The news of late has been repetitive. You punch in the major news sites, and you learn about as much as the press did when Mitch McConnell had his on-air stroke.
Then … I came across the story of the four Nigerian dudes who jammed themselves in a tiny space above the rudder of a ship and stayed there while the ship crossed the Atlantic. They survived all 14 days, despite running out of food and water on day ten.
That’s a story. Those are some badasses.
How tough do you have to be to pull yourself up in the rudder of a ship, and just head on? I mean, they didn’t even know where they were going.
Their preferred destination, Europe, turned out to be Brazil – and one of these granite-hard men’s statement to the press was, “I made it to Brazil. I am happy.”
Happy? How about a living breathing miracle? How about the most-deserving-of-a-fresh-start man on the freakin’ planet?
Their story got me thinking about some of other world-class badasses whose stories are largely unknown. Here are a few:
SIR JACOB CHARLES VOUZA
Vouza had already done his years of service. He retired in 1941 from the Solomon Islands Protectorate Armed Constabulary, having achieved the rank of Sergeant Major.
However, when the Marines landed on Guadalcanal in 1942, Vouza felt called to assist in fighting the hated Japanese.
An expert scout, Vouza was the Marines’ go-to man for behind-the-lines recon. On August 20, 1942, he was captured by the men of the Ichiki Detachment — and when they found an America flag concealed in his loincloth, they tied him to a tree, and tortured him for hours. He never broke.
Frustrated, the Japanese bayoneted him in both arms … in his throat … his shoulder … his face … his stomach … and left him to die.
No such luck. After the enemy departed, Vouza chewed through the ropes with his teeth, and crawled several miles to American lines. Before collapsing, he warned the Marine commanding officer of a coming attack. With only ten minutes to respond, the Marines prepared – and wiped out the enemy soldiers as they crossed a river.
CAPTAIN SIR RICHARD BURTON
Burton was a similar soul, serving the British army before becoming an explorer for the Royal Geographic Society, wading mostly into untamed Africa and the Middle East. During his army career, he earned the name “Ruffian Dick” for his “demonic ferocity as a fighter and because he had fought in single combat more enemies than perhaps any other man of his time.”
Burton spoke twenty-nine languages — so well in fact, he was the first white man to ever enter Mecca; had he been discovered, he’d have been put to death, or torn to pieces by enraged Muslims. He wore their traditional garb, and with his tanned and weathered face, plus a perfect accent, simply waltzed in … made some mental notes for his journals … and left. It should be noted he received a circumcision before the journey, in the event he ended up unclothed at some point.
His next adventure entailed searching for the source of the Nile, alongside Lieutenant John Speke. On their first attempt, their party was attacked by a group of Somali warriors. In the ensuing battle, Burton took a spear … through his freaking face. In one cheek, out the other. The Somalis overwhelmed the group, and Burton had to lead his men in a retreat … with the spear still stuck through his face.
In 1856, the Royal Geographical Society funded another expedition for Burton and Speke, for the exploration of the then utterly unknown Lake regions of Central Africa, with the ultimate goal of finding the source of the Nile. The 132-person caravan was hindered by disease, malaria, fevers, desertions, stolen supplies and hostile skirmishes. At some point, virtually every man in the group had to be carried in a hammock.
They did, in fact, reach Lake Victoria — the source of the Nile — but by that time all of their measurement instruments were broken, lost or stolen.
Oh, and they had to walk back out the same way they’d arrived.
SIR ERNEST SHACKLETON
Shackleton got it in his head to traverse Antarctica from sea to sea, passing by the South Pole en route. Unfortunately, his ship Endurance became trapped in an ice field for 281 days, and in the coming months was crushed in slow motion.
Shackleton led his men off the ship and onto the ice, where they lived for months… slowly watching their island of ice break apart. When the floe broke in two, Shackleton decided he must do something, lest all his men be lost. Rescue wasn’t coming.
Shackleton knew of Elephant Island, located over 700 miles away, where there were some whaling stations. He chose a crew of four, and they climbed into an open life raft, a mere twenty feet long.
For fifteen days they sailed through the freezing and famously stormy Southern Ocean … and once a day the clouds would break briefly, allowing the navigator to use his sextant to take a reading.
When they came within sight of Elephant Island, a hurricane struck — a hurricane that subsequently sank a 500-ton steamer.
Their arrival on Elephant Island is widely considered by blue-water sailors to be the greatest feat of navigation and seamanship in history.
Shackleton then decided to attempt a land crossing of the island to a Norwegian whaling station. He chose two other men, they jammed screws into the boots to act as climbing spikes, and they set off, armed with only fifty feet of rope. They then climbed and hiked 32 miles to the whaling station, and put in motion the successful rescue of all his men.
After finally returning to England, he volunteered for the army to fight the Germans in WWI – requesting duty in the frontline trenches.
Koepcke was on flight to over Peru when the plane was hit by lighting and began to disintegrate. At 10,000 feet (2 miles) the plane came apart, and Juliane found herself still strapped to her seat, falling into the Amazon rainforest.
