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Saga of Fred

Fred (not his real name) was intelligent, but he was gullible and did very stupid things. We first met while we were in the Navy attending radar school at Great Lakes, Illinois. In the year I knew him before he got married, I remember him as an average guy and my experiences with him were relatively uneventful. However, after completing the radar school, we both transferred to another base for more school, where he got married, and he also got stupid.

The first stupid thing Fred did was marry an 18-year-old woman who was dumb and hot-headed. Fred was also hot-headed, so they did not need to be together. As separate people, they may have been okay, but together, they were a disaster. As far as I knew, he never hit her, but she loved to do things that made him angry enough to break things; she thought it was cute. There were picture frames hanging on the walls in odd places in their home to cover holes he had punched in the walls.

Shortly after he got married, we both transferred to another base. Before he transferred, he reenlisted and received a ten-thousand dollar reenlistment bonus, about eight thousand dollars after taxes. Instead of keeping the check or putting into a checking account, he decided he wanted to take the money in the form of $100 traveler’s checks. I went with him to the bank as he got 80-$100 traveler’s checks. I had to wait as he signed all 80 of them. Once we got to the next base, he opened an account in a bank and deposited the money, so he had to sign all 80 checks again.

I rode with Fred and his wife to the new duty station. Before we left, he bought an Irish Setter puppy, so I rode in the back seat and watched over the puppy. At the new base, they lived in a trailer park and the dog ran loose a lot. One day it got hit by a school bus and one of its front legs was paralyzed. When the dog ran, the leg swung around and hit things, so they had to wrap it in a rubber hose to protect it. It got very hot in the summer in south Texas. They left the dog outside during the day and one day it died of a heat stroke. The wife wanted another Irish Setter, but it had to be from the same parents, so they drove from south Texas back to the east coast of Georgia to get another puppy from the same breeder.

Before we left the old duty station, instead of waiting until we got to the new base, they bought a doublewide mobile home. Since it was so big, it could only be towed over certain roads. To move it to the new base, the movers had to detour around some states that did not allow them so the move cost them about as much as the mobile home had cost originally.

Fred must have had “sucker” tattooed on his forehead. He would buy anything whether he could use it or not.

One day at our morning meeting at work, we were discussing a news show that had reported about encyclopedia salesmen that were working the town and ripping off homeowners. A few minutes later, Fred came in bragging about how he had been selected to buy a set of encyclopedias at a cheap price. Two young, beautiful women had come to his door and convinced him to buy the encyclopedias.

One day Fred came to work talking about some new fire alarms he had bought from a door-to-door salesman. The alarms were pressurized air horns that were set off when a strip of metal was melted by the heat of a fire. The salesman had shown photos of children scorched by the heat of house fires and shamed Fred into buying the alarms. I pointed out to Fred that most people were dead of smoke inhalation before they ever felt the heat, and since the house would have to be in total flames before the alarms would sound, the alarms were useless. He called the salesman to come and pick up the alarms. However, instead of picking up the alarms, the salesman convinced Fred to work for him as an alarm salesman.

Once as he was waiting for a potential alarm customer to come home, Fred and his wife went into a furniture store to look around. They came out with new living room furniture.

Another time Fred went to a customer’s house to sell him alarms and, instead of selling him the alarms, he ended up buying a poodle puppy from the man. The puppy was black except for a large white spot on its back. The man had convinced Fred that the spot would spread as the puppy grew older until he would be a solid white poodle. Of course, this never happened.

Fred’s car needed a new muffler so he went to the dealer to get one. He came back with a new car.

Fred did not camp but he bought a huge camping tent because it was on sale. He set the tent up in his backyard to try it out. He never took it down; it just stayed there and rotted away.

Fred bought a boat for fishing. Even though the ocean was 100 miles away, he wanted to fish in the ocean, so he bought a relatively large boat. The boat was too big to be towed by his new car, so to use it he had to find someone with a vehicle large enough to tow the boat to the coast to go fishing with him.

I had a motorcycle so Fred wanted a motorcycle. He and his wife were about to have a baby so she did not want to spend any more money. He said he really wanted a motorcycle, so she finally agreed—if she could also get a new washer and dryer. Now they were even more in debt.

After three years at the base, Fred and I transferred to another base for a few months of school before getting assigned new duty stations. He still had the boat while he was in school, but it was uncared for and had deteriorated until it was worth very little.

After the school, Fred and I transferred to different duty stations. I never saw Fred again.

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