UNITED STATES—I hear a lot of things as a reporter. Never know where the next story is coming from, ya know. Joe Holly once described himself as a common man who had no liking for war whatsoever, but when he got into where the shooting was, he just couldn’t get enough of it. It was a new “game” he liked. Didn’t see that coming, no sir. There’s that rare thing called a natural, some people train a lifetime or two to become that natural, but this hostile baby called war, which Joe Holly hadn’t the faintest taste of and, actually had disconsolate experiences around New Orleans seeing the Civil War vets short a limb or eye and you could catch a whiff of necrosis when the wind blew a certain way off Lake Pontchartrain.
“To be near the shooting freed me, alright. I know the safest place to skirt is hugging that danger zone.”
Just before hitting Roatán Island just under midnight, concealed by dense fog Holly did what no one expected, “We’re going out in a skiff with a couple Winchesters.” Holly had put everyone in earshot into danger ravine, and they tumbled in this wake of danger and adrenaline that sucked them along. A handful of men tramped up a dirt trail to take the fort from the side. There was a little fracas and before you could say Chiquita Banana the rebels were lords of the old Spanish fort and its Krupp gun. This feat got out across the chain of islands and all the other nations of Bananaland, full of people itching to overthrow Saavedra. Soldiers from rebel camps nested all over Spanish Honduras, soldiers from British Honduras too, started pouring in. These were the guys who wanted to follow Miguel Padilla back to the presidency—Padilla’s army. The swarming rebels hooted and hollered with joy.
They planned to proceed to the next island in the Bay Islands in a few more days. That would have been Útila. Joe Holly had other ideas, however; he was ready to push on to the island six miles across from the bay with a force doubled in size, onward to Útila. The Marlin sailed on. Laughing, shouting, dancing, waving bayonets and rifles and lugging the army surplus Colt 1895 machine guns they landed at the beach, and the rest—the rebels took the archipelago, the Bay Islands, and in their cockiness they skipped the last island. They skipped Guanaja altogether and turned to the mainland.
Before the Battle of La Ceiba, Joe Holly said before those gathered on the dock, “Boys, you be breaking your mothers hearts, but you’re not breaking mine. We gonna come down on the Spanish like buzzards on a sick steer.” Per order of President Saavedra, silver bars from the country’s treasury were hastily transferred in armored trucks from Puerto Cortés, where Honduras’ financial reserves where stored, to La Ceiba, a city that military scholars thought impregnable.
Early in the anno horribilis of 1912, the Marlin attacked the city of Trujillo on the Costa Norte and had success. Ten days later the ship was captured by a U.S. gunboat for violating the neutrality act—oh my, what niceties prevailed in Sam’s Bananaland. After disregarding ex and future President Padilla’s imprecations regarding ownership of the Marlin. As rebels hoorayed the conquest of Roatán, the Marlin’s captain squatted on deck with a gentleman, a certain Fernando Shatner Rojas, documents were signed and everyone shook on the deal: for a few gold ingots Fernando Shatner Rojas, who was not the Marlin’s owner, agreed to be the ships owner on paper at least.
Belonging to a citizen of Honduras, the ship could do anything—waging warfare included—without violating the Neutrality Act. As the humorist Will Rogers commented, “If this Neutrality pact is so darn precious, why is it the politicos are always bending over backwards to violate it. And the finickiness about butchering horsemeat, and all these fellas decrying conflict of interest—well we all know you want a binding of interests. So I say to these honchos in Washington, bug off—you guys are the joke professionals and you’re putting me out of business. We ought turn the scrutiny of the anti-trust laws on you guys.”
The Marlin got towed again—that’s what happened. Held as evidence in the Port of New Orleans. Having established a foothold in Trujillo the insurgents could get by without the battleship Marlin.
To be continued…
Grady is the Wizard of Fiction.