Windage and Elevation

Tales of Vashon


‘We got another problem’. , John shouted out to me…! I was outside and he was inside the cabin as we were working to repair or replace a large window.  The old cabin had shifted and the old widow had been altered to a very much out of square configuration.. some glass had broken and wind would pour through the cracks.

John had agreed to help, although he wanted to do things mostly his way.  That meant things would be slow and a bit tedious.

We were all at Portage for the 4th of July and Uncle Jerry was bragging: “I’ll bet I can drive a golf ball all the way to Burton.”  “It’s over a mile and a half across the water, you can’t do it,” was Dad’s reply; and we hunkered down in the driftwood to watch, as Uncle Jerry drove a steel pipe into the beach gravel at just the right angle to get the golf ball to Burton.  He called it a knee mortar, whatever that was.

Uncle Jerry had been in the merchant marines in WWII and crewed on a liberty ship that had no armament to defend itself with while under attack from planes or submarines.  Grandma Ada told us that Uncle Jerry was shell shocked from all the close calls and warned us about waking him up from a nap.  One time, I reached over the end of the couch and touched him on the shoulder.  He exploded off the couch like he was trapped in a sinking ship three decks below the waterline.  Maybe that is why they slept on deck whenever they could.  Us kids thought it was funny!

He lit the fuse of a cherry bomb, dropped it into the pipe and followed it with a golf ball that had seen better times.  We all put our hands over our ears and Uncle Jerry stepped back when the cherry bomb went off and we tried to follow the tiny speck as it careened toward Burton.  Jimbo, we just called him that just because he was a cousin, yelled out: “I heard it rattle the masts of the sail boats in Burton.”  “My windage and elevation must have been about right,” Uncle Jerry replied.

The John Wayne movie was over as we tumbled through the red doors of the Vashon theater, with our index fingers held as guns and we made the sound with our mouths, ‘kkughsss’; and ran after each other.  “Windage and elevation,” we yelled, windage and elevation,” because that was what John Wayne said in the movie.