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Jul-05-23, 00:14 AM (EDT)
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"(BPGD) SS United States"
   LAST EDITED ON Jul-05-23 AT 10:32 PM (EDT)
[ I dunno, it just... it just happened. Happy Independence Day! Which it still is in every US time zone except, uh... the one I live in. Dang it! --G. ]

Babylon Project Galactic Database
Text Data Extraction Search: Jane's Non-Fighting Starships
Search criteria: ss united states

SS United States


A twentieth-century Earth ocean liner, rescued from the scrapyard in the early twenty-second century and rebuilt to provide interstellar passenger service for the Wedge Defense Force. Seriously, this kind of thing wasn't even that weird for the 22nd-century WDF.

Name/Model: Upconverted United States-class liner
Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, Earth
Converted by: Royal Saenar Fleet Systems, Salu II
Type Designation: Starliner / Super Dimension Fortress tender
Entered service: July 3, 1952 (with United States Lines)
July 3, 2152 (with White Diamond Line)

Crew: 900
Capacity: 1,900 (in passenger service); 15,000 (as troopship)

Length (OA): 990 ft
Beam (max): 101.5 ft
Height (max): 175 ft
Draft (typical): 32 ft
Mass (typical): 175 KT

Power system: 2× RSFS Mk XVI Wave Motion Engine
Propulsion system: 2× RSFS Mk LXVI tandem impulse drive
Speed rating: 100+ MGLT
Flight control system: RSFS Mk LXX integrated reaction control system
Maneuver rating: 15 DPF
Navigation: RSFS Mk XLVI superluminal computer core
FTL: 2× RSFS Mk MXCV motivator drive unit (hyperdrive)
Hyperdrive rating: 0.67
Secondary FTL: 2× RSFS Mk XVI Wave Motion Spacefold Transducer

Shields: Utopia Planitia Mod 2 Mk III Total Barrier
Shield rating: [CLASSIFIED]
Armor rating: [CLASSIFIED]



In the late 21st century, the Wedge Defense Force established a subsidiary charged with operating non-combatant logistics and personnel transport services on behalf of its organization's extensive civilian population. At its peak in the mid-2200s, the White Diamond Line operated a fleet of a dozen starships employed in moving personnel and cargo on regularly scheduled runs between the WDF's mobile headquarters, Super Dimensional Fortress № 17 (WDF Wayward Son), and various key ports in parts of the galaxy where said perpetually patrolling mobile headquarters presently was not.

Most of White Diamond's ships, which were officially registered as "shore tenders" for the SDF-17, were either starliners bought from established lines and refitted for the WDF's slightly more specialized purposes, or custom-built vessels constructed by commercial yards to the line's exacting specifications. They were built in the style of ocean liners from Earth's early-twentieth-century golden age of sea travel, for no obvious reason other than the nostalgic aesthetic, and named after pre-Contact Earth nation-states, with interiors themed to match their names.

What relatively few passengers and even fewer outside observers of the era realized, however, was that the White Diamond starship United States, hull number 488, did not follow the line's theming convention. She had, rather, established it. United States was not built to resemble a twentieth-century ocean liner turned modern starship: she literally was one.

United States was constructed beginning in SY 1950, 49 years before Earth's official First Contact with galactic civilization, to be the flagship of the shipping company United States Lines. She operated as a passenger liner on the once-critical route across Earth's North Atlantic Ocean from 1952 to 1969, when air transportation (which developed rapidly in those two decades) made her, and indeed any surface ship's, continued operation in that role uneconomical.

Stripped of her interiors and badly neglected for lack of funds, the vessel passed through a number of owners over the following decades, many of whom announced big plans, but none of whom proved able to follow through on any of them. By the time of Contact she was largely forgotten, rusting at a pier in the American city of Philadelphia. Like that city, she weathered the Contact Wars (aka World War III) largely unscathed by fortunate coincidence as much as anything else.

