THE BALLAD of SALAMONIE
from The Bunker Gazette
Old Sal was a tanker who sailed the Med,
Her crew full of guts, her Captain was Ned.
Now Old Sal was dirty, and covered with rust
To chip her and scrape her and paint her we must.
A more sea-going ship, we had none of us seen
And the bottom of Sal will never turn green,
Just mile after mile we'd sail the Med,
And cover her decks with paint and red lead.
We'd fuel ships at night, or during the day
Sal's the best fueling tanker, they'd say,
We'd give them some mail and movies and lube
And when we were finished, they'd bid us adieu.
All over the Med we would visit at time,
And our crew walked ashore in many a clime.
There's a lot of work with this fueling, you see
But we'd also enjoy some good liberty.
"Shore leave will begin when the line's on the pier,
And have you some fun, and drink you some beer."
But then Ned would caution and say with a grin'
"Take care the SP's don't bring you in."
And then the Med cruise was over one day
And to fuel in a storm Old Sal sailed away.
No one could have guessed what lay ahead -
'Till in came the message: two hurt, and one dead.
Three tincans were desperately low it was learned,
And from then on all four of Sal's boilers were burned.
There were sixty-foot seas and a hundred-knot wind blew
When to the DD's, Old Sal carried rescue.
One man in the sea, from right straight ahead --
If we hadn't been there, he would have been dead.
Old Sal wasn't built for a lifeboat, you see,
But that's what we made her, in EMERGENCY!
So listen my hearties, and call out a cheer,
For they'll never forget that Old Sal was here.
The ship was Old Sal, and she sailed the Med
Her crew was all sailors, her Captain was Ned.
"When I left Old Sal she had made an ex- cellent record in the
Mediterranean, and had received numerous accolades for being the most dependable, best performing oiler there. Our crew, I felt, had developed a certain pride in the ship, and I was sorry to leave them.
After my detachment, in the mail came a copy of one of the last
issues of the Bunker Gazette, containing both my last Old Buck column and a 'ballad" someone, probably one of the editors, had composed. Men of the sea are usually hard- boiled ornery types on the surface, but down inside there's a lot more feeling than might be expected. The ballad brought a lump in my throat, because it showed that I had actually accomplished much of what I'd set out to do."
(From his autobiog- raphy, Salt and Steel, published by the Naval Institute Press, 1999.)