The USS Indianapolis myth “Jaws” created

 

Movie image Copyright 1975 by Universal Pictures.

 

 

Those who have seen Jaws (and there are legions of them) can recount word for word the famous monologue about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis Quint (Robert Shaw) delivers to Brody (Roy Scheider) and Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) the night of their hunt to kill that beastly shark terrorizing Amity. At one point Quint says:

“On Thursday mornin’ chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player, boson’s mate. I thought he was asleep, reached over to wake him up. Bobbed up and down in the water, just like a kinda top. Up ended. Well… he’d been bitten in half below the waist.”

Good storytelling, and even more spooky than the fate of poor Christine Watkins at the beginning because our imaginations can run wild with the details, not see them.

It also seems to have given rise to a myth about shark attacks after the sinking.
A few months back, my Google News alert for “USS Indianapolis” landed in my e-mail box a review of a book called The Book Of Deadly Animals, by Gordon Grice.  In it is this quote about the Indianapolis:

‘Men sped across the face of the water, propelled by unseen sharks. Others bobbed in the water as if asleep; on closer inspection they were found to be missing their lower halves. Some were dragged down suddenly, never to reappear; their empty life jackets might float up moments later.’

This sounds suspiciously like something out of that famous scene with Quint, Brody, and Hooper. Observe:

Quint: “I thought he was asleep, reached over to wake him up. Bobbed up and down in the water, just like a kinda top. Up ended. Well… he’d been bitten in half below the waist.”
Grice: “Others bobbed in the water as if asleep; on closer inspection they were found to be missing their lower halves.”

Sounds like Mr. Grice got duped by this myth.  While survivors recounted many gory shark attacks, no accounts that I have read relate a specific incident exactly like the one Quint talks about.  In my opinion, all written accounts such as Mr. Grice’s subscribe to a myth born of a scene in a movie written expressly for the development of one of the main characters (i.e. xplaining why Quint hates sharks so much.).

 

 

Dodge Center’s Old CGW Whistle Post

On a cold day in early March of this year, I visited the remains of the main line of the Chicago Great Western railroad in Dodge Center, Minnesota.   The line, which once ran north to south through this little burg, was used by CGW successor Chicago and North Western to haul grain to Kansas City until the early 1980s.  Then the line was torn up in favor of the recently acquired north-south Twin Cities-Kansas City “Spine Line” of the defunct Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific.

Much of the CGW main north and south of Dodge Center has either fallen victim to the farmers plow, become completly overgrown, or exsist as access roads to residental property and the like.   Lo and behold: while the CGW grade north of County Road 34 is heavily overgrown with spindly little trees and other brush, the line south of County 34 to the lines former crossing of the east-west rail line through town (now run by Canadian Pacific-owned and operated Dakota, Minnesota, and Eastern; also former CNW track) was clear of such detritus until right down by the site of the crossing itself.   And post-abandonment development encroaching on the line had been confined to a small duplex.   The remainder of the grade was not only undistrubed save for green grass, but I found much remaining track ballast still extant and visible since the rails went up long ago.   It also had something more substantial left over: the concrete whistle post pictured below.

 

 

Photo by the author.

 

I do believe the CGW used these to denote when the crossing of another railroad line was imminent.

 

 

The whistle post in its context. We are looking south towards the former crossing of the CP/DME line from between 2nd and Main streets. Photo by the author.

 

I love it when extant railroad artifacts remain standing along abandoned lines; they stand like monuments to past glories.