In the planetary renaissance that followed the war, United States experienced a second life of sorts as a floating hotel. Oddly enough, this was a not-uncommon fate for retired ocean liners on 21st-century Earth, if they managed to escape being scrapped in the 20th. For much of the century, and even through World War IV in the 2080s, she lived on in the hands of a caring and motivated charitable conservancy organization, operating as a high-end historic attraction on the Philadelphia waterfront.

Around the turn of the 22nd century, unfortunately, the city's fortunes took a downward turn, and the ship's with it. No longer able to attract the sort of custom necessary to meet her considerable cost of upkeep, she began another period of decline. Interest waned along with her condition. With the disintegration of much of Earth's old political order following the Fourth World War, her name itself had ceased to be much of a marketing tool, since the place where she was docked was no longer even in a country called the United States.

This incarnation of United States closed in 2107 and fell into another long period of ownership volleyball, bouncing from hand to hand on paper while physically remaining right where she was, slowly crumbling. Finally, in 2144, after decades of ineffectual boasting by a long series of decreasingly likely-looking characters, blatant hat-passing by a number of increasingly obvious confidence tricksters, and spirit-crushing vigilance by an ever-dwindling corps of hopeful bystanders, her last owner gave up and abandoned her altogether, leaving her fate to the Neo-Pennsylvania Port Authority. This organization, not overburdened with sentimentality or regard for historicity, promptly opened bids for scrappers.

Enter, as so often seemed to happen in these situations back in those days, the Salusian Crown. In the 21st and 22nd centuries particularly, it sometimes seemed as if members and/or operatives of the Salusian monarchy were forever swooping in to rescue bits of Earth's cultural heritage from the carelessness of Earthpeople, usually in ways that annoyed the xenoseparatists among them as much as possible.

Queen Asrial's uncle, the marvelously eccentric Baron Vlatimyr, had a particular fascination with Earth's golden age of ocean liners, and had already arranged the "rescue" of the moribund Cunard Line by engineering its merger with Salusian Spacelines. Now, hearing of United States's plight through his enthusiast connections, the Baron wasted no time in setting up a "salvage" company, purchasing the hulk of the old liner, and spiriting her away to Royal Saenar's orbital yards at Salu II.

There, some of the Empire's finest shipwrights spent six years—three times as long as it took the ship's original builders to complete her—transforming United States from a decrepit former ocean liner-turned-abandoned hotel into a state-of-the-art interstellar spacecraft. Along the way, they studied the ship's history and the notes of her 20th-century designer, naval architect William Francis Gibbs, with an eye toward making Starship United States an updated expression of his original intent wherever practical.

After relaunching her in 2151 followed by a year of trials and final fit-outs, RSFS presented the reborn United States to White Diamond Line in a ceremony held on July 3, 2152, the 200th anniversary of the ship's departure on her maiden sea voyage.

Fig. 2 The White Diamond Line's house flag or burgee

Following the ceremony, she departed Port Salu on her maiden space voyage, bound for a rendezvous with the SDF-17 at Sol. At the time, the record for a scheduled hyperspace passenger liner transit from Salu to Sol was 92 hours, 51 minutes, 44.92 seconds, measured from jump-out to jump-in at the standard points and corrected for on-board time dilation at the transitions.

United States made the crossing in an officially logged elapsed time of 82:40:12.34. Few military starships of the time were faster than that, and none of them had three piano bars, two à la carte restaurants, and a swimming pool.

Over the ensuing 13 decades-plus of her service with the White Diamond Line, there were other hints that there was more to SS United States than met the eye. Her sublight performance also seemed to be more robust than was strictly necessary for a passenger liner, and there were a number of incidents and accidents over the years in which she sustained significantly less damage than any civilian vessel should have come away with. White Diamond always refused to publish her specifications, remarking only that they were "sufficient".

Although there was much speculation in certain corners of the Holonet and the specialist press, United States didn't have occasion to reveal most of her real party tricks until September 11, 2288, when, as part of GENOM Corporation's Operation GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG, she was ambushed en route from Zeta Cygni to Salusia by a force of GENOM MILARM warships. Positioned athwart the standard hyperspace route between the two systems, the GENOM force used its Interdictor component to force United States out of hyperspace, where, its commanders assumed, the liner would be easy prey for the guns of the task group's two Victory-class Star Destroyers and their support vessels.

