Family Wisdom

Everyone eats a peck of dirt before they die.Great-Grandmother McNeil

Mother was a perfectionist and emotionally tied to neatness and cleanliness. I was something of a Momma’s Boy, and tended to avoid filth as much as a youngster, playing sports and kid’s games outdoors, could.

Dad was at the opposite extreme. On one occasion when we were working together, I hesitated to handle something (forgotten, but) disgusting. I received an object lesson from Dad. Fortunately, it was a verbal lesson. I pity the original recipient:

Dad was a Navy Ensign during WWII. He had assigned a member of his squadron (let’s call him Joe) to duty cleaning latrines. I do not mean to say that the duty was the genteel cleaning which we perform in indoor bathrooms. Latrines must be periodically emptied of their accumulated visitations. Joe was not enthusiastic about his duty assignment.

Dad checked on Joe’s progress after a while. He was most displeased to find that Joe was using a small stick (Dad said that it looked like a toothpick) to remove the gooey pile from the pit. Dad had a simple and extremely direct way to confront Joe’s reservations. He scooped a handful of unspeakable ickiness from below and grabbed Joe’s wrist. The steaming, dripping pile was slapped onto Joe’s palm with sufficient force that he would not need to grasp it.

Latrine duty was, on that day, completed on schedule. Joe could not have ever forgotten this lesson, for I have been unable to forget being merely told about it.


1 Response to “Family Wisdom”

  1. 1 ansonburlingame
    January 28, 2010 at 11:09 am


    On submarines “latrines” dump into tanks and eventually get “blown out” to sea thru valves. No mess usually. But sometimes those valves get “munged up” and must be disassembled and cleaned. On rare occasions the valves have solid matter that has soldified and the “stuff” must be chipped out.

    I overhear a young and very good sailor one day chipping away at such a valve. He was saying to himself, “And THEY want me to reenlist??!!”


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All original material Copyright James R. Stone 2010, except where specifically noted. Some images licensed under Creative Commons, or GNU Free Documentation License, or unlicensed and public domain.

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