Our Tuesday story about the Tongue Point Job Corps training ship Ironwood is an excellent illustration of why mariners have for centuries ascribed human personalities and characteristics to vessels.
If the Ironwood were a person, it might be an honorable and tough old general George Patton, maybe. It is a ship that performed with great tenacity for longer than most Americans or any of her crew of trainees have been alive.
As our story described, the Ironwood has truly seen the world up close from World War II to Tongue Point today. Maybe instead of Patton, a more apt comparison would be to the fictional character Forrest Gump, who just happened to be on hand to witness many of the historical events of the 20th century.
Of course the story of the Ironwood is not really about an inanimate object, but about the men and women who built, operated and maintained it for generations, in addition to the American taxpayers who paid for it.
There has been local discussion about the economic potential of ship recycling, and rightly so considering the many worn-out vessels littering Pacific Northwest waterways and boatyards. But the story of the Ironwood is ultimately one of maintenance and smart repurposing building a resilient multifunctional tool and finding many uses for it.
The Ironwood represents American knowhow that has endured and has the ability to inspire even to our present day. It is good to see Job Corps students acquiring valuable skills down in the vessels sweaty engine room.
Economists say there are rational reasons for our nation to no longer specialize in heavy manufacturing of the kind that produced the Ironwood. According to this analysis, we are better off running the intelligence-based businesses that ultimately produce hard goods in offshore locations where labor and materials are inexpensive.
But the Ironwood can be used as an argument for preserving these capacities and skills on U.S. soil. Strength, utilitarian beauty and sheer survival skills are intrinsic in the American soul. This big nation should continue building big things that stand the test of time.