It is Monday evening, and today I was offered two jobs.
The first involved a position of authority that has been very good for me in the past. I recently overcame a medical condition that would allow me to return to such a job. It would have been a great job with wonderful pay and benefits. Yes, a position that folks look up to and admire the person doing that job.
The other position was one that would involve cleaning toilets, weeding, doing repairs and organizing work to be accomplished at a location close to me and close to my heart.
I’ve been going to sea on some form of vessel, submarine, surface ship and other odd pieces of flotsam and jetsam since I was 19 years old. It was my profession and livelihood all of those years. Thirty-six of those years were for the U.S. Navy, and since 2005 it has been as a contractor or ship’s company on surface ships.
I’ve seen a lot of the world, many times through a periscope. That first job offer would put me back to sea.
The second offer would seem a “no-brainer” rejection. Cleaning toilets? Pulling weeds? Can I get some goats?
Both jobs I’ve done before, and I can handle either – but do I want to do that?
I’ve been at the south end of a herd of bovines headed north a few times. Yes, “suckin’ dust” and watching for strays. Both positions have elements of that old job. At the time I looked upon the “cowboy” job as something I didn’t really want to repeat, but as the years passed, I found myself looking to the “good ol’ days” and wondering if I could ever sit astride a horse again. I have done that since those days, and it was enough to convince me I’m not a cowboy. I never even learned how to rope.
There comes a time when one must decide which direction to head, be it work or play. Do I get the herd settled down and the saddle off of the horse for the night? Gee, I know I’ve got to get that saddle on the horse again tomorrow.
The Navy did a lot to teach me how to clean “heads” (bathrooms), swab decks (mop floors) and man the brooms to clean ship fore to aft, taking all trash to the fantail … except that on submarines, we compacted our trash and placed it in weighted cans to be shot from the boat through the trash disposal unit or TDU.
One hasn’t really had an exciting life until one gets to sit on a cold deck in the head of a submarine cleaning the toilet with an abrasive pad. For some reason, the Navy wanted those stainless steel toilets to shine, regardless what was going to be put into them.
Likewise, I don’t want ever to look through a periscope and see another ship so close I’ve got to scream “EMERGENCY DEEP.” Listening to the propellers of that other ship go over your sub is not a pleasant experience.
That is how I felt about both of the job offers today. As if I had just yelled, “EMERGENCY DEEP,” only the boat wasn’t responding. We were going to wreck. I couldn’t stop it.
For 46 years, I’ve gone to sea. I’ve herded a few cattle and cleaned more heads than I ever want to admit. It all has to stop.
I turned down both jobs. Leave that stuff to younger men and women.
If I want to see a cattle drive, I can find a rerun of “Rawhide.” As for the subs and ships, there is any number of good movies to pick from.
I can’t get seasick having a glass of iced tea while sitting under an old oak tree. I also won’t get sick from the smell of toilets and the south end of the north-headed herd.
Sunsets look a whole bunch better.
I can live without those jobs, after all.
So you’re stuck with me here in the SCV – be it in Acton, Newhall, Gorman, Castaic and all of the other places of our valley.
Not a bad choice. The pay isn’t good, but the job satisfaction is high. Off the scale. I’m home.
Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley, where he serves as executive director of the SCV Historical Society. He can be reached at email@example.com. His older commentaries are archived atDManzer.com; his newer commentaries can be accessed [here]. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].