One Saturday morning while stationed in Tunisia, I had a great idea to get on a city bus and ride to the country side to an open market on the outskirts of the town Tunis. The Bus was sparsely occupied with Tunisian natives and me, the only white faced foreigner. As I rode I did not have any fear to speak of, nor was there any animosity being displayed towards me as a foreigner.
I took a few pictures out the window of some of the country side scenery such a goats and sheep grazing on the hills. As we got closer into the country I could see the poverty and simple ways of life become more pronounced.
Then the bus stopped, I had reached the market place to which I had paid my fare and I got off and began to meander around to some of the open tables and into the tents where junk and good stuff were all for sale. As I scrounged around my eyes caught a glimpse at a sword under a table to which I bent over to pick it up.
I soon realized that I was staring at a genuine American Civil war sword! The Merchant told me he had another one just like it, to which I was surprised. How could this possibly be? So we came to an agreement on the price and I bought them both for under $65.00!!
These swords were still in good condition and I couldn’t wait to get back to the Marine house and show off my goods to some of the Marines.
As I waited for the bus I knew that these people didn’t have a clue to what they just sold me. The swords were wrapped up in news papers so no one could see them as I stepped on the bus. This time the bus was full with standing room only.
As the bus started to move I grabbed a hold of a chrome pipe which went from floor to ceiling. All the seats were full and I was content to stand until I go back to my original destination. I was surrounded by Arabs all of which seemed to stare at me and then they would make a comment to each other in such a way that their body language indicated that I was a novelty to them. Then there was a young man in his early 20’s who just had to make a comment to my face. He said, “ Ah ha!, Nixon Haloof!!!!!!! Which means Nixon is a pig!!!!!!! This little Punk Ass just called my President, my Commander in chief a ”pig”!!!!!!. As a Marine with two Civil war swords in my hands I knew I was dealing with a smart mouth punk who needed a little adjustment. However I chose to return the favor and said to him, “No Bourguiba haloof !!!!”.
Habib Bourguiba (الحبيب بو رقيبة)
Then it seemed like there was total silence and like time stood still, except for the roar of the diesel engine of the double bus. Then the guy on the other side of me lunged at the throat of this little worm and began to choke him until he was loosing color.
As he squeezed the air out of him he screamed and shook him like a dog killing a varmint and I of all people could not believe that I was witnessing such a dramatic event.
Then without warning he shoved him away and turned to me and spoke in perfect English. He apologized over and over again and told me he totally under stood why I said what I did. I reassured him that his president was not a pig but rather an honorable leader and I meant him no disrespect to him.
The remainder of the ride was uneventful and to this day I still have my Civil war swords with a story to pass on to my children and grandchildren of how I rescued these relics of American history from a flea market in North Africa..