In the century that followed, GENOM never publicly acknowledged what happened next. The company's official line was that United States never fell into Task Group 46's trap in the first place, possibly having been forewarned by the fragmentary reports by then escaping from other WDF and WDL commands that had come under GENOM attack earlier in the day. Not until after the company's change of management following the end of the Corporate War, one hundred years later, were the files unsealed so that the rest of the galaxy could learn the full story.

United States did fall into TG 46's trap, all right. That part of the operation went flawlessly. United States's captain, retired WDF line officer Hannah Shepard, did know GENOM's operation against the Force was in progress, though not its full extent. Her ship was carrying thousands of civilian personnel evacuated from the Utopia Planitia shipyard and WDF Academy complexes at Zeta Cygni at Lord Wolfgang von Fahrvergnügen's departing order, in the hope that they could find sanctuary in Salusian space. Like everyone else outside GENOM at that moment, she had no intel about the Interdictor platform, and thus no reason to think they had anything that could touch her in hyperspace.

Dragged off-course by the Interdictor's mass shadow projector, United States appeared in realspace exactly when and where predicted, under the guns of the rest of the force, which immediately opened fire... to no evident effect. It quickly became apparent to the GENOM crews that the liner was armored as stoutly as any Salusian battleship; that she was equipped with a Zetan Total Barrier system; and that her crew, reacting far faster than her attackers would have expected any merchant crew to respond to such a development, had said barrier raised within seconds of the onset of the crisis.

She furthermore demonstrated both speed and maneuverability entirely out of keeping with the attackers' expectations. In the ensuing mêlée, United States so comprehensively outmaneuvered her attackers that one of the Victory-class ships was actually rammed by one of her escorts, causing crippling damage to both. Once clear of their attack formation, the liner proceeded to outrun not only the pursuing warships, but their fighters as well, shrugging off their fire all the while.

When at last she cleared the Interdictor's gravity bubble, Captain Shepard played her highest emergency hole card and made her ship disappear—not back into hyperspace, but into a wave motion spacefold that took her and her thousands of frightened passengers straight to Salusian high orbit. Even at the absolute zenith of his hubris, Largo didn't dare order his forces to pursue them there.

In the wake of this incident, United States was largely undamaged, but far too notorious to venture out of the Salu system, and much too distinctive to disguise. Instead, she embarked on her fourth career (if you don't count her various stints in legal limbo and/or abandoned as a career): as a museum ship, part of the Royal Salusian Spaceflight Museum's collection of illustrious starships through history.

She remained there until 2402, when, after a refit and refurbishment in the same yard that had converted her into a starship to begin with 250 years before, she resumed service with the reconstituted White Diamond Line. As of this writing, the starship United States can be found on the Saenar-to-New Avalon route, White Diamond's most prestigious, with occasional side trips to other ports around the galaxy. For some reason, she is particularly beloved on Klinzhai Prime, in spite of the fact that she isn't a warship and has no known connection to Klingon history or culture. Maybe they just love an underdog.


The twenty-second-century rebuilders of SS United States took as their watchwords a tripartite priority derived from their impressions of the original designer's vision for the ship. These words were famously inscribed on a banner in the project office at the Salu II yards, which can be seen on many well-known photographs from the rebuild: SAFETY, POWER, ELEGANCE.

The first virtue, safety, is obvious from the rebuilt liner's incredible defensive capabilities, which are well beyond those of many military starships of similar size. Not only is she equipped with a wave-motion-powered Total Barrier system which can render her absolutely impervious to harm from anything short of a sustained attack of planet-glassing scale, her physical structure has clearly been reinforced with substances considerably more durable than the conventional steel and aluminum from which she was originally built. Her rebuilders always claimed that none of her original structure was removed in the process of making her into a starship, so this may go some way toward explaining why her modern mass is so much great than it was in the twentieth century.

