It was early morning...very early...like three, or four a.m., but it was already light...if it did get dark at all. They had to work quietly, and quickly...though seldom would anyone have reason to be there at that
time, you never know. A few miles away lie the USNS Redbud, a former USCG Buoy Tender, but now
owned by the Navy's Military Sealift Command, her engines being warmed up for departure in a few hours. Though her Chief Engineer was aboard, and getting things ready, her Captain was "busy" ashore precisely where much "appropriating" was being done.
The gate to the fenced in yard was wide open, it's locks, and chain proving no challenge to the "appropiators". Within this enclave lie buoys, and chain of all sizes, large diameter pipes, and hoses for fuel transfer, and whatever else needed for the building of a new offshore discharge hook-up. It all belonged to a a large oil company that had the contract to keep the bases, both Canadian, and U.S. supplied with oil, or as they called it "POL".
Nevertheless, the men busily "appropriating" were in the same business, but for their government's depots in Greenland...the purpose for the Redbud. These Greenland depots were part of the Defense Early Warning ( DEW ) Line, or system...now defunct. Never to have it be said these individuals busy at selecting what they needed at the moment, were not "dedicated", they were out to prove they were...at least their leader was. Jimmy Hobbs aka Cap'n Jimmy Hobbs was totally dedicated...so much so, that
if he visited your ship, you had better make sure that even the anchor windlass wasn't loose.
Jimmy came up through the "Hawse Pipe"...as they say.... Probably to see if he could steal the anchor, and also went through the "School of Hard Knocks"...he being it's Dean. He had a certain amount of "polish", having served in the Armed Forces as an officer, and if I remember right...retiring.
He certainly had charisma, and charm - don't let his rotund figure fool you...he made it with the ladies....That of course is another story. Well passed middle age, Jimmy shipped out as Ordinary Seaman...the novice position in the business, and worked, and studied his way to Captain of Steam, and Motor vessels, any gross ton, upon oceans...he was smart, as well as clever.
Everyone loved Jimmy - those who sailed with him, and those he met ashore. He was always at the Base Commanders Table at any base he visited...inspite of his reputation always preceding him.
If you weren't ripped-off by Jimmy, you had nothing of value, and who'd ever admit that?
Tractor-trailers, and trucks of all sizes, sedans, cranes, whatever Jimmy needed to cart stuff away in clandestinely, he made use of. Of course he only "borrowed" these things, and anyways he always kept it in the "family". Whether Air Force, Marines, Army, or Navy ( including the Coast Guard ), it was all Military-Government stuff, and meant to be "shared".
At this moment though, Jimmy was drifting a little outside of "family circles", he was getting into private stock, but heck, they had a contract with the govenment...sort put them slightly inside the "family".
Anyways, he had his blue prints drawn up for his super-duper submerged pipeline he wanted to put in place in Greenland, and if the government wouldn't supply him with what he needed, he'd find it.
He found it big this time...so big it had to be dragged to the Redbud. Even if he had a flat-bed, he'd still needed a crane to load it, and that he didn't have. He did have a D-8 tractor, which was evident in the pavement of the road on the way to the Redbud several miles away. It would take a D-8 tractor to drag this "booty", so he had his eye on it for some time no doubt.
I arrived at my office in the Port, after a delightful breakfast, around eight-sharp. As soon as I entered, the phone rang. It could only be Captain Poole, as his Port Office had a commanding view of all, and I know he knew I had just arrived. Captain Poole would stutter when he was excited about something, or other, and he started out stuttering: "He he he he has has has done it this time!"
"He, who, has done what?' I answered.
"Ho Ho Ho Hobbs has stolen private property!' rebounded Poole.
"Well...private property...some one's car?' I asked.
"Som som som somthing bigger than that! I'll be right over.'
The Redbud was gone...as expected. I stood outside my office watching Poole getting into "his" U.S. Air Force sedan. ( They just loved Captain Poole, loaning him the newest, and best sedan every season ), and starting over my way. Captain Poole was in his seventies, and this was back in '64. He just died last year...1998. I braced myself as he got closer, he could be very officious in his Royal Navy manor ( he was a retired Commander from the "Senior Service" ), and I was more or less "responsible" for what those on "my" ( as he called them ) ships did.
"Ge ge ge get in.' he said, barely stopping the car to allow me in.
As he made a wild turn to head back toward the road, he started in on Hobbs, and how he "got" him this time. How the evidence is there, and here, and all along the road...all the way to where the Redbud was tied up. As we progressed up the road, Poole kept pointing out the rust trail, and the tractor tread marks: "See, see that, see that...all along for miles.' he kept saying.
When we got to the enclosed yard, the gate was closed, chained, and locked. Hobb's had a pass key to that too evidently...as usual, there was no one in sight.
