The tank that bit Daddy

By David Grima | Aug 05, 2020

45 summers after the release of the movie “Jaws”, the State O’ Maine is announcing rules to try and stop people being eaten by a shark off our coast.

They have dithered somewhat between limiting people to swimming in ankle-deep water and waist-deep water, and I think the current rule is waist-deep, in which a shark can comfortably sneak up on you and commit its infamous deed.

The poor victim of last month’s first-ever death by shark in Maine was described in a distant state’s newspaper as a Maine woman, which isn’t quite right. I believe she was from New York.

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I sense a Great Disturbance in the Force.

Last week’s Courier was riddled which percentage symbols, which were utterly forbidden in my day. Even my own sacred article was plastered with a few of them, suggesting either a rogue copy editor gone rabid in the summer heat, or a switch in the rules and regulations applying to words in newspapers.

Dimly do I recall the editor of this August newspaper recently writing something about such a change, but I had no idea everything fell apart so quickly.

Let’s just hope that my use of the word “percentage” in the previous paragraph is not mutilated into "%age," and that there is still some shred of reason clinging to the whole process. But as usual, we are at the copy editor’s mercy.

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On July 28, as the heat soared ever higher, and the lawns in the Blessed Over-taxed South End of Rockland were turning brown, the town of Cushing published a notice on Craigslist, seeking a snow plow driver.

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Lifeguards need only apply in February, of course.

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Did you see the Lobster Festival parade last weekend? Our local cable TV station broadcast a film of a previous festival parade, while the actual streets of our city were relatively silent on this plague-ridden anniversary of the 2019 Lobfest.

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Speaking of which, some generally nice remarks were made about last week’s article in which I reflected on how we were in the week, when normally the Lobster Festival would have been under way.

I see that my lament at not getting my annual Italian sausage sandwich at the festival struck home with some of the more refined kind of readers. I am advised that the Woodmans of Crescent Street went up to Hazel’s take-out at Kalers Corner, and Tom got his sausage sandwich fix there.

Lobfest Parade Director Jenn Chapman was kind enough to salute my sad sausage sandwich memories, too.

A devoted reader from Spruce Head mentioned that she put on her Lobfest T-shirt, but that she has not had a lobster dinner yet, this year.

And neither have I! I must do something about that.

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Drive-in Blues mini concerts are being planned at Harbor Park for Aug. 9, Aug. 23 and Sept. 6. The cost is free, but a $20 donation per car is being suggested for the musicians. I expect more details in next week’s Courier.

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Years ago, I brought home a boxed set of old Omni magazines from the dump, when you could actually do things like that, salvaging useful stuff, or at least interesting stuff from Wink’s place, our shabby-chic swap shop that has been closed since last winter.

Omni was heavily into science, science fiction and particularly UFOs, along with all kinds of fiction of speculation.

That was when magazines were something to be respected. Over 130 pages per edition, filled with ads for cigarettes and whisky, and printed on good quality heavy paper, Omni seemed to have it all. Each edition in the magazine’s early days was so bulky you could have swatted a buffalo with it and won.

One short item from a 1979 edition caught my eye, the other day. It was about the XM1, the new American tank that was about to replace all the Vietnam-era tanks still on strength with the Army and Marines at that time.

If you have a fondness for those now-antique Patton tanks, there is a pair of them in Augusta you can inspect at your leisure. One is at the airport entrance behind the Armory, and the other is behind the shopping mall named after the Kennebec Journal building that used to occupy that corner of the city, parked outside what I think is a VFW post.

But remember, these things are dangerous. Once upon a time, I decided to closely inspect the Patton parked by the airport, and the damned thing bit me. Some spring-loaded hatch snapped back on my typing finger and almost caused a change of career. My boys, who were then small, immediately dubbed this vicious monster "the tank that bit Daddy."

According to the article in Omni, the new replacement tank, later named the M1 Abrams, was fitted with a special armor invented by the British, called Chobham armor, which had a reputation for being impenetrable.

How time flies when you’re having fun. Only a week or two ago a more current news item also got my attention. It seems the Marine Corps is now getting rid if all its Abrams tanks; all of them. The Corps will apparently fight its future battles without benefit of tanks at all.

As far as I can figure out, the U.S. military only really used its Abrams tanks twice in serious combat, in the Gulf War of 1991 and also in Iraq-Afghanistan, or whatever the interminable war is now called that President Shrub declared to be over in a speech aboard USS Abraham Lincoln May 1, 2003.

So, if anybody is in the market for a slightly used Abrams tank, this would be a good time to look for a deal.

Possibly, if I parked one of them on my property in the South End recently, the wretched tax assessor would have done the sensible thing and kept on driving by.

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Speaking of high tech, it seems that nowadays everybody and their grandmother is launching rockets to the Moon or to Mars. Obviously, I don’t include all the firework rockets that continue to be shot off over Rockland and Cushing. I mean the real McCoy. India, China, the United Arab Emirates; they’re all in the space game, these days.

Recently, I mentioned a news item suggesting some agency is planning to build a small launch pad in Maine to launch satellites. What better time than this for Rockland to get in on the game, and send its own mission to Mars?

About a dozen galvanized garbage cans could easily be converted into a respectable space rocket, and almost certainly there are enough explosives around town to allow us to tinker with the idea of a solid-fuel rocket launch sometime around Labor Day.

I am generously offering the use of the concrete towers at the foot of Mechanic Street, where I am forced to live, as the Rockland space center. Shouldn’t be hard to find Mars up there somewhere.

Who knows, maybe overtaxed South End residents might seize this opportunity to set up a colony on the red planet, escaping the surly bonds of Earth and expensive city government once and for all.

David Grima is a former editor with Courier Publications. He can be reached at

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