Beyond the obvious facts of her physical durability, United States is equipped with crew and passenger safety systems that are kept at the absolute state of the art whenever she goes into the yards for maintenance, from her atmospheric plant to her gravity plating and everything in between. She has a sickbay that would put many small metropolitan hospitals to shame, the very latest on-board fire detection and suppression systems (a hallmark of her original Earthbound incarnation as well), and the most powerful inertia dampers ever fitted to a commercial starship.

Power was United States's claim to fame as a twentieth-century steamship. She was capable of maximum speeds so impressive they were kept a strict secret past the end of her career in the interest of (we are not making this up) American national security. Her engineering plant had reserves of power her civilian operators weren't even allowed to use in case she someday found herself pressed into wartime service and needed a party trick or two to get herself out of trouble, and she was still the fastest Atlantic passenger steamer ever sailed by a wide margin.

When she was rebuilt as a starship, her designers kept this ethos strictly to heart, as her performance in 2288 amply demonstrated. Although some had suspected that she had even more performance in reserve than she was showing, no one outside a select few had any idea that the energy flowing into her mighty hyperdrives came from a pair of compact wave motion engines, or that this energy could be used to bypass those drives and go straight to a spacefold transducer instead. Given that fact, her official hyperspace factor rating of 0.67—itself jaw-droppingly impressive for a ship of her size in that era—seems like it may itself be somewhat sandbagged.

As for elegance, United States was never the most luxurious liner ever put to sea. She was built after the peak of the luxury liner era had passed, in an age when the public's tastes and sensibilities had moderated somewhat from the heights of opulence reached in earlier decades. Instead, her designers strove for a clean, somewhat understated elegance—nothing cheap, but nothing overdone either. This was very much of its time, Earth's mid-twentieth century having been something of an age of self-consciously economical modernity in décor.

Unfortunately, all of United States's original interiors were long since lost by the time she fell into the hands of her Salusian rebuilders. They were all torn out in the 1980s to remediate materials which were extensively used in their construction and only later discovered to be hazardous. Subsequent renovations had used various substitutes, with various levels of concern for authenticity, and none of those materials were suitable for spaceflight anyway, so the Royal Saenar crews effectively had to start over with a blank slate once again, working from what ancient photographic evidence could be found and extrapolating the rest as best they could.

The result is not a perfect facsimile of the ship's original interior, and no one has ever claimed that it was, but the designers' hopes were that it would be faithful to the spirit of the original, as best as mid-22nd-century Salusian industrial designers could claim to understand a mid-20th-century Earth aesthetic. Since that aesthetic has never been a million miles from the Zetan "home ground" in these matters either, few people have had any complaints, and the fruits of their efforts have held up well over the centuries since, with occasional judicious refreshes along the way.

Also, fun fact: Although converted into a starship, United States can still operate as an ocean vessel, just like such well-known Salusian warship types as the venerable Hawkbat-class spacecraft carrier and Argo-class battleship. This enables her to do neat tricks like operating the Saenar-to-New Avalon route literally from the pierside of the Saenar River to the Avalon Docklands. Salusian naval architects just can't help themselves.


Uh... look. Haven't you been reading? SS United States is a 20th-century ocean liner that was built as a hot rod sleeper in her day, converted into a starship that was still a hot rod sleeper in the 2150s, and remains in service with the Wedge Defense Force's civilian passenger-carrying subsidiary to this very day. What conceivable criticism of that would there be any actual point in making? Either you think the whole thing's nuts to begin with, or you agree with us that it's just about the coolest thing ever. Either way we're not going to change anybody's mind here, let's be real.

End of Text Data Extract
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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: (BPGD) SS United States Proginoskes Jul-05-23 1
  bonus fun fact + background Gryphonadmin Jul-05-23 2
  RE: (BPGD) SS United States CdrMike Jul-05-23 3
     RE: (BPGD) SS United States Verbena Jul-05-23 4
  RE: (BPGD) SS United States Peter Eng Jul-06-23 5
  RE: (BPGD) SS United States Offsides Jul-06-23 6
  in today's mail Gryphonadmin Jul-17-23 7
     RE: in today's mail Droken Jul-17-23 8

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Member since Dec-3-09
193 posts
Jul-05-23, 08:45 AM (EDT)
Click to EMail Proginoskes Click to send private message to Proginoskes Click to view user profileClick to add this user to your buddy list  
1. "RE: (BPGD) SS United States"
In response to message #0
   I feel like "why not both?" is the most common and appropriate response to the "Criticism" section. The whole thing is nuts to begin with, but that doesn't keep it from being just about the coolest thing ever.

