Laetitia and her group headed east on Interstate 80 into Iowa, and when they got to Des Moines, went north to Ames. Ames is the home of Iowa State University and is located in the middle of a major agricultural region. Because of Iowa’s tradition as a farm state, Laetitia took her group to a “heritage farm,” with exhibits showing what life was like on a family farm in times past. After a day of seeing antique farm equipment, riding on horse-drawn wagons, and nibbling “down home” cooking, Laetitia found her way to happy hour in the hope that a story from the bartender or one of the other imbibers would provide an idea for the limerick of the day.
She was not disappointed; the bartender told a tale about a local fellow named James who used to brag to ladies about his unusual tattoo. It sounded very similar to something she had heard from her uncle. Laetitia’s great uncle Ralph was a Vietnam veteran. He had been a communications officer on a destroyer that made a couple of cruises to the Tonkin Gulf and the South China Sea during the Vietnam era in the 1960s. One of Uncle Ralph’s Navy stories was about a machinist’s mate first class named “Red” on his ship who had gotten blind drunk at the Shit Kickers’ Bar in Yokosuka, Japan and had his penis tattooed to look like a barber pole. On his rump was a tattoo of a devil shoveling coal into his anus with the caption “40 knots and no smoke,” an allusion to the fact that the stack gas from a ship’s well-trimmed steam power plant is a brown haze. Uncle Ralph hadn’t actually seen either of the tattoos described in his story. It was just the scuttlebutt that floated up from the mess decks to officers’ country. Laetitia wasn’t sure whether either of the stories was true, but she had the limerick of the day.
A quite randy young fellow named James
Liked to brag to the girls around Ames
Of the barber pole art
Tattooed on his male part
Which he thought would attract many “dames.”