This was going to be a post about crappy weather. Remember those spinning bouncing puke-inducing rides at Disney? They have nothing on riding out the storm that hit us at Fort Walton Beach. All Friday night and all last night we bucked around the cabin like numbered ping pong balls in the Lotto picker machine thingy. Tornado warning in effect. Impossible to sleep, just like when the tree-climbing alligators were haunting us. It was less windy during the day on Saturday but still constant rain and thunder and lightning. We didn’t travel. We barely left our pajamas. Thank goodness for DirecTV and football.
Instead, this is a post about serendipity and what certainly will be a top-five highlight of the Loop. Last night we intended to eat at the Shack, located about 100 feet from the boat. Given the weather we didn’t feel like walking far. The joint has a 10% discount for marina people, which we learned would include us. What’s this BS? “Closed for a private party” what? Grrrr. This turn of events required a good deal of cursing by one of us—but only one of us—as we slogged the half-mile down the road to Sealand, a restaurant that seemed inviting to weary travelers who had just slogged a full half-mile.
Turns out Sealand is named for the ship that rescued the owner just before he drowned as he fled communist Vietnam. His wife served us at the bar while we watched the SEC Championship. Food was delicious. An excellent experience that completely foiled the Shack people who tried to hose us. Ha.
Just as we got up to leave, an old bald dude started chatting up Dana. When he learned we live on a boat, he said he lives on a boat. Actually it’s not just A boat. It’s The Boat.
The dude introduced himself as Jim Tucker. Said he’s 85. We’d seen a hulking boat behind a big dinosaur way less than a half-mile from our dock. Both The Boat and the dinosaur are his. He gave us his number and invited us to come visit him on Sunday, likely assuming we’d never actually show up.
So of course we did.
The Boat is a concrete monstrosity that will be 100 in 2021. Originally it was some sort of army vessel. There are a bunch of articles about this thing. Here’s one of them. Jim has spent years researching The Boat’s history from before he bought it 40 years ago. He showed us his photos from various events. Like the time a navy battleship rammed it.
(The navy refused to pay for the damage.)
Now he and his wife and dog and cat and pigeons and ducks and geese just hang out there.
Basically Jim took us through The Boat and showed us more cool memorabilia than we found in most of those museums we’ve referenced in past posts. He didn’t brag, but the photos and articles and our subsequent internet stalking made clear he could’ve. Jim earned just about every medal possible during his stint in the Army Rangers, and ultimately was the commander of the Army’s Ranger School in Florida.
Doug tried to keep up with Jim’s lines but they came too fast. He punctuates every sentence with profanity, which he says is “probably why I don’t have many friends, but then at my age they’d all be dead anyway.” He’s an avowed atheist, who looked over the Ten Commandments at one point and discovered there was one he hadn’t broken. Since this is a family blog we won’t share the details, but with the help of a willing cousin he completed the decathalon. He served on the city council but they “ran me off” after eight years and two censures. (He voted to censure himself one of those times because what he did was “really bad” but he can’t recall what it was.) Then there was the time he a shocked a command staff with his description of former classmate Norman Schwarzkopf, who by then was the General in charge of the Desert Storm coalition forces. An episode recounted in an article about Jim’s induction into the Ranger Hall of Fame rings pretty true based on the time he shared with us.
Anyway, it was an epic afternoon. Doug wanted to get the new drone out—yup, there’s a new drone in the family—which Jim was all for. Unfortunately Doug botched the video he shot with Jim. Fortunately he realized the situation in time to fly back over just before sunset and just before the battery died.
We left with Jim’s autographed book and a really cool story, all thanks to whatever losers booked the Shack last night. The sun even peeked out just as Crossroads passed by. Robin snapped a picture of us after we waved to her and Barry on our sister Selene.
Tomorrow off to Panama City.
But wait, there’s more. Remember the post about the Glover Wilkins Lock?* GLOVER STINKING WILKINS WAS JIM TUCKER’S STEP-FATHER-IN-LAW! Turns out the whole mess of family is from Columbus, Mississippi.
* Doug and other Loopers hijacked the Glover Wilkins Lock Wikipedia page by adding the names of Looper boats passing through, but some officious intermeddler removed it all. We’re not sure, but it may have been the same guy who booked the Shack out from under us.