By:  Garland Davis

They were the engineers who made the steam, the electricity, the water, ran the auxiliary machinery and made the ships go.  They were the MM’s, BT’s, EM’s, EN’s, HT’s, IC men, MR’s and some that I have probably forgotten.  They took on the fuel that they turned into the steam that moved the ship and made the electricity.  They inhabited the lower levels of engineering spaces, crawled through bilges and other tight places into which only an idiot would enter… Sweating, joking and cussing the whole time.  They tore clothes, skinned their knuckles and burned themselves with steam and hot water.  Through cold northern seas and the sweltering tropic oceans, they kept the ships moving and the machinery operating.

They were not all greasy apes with an oily rag in one hand and a stolen crescent wrench in the other.  They were intelligent young men with pride in their spaces and the jobs they did.  The brightest of them ended up as doctors, lawyers and college professors.  I knew an ENFN that went on to earn a PHD and was involved with the Space and Shuttle programs at Jet Propulsion Laboratories.

They were usually referred to as Fuckin’ Snipes by their fellow crewmembers. They were Snipes because they wanted to be.

They happily tended the machinery of their hot, noisy world.  They crawled through small nasty places.  They were shocked, pinched and thrown about.  They were wet and cold, wet and hot, wet and oily.  The humidity of their spaces was always at one hundred percent.

They routinely worked around the clock to get a piece of machinery fixed that some officer had just told them would take yard birds and naval engineers to repair.  However, they fixed it anyway and sent a “fuck you” off to the naval engineers.  During these marathons, they lived on “black gang coffee” and baloney sandwiches eaten with greasy hands. They smoked cigarettes only half way down before forgetting or the smokes became too nasty to smoke from the oil on their fingers.

At times, they did their work with the delicate skill of a surgeon and at other times with the force of pry bars and large hammers. They often lifted extremely heavy weights in spaces too small for the number of men needed to do the job safely.  They stuck their hands in places where wayward electrons might be waiting to kill. They were contortionists having to get in the most awkward positions to fix things placed in stupid places by those brilliant naval engineers and yard birds.  “Fuck’em.”

They wore their badge of office with pride. The torn, greasy and acid-eaten dungarees… their hands always black with grease in the pores and cracks of their knuckles.

Shipmates in the “Basement.”


Fat Boy Program

Fat Boy Program

by: Garland Davis

It was sometime during the 1980’s.  One of the FF’s I served in…not sure which…doesn’t matter.  He was a non-designated fireman.  He had flunked out of BT ”A” School and had been sent to the fleet to cover the mess cooking and compartment cleaning requirements of the engineers.  I had him a couple of times as a mess cook.  He was a heavyweight and got heavier.  There were no worries about leftover breakfast pastries or desserts while he was around.  He pretty much took care of leftovers.  Some of the other mess cooks told of him eating leftovers off trays while working in the scullery.

This was one of the many periods when renewed emphasis was placed on physical fitness and a new iteration of the “Fat Boy” program was promulgated.  Responsibility for implementation of the program was placed on Executive Officers.  Our XO had stars in his eyes and was determined that no “fatty” would impede his progress toward said stars.  I was called to the XO’s office/stateroom and was told to create a “diet menu” for his review.  He fancied himself a nutritionist and decided that a twelve hundred calories per day diet would be enforced on anyone he determined to be overweight or who appeared fat. After a lot of effort and the XO’s rewriting of my suggested menus, we finally reached a nutritional regimen that I will describe as “slow starvation.”

The XO had the “Doc” move his scale to the passageway outside sickbay and personally conducted a weigh-in of the entire crew, with the exception of the Captain.  Next morning the POD announced the fat boy program. It outlined an exercise and physical fitness program for the entire crew, including a thirty-minute run each morning when in port.  It also listed the personnel who were to eat the restricted diet in the mess decks.  These personnel could not purchase “geedunks” from the ships store, could not use the soda machines and were not permitted to visit the NEX roach coach.  The XO cautioned that anyone assisting members on the list to circumvent these rules would be placed on report.