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Jul-05-23, 03:19 PM (EDT)
Click to EMail Gryphon Click to send private message to Gryphon Click to view user profileClick to add this user to your buddy list  
2. "bonus fun fact + background"
In response to message #0
   Bonus fun fact (which I learned from the excellent Part-Time Explorer video about the ship): United States was so fast that on her maiden voyage, her bow wave scoured the paint off the sides of her hull where it beat against the forward curve of the plating. Now that is a ship with a bone in her teeth.

Background: I've had this ship on my mind a bit, for no obvious reason beyond having coincidentally run across a few videos online about her recently. I can't remember whether I've told this story here before, but many years ago, I nearly found myself very closely associated with her. Here's the story.

Back in the mid-2000s, after the newspaper I worked for went out of business, I did some freelance public relations writing for a number of industrial companies here in Maine. One of those companies was Cianbro Corporation, the general contractor, a fictional version of which has turned up a few times in the UF universe. I'm not going to say I exactly had an "in" with management there, but they knew who I was because of some family connections, and I had a couple of contacts there and a pretty good working relationship. I wrote some articles for their company magazine (it was really too grand a publication to call it a newsletter), some press releases about various projects, and so forth.

This was around the time when Norwegian Cruise Lines had bought what remains of United States and was talking about starting a US-flagged subsidiary to operate in compliance with the Jones Act, which is an awkward bit of legislation that requires shipping between US ports to be conducted by US-built, US-flagged ships crewed by US citizens. I say it's awkward because although that sounds very fine and patriotic, in practice all it's really done is drive overseas every single bit of the shipping trade that possibly could be driven overseas.

Anyway, Norwegian wanted to do something that would have required Jones Act compliance, I forget what--a route between San Francisco and Honolulu or something--and they needed an American-built liner to do it. Well, there's basically only one of those left in the world, and she's rusting at a pier in Philadelphia, so in the grand style of early-2000s businesses, they bought her and then started figuring out how they were going to do whatever they were trying to do.

At roughly the same time, Cianbro was looking at branching out from its usual lines, industrial and highway-and-bridge jobs, and getting into marine construction. I'm not sure why that particular pivot; the company's president at the time, Peter Vigue (since retired), was a graduate of Maine Maritime Academy,* so that might have had something to do with it. Whatever the reason, they'd bought a facility on the riverfront down in Brewer for building and repairing oil rigs, and there was talk of acquiring and reviving the old New England Shipbuilding yards in South Portland, where they built Liberty ships during World War II, and trying to bring back commercial shipbuilding to southern Maine. Ambitious, but Pete always liked to think, talk, and at least attempt on that kind of scale.

You can probably see where this was heading. Sometime in 2006 or 7, I forget exactly, my contact at Cianbro called me and said something to the effect of,

"You can't tell anybody about this until it's announced, but, we're bidding on the job to refit the SS United States for Norwegian, and Pete thinks we're going to get it. We'll bring her to South Portland and do the work in the World War II docks, it's going to be a huge, huge thing for the community. Pete wants you to be the public outreach guy for the whole project, and when it's done he wants you to write a coffee table book about it. You'll have total access, we want you in there from day one. We'll get you a photographer, maybe a videographer to work with. The whole thing should take two, maybe three years. Are you in?"

Hell yeah I was in! Are you kidding me? For a job like that I'd even move to friggin' Portland.

Aaaaand then 2008 happened and nobody got the contract to refit United States for Norwegian. Far as I know, Cianbro is not building Liberty ships (or whatever) in the old New England Shipbuilding yards in South Portland today. And I am not a maritime revival historian.

