Thus reads a WWI Navy recruiting poster. One look at the modern Navy tells us that we've come a long way, baby. Since a very young age, I'd wanted to join the Navy; its structure, solidarity, and purpose always appealed to me. I might have been among the first class of women to matriculate at the U.S. Naval Academy in 1976. Obviously, my life took a different direction, but I confess that I still harbor (no pun intended) a wistful penchant. Living in Annapolis and working at the Academy satisfies a small bit of the longing that never completely died, and I get a vicarious thrill from all the rites of passage conducted here.
Today a time-honored tradition at the Academy kicks off Commissioning Week for the Class of 2009. Since 1962, the Herndon Climb has been the unofficial climax for plebes who have gone "unrecognized" throughout their first year at USNA. Herndon Monument, a stone obelisk commemorating Captain W.L. Herndon who went down with his ship in 1857, is one of the many significant memorials seen on the Yard. At the signal, the entire plebe class rushes the monument to form a human scaffold, enabling one plebe to scale it and replace a plebe's "dixie cup" cover (hat) at the top with a midshipman's cover. Legend has it that the plebe who reaches the top and makes the switch will become the first in his class to achieve the rank of admiral (though no one has yet fulfilled that prophecy).
By the way, did I mention that the obelisk is greased with 200 pounds of lard?
So in my best writerly attempt to turn any situation into a metaphor, I wish the following:
As you climb the slippery Herndon Monument of life (this week, anyway), may all your endeavors be boosted on the shoulders of many caring people surrounding you. Always strive for the Dixie cup and fulfill your own "admiral's prophecy."
Congratulations to USNA Class of 2009!
(scroll down for photos of Herndon)
off-topic post script:
Congratulations to literary agent Laura Strachan, who provided the winning addition to the list in last week's Homophone Challenge! Funny how the simplest words are often the most overlooked. The list contained oar and or but not ore. Well done, Laura!
close-up of a midshipman's cover firmly affixed to the top of Herndon Monument, greased with lard:
Teamwork helped this plebe rise to the top to achieve the mission:
First order of business: throw anything handy to knock off as much lard as possible before attempting to scale the obelisk.
Plebes in "white works" uniforms, wearing the "Dixie cups:"