Which brings us back to our Fireman.  He was immediately removed from mess cooking and sent to the fireroom.  The first day he came through the mess line and was only given those items designated for the diet menu, he threw a fit.  He was screaming and threatening the cooks and mess cooks.  The CMAA and a couple of Petty Officers got him out of the mess decks and calmed down.  He appeared to give up and get with the program.  He gave up on the histrionics with an exceptional “Feed me’ yelled as he came through the mess line.

The FN wrote to his mother, who was a doctor.  He sent her the POD with the Xo’s rules and a copy of the diet menu.  The doctor contacted a Senator and Congressman from New York and complained to them that her son was being mistreated and that the diet was extremely unhealthy.  Shortly afterward, the Commanding Officer received a Congressional Letter of Inquiry asking for an explanation for the restricted diet of a valuable constituent’s son.

I can only surmise that the Captains comment to the XO was, “knock this shit off.”  I was told to scrap the diet menu, all PT was canceled, and all restrictions on designated personnel were rescinded.

Soon after this was made known to the fireman, word was passed that the mobile canteen was on the pier.  FN was first off the ship.  After he made his purchases, he kept the truck between himself and the pier.  The truck pulled away to reveal him, shirtless, with his big gut hanging over his belt.  He had smeared chocolate candy all over his body and face.  With a candy bar in each hand, he stood there with both middle fingers extended and yelled at the top of his lungs, “Fuck You XO, Fuck You XO.”, like it was a mantra. The XO stood on the O1 level speechless.  Doc called the Naval Hospital and got an ambulance.  FN was taken to the Psychiatric Ward and was sent home as a mental case.

The XO eventually retired as a Commander.


A Sailor’s Language

A Sailor’s Language

by: Garland Davis

I have been told that sailors use injudicious and inappropriate language. Inappropriate to what? Sure as hell wasn’t inappropriate to the Far East Fleet.

I recently read in a blog about life in Appalachia about by-words.  By-words are words or phrases used in the place of profanity or cuss words. The most common by-word used by my shipmates and I was “Fuck.” Injudicious? Perhaps… Inappropriate? Doubtful… Make that, HELL NO!  No, make that FUCK NO!

The language most sailors speak was never used by Dr. Suess, Mr. Rodgers, or Captain Kangaroo. I never rode a ship with either of them or the Muppets. If they were ever haze gray and underway, I can assure you they spoke as sailors, injudiciously and inappropriately.

Some sociologists have conceptualized a theory of social acceptability that states sailors’ communication ability and gentlemanly behavior deteriorates in direct proportion to the distance separating them from their mamas and other female relatives. The women in a sailor’s life, other than honey-kos and bar hogs, are the civilizing influences that keep him from running around naked, living in trees, and resorting to cannibalism.

There has never been a Chief Petty Officer who talked like Bill Buckley. They may exist somewhere, but if they do they are Pentagon Yeomen or light in the loafers Chaplain’s Assistants, who have never ridden old worn out haze gray steel on the Asia Station. Nobody’s Mom or Aunties were there either. If any of them had been there, many sailors would have been gargling soapy water.

Living beyond the influence of females leads to a diminution of vocabulary to a level where words like ‘fuckin’ thing’ and ‘that goddamn son-of-a-bitch’ is universally applied to practically every close by object. An amazing thing is the fact that all your shipmates understand exactly what you are talking about. For those of you who were never stretched out under a piece of machinery weighing more than a bank vault, with oil leaking all over you, it may be difficult to understand how pointing to something and saying, “Hey Hoss, hand me that Mother Fucker”, saves you the mental exercise of remembering it’s correct name.

“Kick that Piece of Shit over here” and “Hey, you up there, bear a hand and drop that big bastard down to me” are coherent requests to any idiot who ever shit between a pair of regulation shower shoes.

