking. Distracted by Theile telling me to get a barrier up in front of the porch before someone accidentally walked on the fresh paint, I neglectfully left them unattended. The cook properly attired in his rolled down Dixie cup hat, crisp whites and apron was in hot pursuit of the canine thief until he rounded the corner of the life boat station and spotted me. A canon shot would have more subtle than the enraged glare I got from him. That silently transferred the pursuit to me, which I eagerly accepted to mollify my error.

Retrieving a prize from a retriever in damn near impossible. It's what they do for a living and when you chase them, it becomes a game and all the better for them. Now, if I were a retriever with a juicy steak in my teeth, I would high tail it for the woods and chow down but not Bud. He danced and skirted just beyond my reach in a frustratingly joyous romp. The other guys seeing my plight set up a noisy perimeter around the prancing Golden and closed in. Seeing my chance, I lunged and missed as Bud scampered up the sidewalk toward the station house.

"No, Bud! Bad dog! Stay!" was my helpless cry.

In two bounds, he was up the steps. With the steak clenched tightly in his slobbering mouth, his back legs slipped forward under him on the greasy deck and down he went with a thump on his back. He scrambled and rolled frantically which resulted in more frantic slipping and sliding. As we charged the porch, he quickly recovered and bounded down the front steps, slipping part way and recovering with a noticeable "Oof" on the concrete at the bottom. Determined to continue the game, he joyously raced between all of us and down the side walk that was newly laid last year with his carefully brushed coat now battleship gray and matted with sticky paint. When he saw that we didn't chase him, he quit and laid down in the grass near the beach, panting. He dropped the steak, sniffed the gray paint that covered it and decided that not even he could handle the marinade and trotted off to the woods.

The porch was a mess, the steps were smeared and there was a large gray paint smudge at the bottom of the steps on the new white concrete. To add injury to insult, neatly defined gray paw prints alternated down the concrete walk to the dock.

Reviewing the mess, I looked back at the porch and spied Chief Gleason standing in the picture window with his hands customarily in his back pockets. He turned and walked away shaking his head. Oldenberg came up behind me with the paint-smeared steak on a stick and said, "I think you dropped your supper."

Dinner became a bowl of ice cream about 9:30 that night. Frankly, I was more concerned about Bud with all that paint on him. It was caking his coat by the time I crept up to him on the lawn. By tying him to the tree out back and using a diluted mixture of diesel oil and warm water with a coarse brush, I managed to get 99% of the paint out of him. Then, it took another hour of soapy suds and warm water to get the diesel fuel of him. I finished it off with a bottle of pilfered olive oil from the galley that I worked in by hand to replace the oils in his coat and prevent itching from the bath.

As I ate my ice cream, I felt lucky that I had escaped the ire of the Chief. I hadn't. He stepped silently onto the mess deck and asked if the paint on the walk was cleaned up. I said that I didn't have time and that I would get right on tomorrow. He had a totally different idea and by 1:30 AM in the cold night, I had washed away of all the paint remover it took to get them clean again.

Climbing into my cold rack after a nineteen-hour day and no supper was sure to put me to sleep quickly. Wrong again.



This entire story is copyright by David Robb, and appears here with his permission.

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This page last modified 08/24/2003