But yeah! There's some parallel universe where I'm the guy who literally wrote the book on the resurrection of the SS United States, and all those videos that have lately been made about the parlous state of the ship instead feature a scene where the videos' makers and I kick back in the first-class lounge, sipping umbrella drinks while I tell them the story of what a pain in the ass it was to track down all those mid-century modern café chairs and buy them back. :)

* Fun(?) Pete Vigue fact: Many years later, after retiring from Cianbro, he chose to show his enthusiasm for his alma mater's football team by taking a small cannon to a game and firing it to celebrate a touchdown, which became a problem when the wadding from said cannon hit a referee in the head. The referee was not seriously wounded and the charges against Pete were dropped when he made a donation to a local veterans' organization. Maine! It'll getcha if you ain't careful.

Benjamin D. Hutchins, Co-Founder, Editor-in-Chief, & Forum Mod
Eyrie Productions, Unlimited http://www.eyrie-productions.com/
zgryphon at that email service Google has
Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam.

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Member since Feb-20-05
803 posts
Jul-05-23, 05:16 PM (EDT)
Click to EMail CdrMike Click to send private message to CdrMike Click to view user profileClick to add this user to your buddy list  
3. "RE: (BPGD) SS United States"
In response to message #0
   One of the many things I love about the UF-verse is knowing that, if there's a piece of Earth's cultural history that's being left to rot IRL for reasons ranging from lack of interest to lack of funds, there's an eccentric rich alien willing to not only drag it out of the mud but also rebuild it to a degree considered ridiculous by even that world's standards simply because "Hey man, humans are pretty neat."

CdrMike, Overwatch Reject

"You know, the world could always use more heroes." - Tracer, Overwatch

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Charter Member
1060 posts
Jul-05-23, 10:10 PM (EDT)
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4. "RE: (BPGD) SS United States"
In response to message #3
   A salute, if you will, to Queen Asrial's love of ice cream. <o

>One of the many things I love about the UF-verse is knowing that, if
>there's a piece of Earth's cultural history that's being left to rot
>IRL for reasons ranging from lack of interest to lack of funds,
>there's an eccentric rich alien willing to not only drag it out of the
>mud but also rebuild it to a degree considered ridiculous by even that
>world's standards simply because "Hey man, humans are pretty neat."

Authors of our fates
Orchestrate our fall from grace
Poorest players on the stage
Our defiance drives us straight to the edge

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Peter Eng
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2005 posts
Jul-06-23, 00:59 AM (EDT)
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5. "RE: (BPGD) SS United States"
In response to message #0
   LAST EDITED ON Jul-06-23 AT 00:59 AM (EDT)
I'm hoping that this gets a mention in Operation: BLACKOUT.

Therese has to get to Thea somehow, after all.

Peter Eng
Insert humorous comment here.

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Jul-06-23, 10:12 AM (EDT)
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6. "RE: (BPGD) SS United States"
In response to message #0
   I spent a couple years living very close to where she's docked in Philly, and I always wondered what she would look like restored to her glory. Even sitting rusting and (functionally) abandoned, she's a grand sight to see.

And I can totally see why the Klingons love her - she's an unarmed ship that not only survived an ambush she had no business surviving, but she managed to take down a couple of her attackers in the process. She may not be a true warrior, but she clearly has the heart of one!

[...] in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles.
-- David Ben Gurion
#include <stdsig.h>

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21968 posts
Jul-17-23, 08:12 PM (EDT)
Click to EMail Gryphon Click to send private message to Gryphon Click to view user profileClick to add this user to your buddy list  
7. "in today's mail"
In response to message #0
   awright, which of you wiseacres

thanks :)
Benjamin D. Hutchins, Co-Founder, Editor-in-Chief, & Forum Mod
Eyrie Productions, Unlimited http://www.eyrie-productions.com/
zgryphon at that email service Google has
Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam.

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Member since May-6-08
413 posts
Jul-17-23, 10:40 PM (EDT)
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8. "RE: in today's mail"
In response to message #7
   Not guilty, sadly; but a proper salute to whichever wiseacre is indeed responsible for that!


"If at first you don't succeed, bull-
riding is not for you."

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