Pacific Fleet sailors who rode Fletcher and Forest Sherman Class Destroyers and WWII Cruisers understand the universally applied vernacular of the Naval Service.

I wonder what influence the introduction of females into the seagoing Navy, a place that was once a man’s world, is having on the American Blue Jackets ability to converse in a language that is effective, colorful, and easily understood. I suspect that many of the girls recognize the effectiveness of a sailor’s language and readily adopt it.

For those of you trying to wade through this idiotic bullshit., let me explain. I know it’s somewhere in the New Testament, where God speaks to the first sailor… Well, maybe it wasn’t God… Maybe it was Noah’s Cheng. I don’t recall, but somebody said,

“Thou that ride Haze Gray Steel on the Far East Station shall be forgiven the use of injudicious language for ye art engaged in toil inside some of the damnedest contraptions ever created and ye shall receive blanket amnesty for verbal transgression in the performance of your assigned obligations.”

That was later extended to cover all the bars on Honcho, Magsaysay, and Wanchai.  It also covers the ports of Taiwan for those of you fortunate enough to have pulled liberty in that paradise.  It also includes sea stories told on liberty anywhere other than within a hundred miles of where your mother and any other female relative are currently geographically located.

I hope this Biblical reference will clear up and eliminate, for those of you seeking to save my soul for the use of naughty words, the need to communicate your concern.

Many of our shipmates have already reported to the fleet of the Supreme Commander. I am sure the folks who run the squadron up there are perceptive. By now, some damn Machinist Mate has to have dropped a harp on his toe or misplaced his wings, so the language cannot come as a startling revelation



Daisy Red Ryder Air Rifle

Daisy Red Ryder Air Rifle

By:  Garland Davis

In 1938, the Red Ryder comic strip was first published. Red Ryder and his partner (Boy, the gays have sure changed the meaning of that word) Lil’ Beaver (Always loved that name.  Beaver is a furry thing that has always interested me.) were carried by many west coast newspapers and a few of the larger east coast papers. The Red Ryder radio series aired sporadically from 1942 to 1951. A short-lived TV series aired in the early fifties. The Red Ryder company licensed products such as the Daisy Red Ryder BB Rifle. This remains the longest continuous license in the history of the global licensing industry. The appeal of the Daisy Red Ryder BB Rifle to youngsters was depicted in the Christmas classic film “A Christmas Story,”

Every country boy in North Carolina ached to own a genuine Red Ryder BB rifle.  I suspect just as many of my contemporaries in the city also had a strong desire to shoulder the rifle also.  I was forced by my parents to wait until I was ten years old to own the gun that won the west.  I salivated at the ads on the Red Ryder show.  Finally, on Christmas day 1954 I became the last of my friends to own the gun. I received the yearned for Red Ryder Lever Action BB Rifle.  So did my eight-year-old and six-year-old brothers.

For some reason, I didn’t think it was fair at all.  I had to wait until I was ten, why didn’t they?  But in later years, I realized my parents did it to avoid the ensuing crying and tantrums.  Both brothers were past masters at crying and whining.  After my dad would give them an ass whipping for whining, they would go right back at it in a higher volume.  Even when I worked for the money and bought something for myself they would cry and whine until my mother gave in and bought them one also.

Ammunition for the rifles was sold in red cardboard tubes resembling a shotgun shell.  Each tube contained 100 BB’s and cost five cents, although they could be bought in multipacks of six tubes for twenty-five cents.  I learned early on to not take advantage of the multipacks and only buy one pack at a time otherwise my brothers, being out of BB’s, would piss and moan until my mother made me share.

My mom had been blinded in one eye at two years old in an accident.  She warned us stringently and almost daily that a BB could “put an eye out.”  I took it to heart and never “fired” my rifle at anyone.  I cannot say the same for one brother.  Make him mad and he would shoot.  I tell you BB’s sting like a mother. I could usually run and duck away before he could get a second shot off.  If he was out of BB’s, he was a dead eye with a throwing rock.