"Okay Cap'...what was stolen? I see a trail from where the Redbud docked, to here. You say it goes from here to the Redbud...how can you tell? I was being funny.
"A ch, ch, ch, chain...an anchor chain. Ol' Freddy, who is supposed to be the watchman here, noticed the big pile of chain missing...it was right inside the gate, he couldn't miss it.' Poole said.
I finally got an answer to what it was that was stolen, and it was several shots of 2 1/2 inch anchor chain...that's 2 1/2 inches in diameter stock, not length or breadth of each link...that being about a foot, and a half in length, and a foot in breath for each link, or one-hundred pounds per link.
That's big ship anchor chain, and a shot being fifteen-fathoms, or ninety-feet in length, and three shots worth...that's a long, heavy chain to drag three miles. It was meant for mooring the mooring-buoy which large tankers would shackle into. I had seen that pile of chain as I drove by for months.
"Ol' Freddy ehh. Well, where was Ol' Freddy when he was supposed to be watching all this?' I asked.
Poole stopped fussing, and figiding around long enough to look me in the eye, comprehending what I had asked.
There's was no answer.
Having had enough of Poole's mumbling, stuttering, and pacing back, and forth like Inspector Clousou of the Pink Panther movies, and I, really wanting to laugh out loud, it was so humorous...I suggested we return to his office.
In the few minutes it took to get there, Poole riding the clutch on this new sedan as always, I figured a way out of this...first I had to calm him down.
George, his trusted Indian friend, who served as his go-fer, and right hand man was there when we arrived. George would do the "leg" work for Poole, making trips down Hamilton Inlet checking on the Eskimos that lived along it's shores. Poole was responsible, it seemed, for everything that happened
along the Inlet - a hundred or so miles long, including the port. He knew everyone on a personal basis, and like George, Ol' Freddy was no doubt one of his wards, or someone he cared for.
George beat it, using some excuse or other, not wanting to be around when his boss was on the war path. It was, as usually is during the summer months, a bright sunny day, the sun streaming in through the big windows overlooking Poole's domain. Actually, he would take a swim in the harbor every morning, the water temperature having had to be around forty degrees, or less...he was in great shape.
Sitting back in one of the easy-chairs he had in front of his desk, I lit up a cigar he had given me the day before. Ordinarily I didn't smoke cigars, but he would hand me one once in a while, and notice if I still had it the next day if I didn't smoke it then. Now was the time to light it...it showed I appreciated it, by still having it, and smoking it in his presence. He didn't miss a thing. After getting it lit, and burning true, I blew a smoke ring in his direction, it stopping just over his head, and in the sunlight looking like a halo. "Saint Francis of Hamilton Inlet.' I blurted out. He had but to look up, and seeing it there, burst out laughing...then saying: "How about a good cup of coffee, Cap.' He called me "Cap" too.
It was now time to work on Ol' Freddy.
"Now Cap, first of all, who besides us, and Ol' Freddy, are aware of the chain being gone?' I asked.
"No one, but...'
"That's good.' I interrupted.
"It's just a lot...right?' I asked again.
"That's all.' he answered sipping his coffee, his halo long gone.
"Ol' Freddy confides in you, that's why he told you first...is that right?'
"Yup...they all do.' Poole answered.
"It's his only income now...no fishing anymore. I presume he was a fisherman at one time?' I asked.
"That's it.' Poole answered.
"Will he tell anyone else?' I asked.
"Never.' Poole answered.
"Well, you know, as well as I, the season is soon over. This place will be frozen over soon. Nobody, but nobody is going to start work on any submarine pipeline this year...here. Right?' I said.
"That's true, but...' he said.
"That's true...that's right. That chain, if it is ever missed, won't be until next year, if by then, and by then they'll have some other plan. Anyways, we can't prove Hobbs lifted that chain. By the end of the day, with the traffic on the road, and possibly a shower, or two, those rust trails will be history.' I said.
"Yes...' he agreed.
"Gheeeeez! Cap...Hobbsy's your friend, every body's friend. Probably if he had time to ask for the chain, the oil company would have given it to him...you know he knows them all around here...right?'
"...and if you start stirrin' things up, the first one to lose his job would be Ol' Freddy, and who knows it happened during his watch, every one of the "down and out" have been watchmen there...right?' I asked.
"That's true.' he answered.
"Further more, it's off port property, and it isn't your responsibility...is it?'
"No....It isn't my responsibility.' he answered.
"There you go! Let Hobbs build his submarine pipeline in Greenland, possibly it will be used by the same people who own that chain.' I said.
"Ha ha. Yes, you could be right about that.' he answered.
"I don't think we should talk about it in the club tonight. Better save it for next year...Okay?' I suggested.
"You buying?' Captain Francis X. Poole asked, smiling.
"You bet.' I answered...sweating.