I’ve spent the last couple of days surrounded by members of an extended family I do not know that well. Unfortunately the event that brought us all together was my Grandfather’s funeral. My Grandfather lived 98 years, but even with that staggering total it was a little hard for me to believe he was no longer around. In the memories I forged as a young child, my Grandfather was a larger than life figure, nearly invincible. We would visit Pawleys Island, SC every summer and my Grandfather would be out patrolling the ocean with me, looking over the flailing 8 year old that still couldn’t swim. If he had told me then that he could walk straight across the ocean to Europe, I probably would have believed him. This was a man that often ate cake for breakfast with no consequence. It was very easy to buy into what he said.
As I got older, my trips to South Carolina became less frequent, and seeing as how there were members of my Grandfather’s family that I wouldn’t see when I was down there anyway, there was a definite level of unfamiliarity in the crowd despite us all being related in some way. When this happens you never really know what to expect. The small talk can veer off in any direction.
We were doing a lot of piggy back story telling. Someone would share a story, and then the next person would take a tiny piece of that story and then relate something of their own. By the end of that tale you might have forgotten why you were on that topic in the first place, but someone was always ready to step in with the next story to keep the conversation going.
You need people to share in this scenario, and while I think I spin a decent yarn, sharing is not really my forte. Luckily, plenty of other people had problem stepping up to the table. We had been talking about things military, and from there someone mentioned a base in Virginia where the Army trained most of its cooks. With those general topics in play, my colorful great uncle thought of a story he could tell. Allow me to relate it to you…
My great uncle had been in the Marine Corps. He said their meals were so regimented that they knew what they were getting for dinner based on the night of the week. On Sundays, they had bologna. While I took a moment to think about how awful a dinner bologna would make, my great uncle added:
“You know in the service the guys called bologna, horse c*ck.”
I suppose now would be the time to say we were in a mixed crowd. No children, but plenty of women present. My sister sat there, mouth slightly agape in amazement. I started laughing. Pretty hard. What else was there to do? My great uncle didn’t blink. Just forged ahead.
He told us all that on one Sunday night his base was visited by a group of commanding officers. A small number of people on the base got chosen to eat dinner with the VIPs. When they got to dinner they didn’t find the usual fare. Instead there was a nice steak dinner. Before everyone started eating, one of the officers announced that the whole base was enjoying that same dinner that night. The men cheered and then went about enjoying their steaks.
After dinner and back among the rest of the men, someone asked what the other Marines had for dinner that night. The answer,
“Horse c*ck. It’s Sunday. What else would we have had?”
You’ll notice that the above story can be told using the word bologna and the point still gets across. There was no particular need to add that detail, but given the chance to let everyone know what Marines in Korea called bologna…why not?
So, what’s the moral of this 2nd hand anecdote? Well, the beauty is in the details and sometimes a little appropriateness needs to be sacrificed for accuracy. It was a moral my Grandfather knew well.