She survived, but sustained a broken collarbone, a gash to her forearm, an eye injury, and a concussion.
She then spent the next nine days in the rainforest, most of which were spent making her way through the water. While in the jungle, she experienced an infestation of maggots in her wounded arm. Incredibly, she was able to find an encampment that had been set up by local fishermen, and poured gasoline on her arm to force the maggots out of the wound. A few hours later, the returning fishermen found her, gave her proper first aid, and used a canoe to transport her to a more inhabited area. She was soon airlifted to a hospital.
Koepcke’s story was told in the 1998 documentary Wings of Hope.
You’re certainly destined to be a badass when your first name spells it … B-ASS.
Bass Reeves was born a slave in Arkansas, but during the War Between the States he slipped away to Indian Territory, in present day Oklahoma. He integrated into the tribes, learning their customs, languages and tracking skills. Mostly importantly, he became a deadly marksman with both rifles and pistols.
Following the Civil War, Reeves returned to Arkansas and owned a farm – where he his wife raised ten children.
Reeve’s life as a contented farmer changed when judge Isaac C. Parker was seated, and wanted the Indian Territory cleaned up. The area had become exceptionally lawless as thieves, murderers and anyone wishing to hide from the law took refuge there. U.S. Marshal James F. Fagan was told to hire 200 deputies – tasked with “cleaning up” Indian Territory and, on Judge Parker’s orders, “Bring them in alive — or dead.”
Over the 35 years, Bass earned his place in history by being one of the most effective lawmen in the area, bringing in more than 3,000 outlaws and killing 14. On one occasion, he marched two prisoners nearly thirty miles on foot to where other lawmen were located. On another, he confronted the Tom Story gang single-handedly, and when Story reached for his gun, Bass drew faster and shot him dead. The rest of the gang rode for the hills, disbanded, and were never heard from again. He was also the man who brought in Greenleaf, a murderous Seminole Indian … who’d been on the run for 18 years.
Perhaps Bass’ greatest challenge occurred after returning some prisoners, when he found a warrant for his son, charged with murdering his wife. The warrant had been on the Marshal’s desk for two days, but the other deputies refused to arrest the son of a man they so admired.
Bass executed the arrest himself. His son was tried and convicted, but after several years a citizen’s petition and exemplary prison behavior, he was set free.
Committed to your duty enough to arrest your own son? B-ASS.
Malloy was unemployed, alcoholic and homeless when five of his acquaintances took out a $3,500 life insurance policy on him.
One of them owned a speakeasy and gave Malloy an unlimited tab, betting that he’d drink himself to death. Malloy just wouldn’t die. The owner then replaced Malloy’s liquor with antifreeze, but Malloy would continue to drink with no problems. Antifreeze was replaced with turpentine, followed by horse liniment and finally rat poison was mixed in. After these mixtures failed to kill Malloy, the man mixed shots of pure methanol in with his normal shots of liquor.
Given Malloy’s seemingly super-human constitution, they decided to freeze him to death. They waited until Malloy passed out from drinking, carried him to a park, dumped him in the snow, and poured 5-gallons of water on his bare chest.
The group then tried to kill Malloy by running him down with a taxi, and hit him going 45 mph.
Three weeks in a hospital … but he survived.
The group eventually murdered Malloy by jamming a natural gas pipe down his throat and turning it on for an hour.
The story has a happy ending, though: One of the men responsible for this repetitive torture was sentenced to life in jail. The other four got to ride the lightning.
Bonny was the lover of famed pirate Calico Jack Rackham. She sailed aboard his ship — with her breasts bound so as to appear to be a male. Such a badass was she that she became the first mate of his ship — a pirate ship, where she ordered all the other male pirates around.
In October of 1720, their ship – bearing the Jolly Roger flag – was boarded by English Marines, who reported that Bonny and another disguised female aboard fought like banshees, far exceeding the resistance put up by the men.
Calico Jack was jailed, and sentenced to death by hanging. Anne claimed she was pregnant – and was thus set free.
Visiting Jack prior to his hanging, her final words to him were recorded by a jailer.
“Sorry to see you there, Jack, but if you’d fought like a man, you wouldn’t have to be hung like a dog.”
Anne Bonny then vanished. There is no record of her death.
The world needs badasses like these, if for no other reason to remind us what we’re capable of – no matter what life throws our way.
The human body and spirit can take far more than we believe it can, if it must. There aren’t too many times in life when we are pushed to the breaking point … but when it happens, know there is no breaking point, unless you allow one to appear.
It’s been said, “What one man can do, another can do.” Which, apparently, goes double for Bonny.
Keep that in mind when the going gets rough …
ABOUT THE AUTHOR ...
Prioleau Alexander is a freelance writer, focusing mostly on politics and non-fiction humor. He is the author of two books: ‘You Want Fries With That?’ and ‘Dispatches Along the Way.’ Both are available on Amazon. He hopes to have another title published soon, but that would require his agent actually doing his job, so it may be awhile. Oh, and if you want to see his preferred bio pic? Click here …
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