The Ancient Mariner, a character by Coleridge, used to catch people and make them listen to his story. Although they would beat their breasts and try to escape, he held them like a spell.
.He holds him with his skinny hand,
"There was a ship," quoth he.
"Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"
Eftsoons his hand dropt he.
He holds him with his glittering eye --
The Wedding-Guest stood still,
And listens like a three years child:
The Mariner hath his will.
The Wedding-Guest sat on a stone:
He cannot chuse but hear;
And thus spake on that ancient man,
The bright-eyed Mariner
We have several Ancient Mariners here who have stories to tell, and once they begin, it is difficult to escape without hearing their tales. And like the Ancient Mariner, their stories are fascinating to hear..
For instance there is Charles, an ex-pilot who built his own plane and flew it regularly to a cabin he had built near a lake in the Sierras. He tells his story with enthusiasm, and gestures explaining just how to make an aerial approach to the little lake shore airstrip. Alas, he also tells how many pilots died because they didn‘t make the right approach or take off. And once he begins it is difficult to excuse yourself from the rest of the tale, no matter how often you‘ve heard it.
There is Earl, who was a teamster for fifty years, and tells you who hired him to haul how much of what to where and what he was paid to do it, and, alas, how much they still owe him. He had a beautiful Harley motorcycle. As he holds you to tell you the tale, he points out each Harley motorcycle passing the old folks home and identifies its model number. He hauled the gravel to make I-5 from the gravel pits of Snelling to the road site on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.
Unlike the Ancient Mariner, Charles, or Earl, Jim is difficult to get started about his tale. He was in England in WWII and as a quartermaster, was pressed into service to distribute to scattered Army units all the vehicles shipped from the US to England. He had to prioritize the army‘s needs and decide which outfits needed the jeeps and trucks and armored cars and get them distributed.
Grace was a Wave and was assigned to a top secret unit in Washington D.C. that was kept isolated from the rest of the Navy as they worked on breaking the Japanese Navy code. It was their breaking of the code that enabled the US Navy to discover the Japanese plan to attack Wake Island, and prepare the defense. That battle was the turning point of the war in the Pacific. Her unit received a special commendation from the War Department. That is a tale that is hard not to listen to…the first time.
We old folks are part of history. We old folks like to tell our histories. We capture our listeners when and where we can.
We are the Ancient Mariners. Coleridge could have been talking about us.