For a couple of summers, there wasn’t a bottle or jar (except for those bottles with a two cents deposit return.) that didn’t come into our sights.  Nor was there a bird in Western North Carolina that was safe.  We slaughtered them by the score.  An act that I now regret and hope that I am forgiven for one day.

For a couple of summers, we were in the woods almost daily with our BB rifles searching for anything that looked as if needed to be shot at, which was almost everything that came into view.  We would make a day of it.  We would pack our normal lunch of peanut butter sandwiches.  I would always try to sneak away to prevent my brothers from tagging along, sometimes going out the window of my room.

It was summer and no self-respecting southern boy wore shoes in the summer. Of course, we ran through the woods barefooted.  There was the day I should have learned a painful lesson about unloaded and uncocked guns.  I am fortunate that it was only a BB rifle.  We had stopped to eat.  I knew I had not recocked my rifle since the last time I fired it.  I was sitting on the ground with my back to a dead fall and my legs stretched out in front of me.  I had placed the muzzle of the rifle against the top of my right foot.  Knowing that it wasn’t cocked, I pulled the trigger shooting a BB about a quarter inch into the top of my foot.

SIDEBAR: Believe it or not, three years later I did the same thing with an “unloaded and uncocked” twenty-two caliber rifle and shot a twenty-two short through my foot.  The BB hurt worse.  END SIDEBAR

I knew that if my mom discovered that I had shot myself I would end up unarmed and with an ass whipping from my dad. I gritted my teeth and dug the BB out with my pocket knife.  I told my mom that I had gotten hung up on a discarded piece of barbed wire.  Fortunately for me that neither of my brothers was with us that day.  I sometimes believe that some of the greatest joys of their childhood was an opportunity to rat me out to Mom and Dad.

NOTE: The Daisy Red Ryder 1938B Air Rifle is still manufactured, the identical BB rifle that I received for Christmas sixty-one years ago.  I noted with interest that a BB gun cannot be ordered on-line for delivery in North Carolina.



Where in Hell Did They Go?

Where in Hell Did They Go?

By:  Garland Davis

They were famous throughout the Navy.  The Gut in Barcelona; East Main Street in Norfolk; Flatbush Ave in Brooklyn; The Combat Zone in Boston; The Pike in Long Beach; Market Street in San Francisco; Broadway Street in San Diego; Hotel (Shit Street) in Honolulu; The Honcho in Yokosuka, China Town and Sakuragi-cho in Yokohama; Wanchai in Hong Kong; Buggis Street in Singapore; Magsaysay in Olongapo; and all the other places where fleet sailors congregated.  People ask, “Where did they go?”  Well shipmate, they didn’t go anywhere.  You are asking the wrong question.  You should ask, “Where did all the fleet sailors go?”

Long ago, on payday night and in the nights following, these streets were a paradise to the North American Blue Jacket.  A person could look down the street and see neon signs advertising beer and bars and a sea of white hats bobbing up and down as sailors made their way from bar to bar.  At liberty call these became a shopping center for intoxicating beverages and sex.  And in some places a PO2 could get that new First Class crow sewn on or that old Third Class crow sewn back on.  No need for crows these days.  It is all collar and hat devices.   Hell, I don’t see much need for dress canvas these days.  The only time I see it worn is when a ship is leaving or returning from a deployment. With all the straight sailors and females, the gays and lesbians and “don’t knows” aboard these days, I figure sailors are shopping for sex closer to home.

The smoking lamp is cold and probably over the side or being saved for recycling or Mary Soo (forget her, CumShaw is Fraud, Waste, Abuse and misappropriation of government property. I’ll tell a story about the consequences of CumShaw some time.) Instead of trading useless gear to Mary Soo for painting the ship, the Navy now recycles and lets a multi thousand dollar contract to get the job done.  Smoking is now frowned upon.  Surface ships limit smoking to a tiny, uncomfortable topside space.  My shipmates in the Bubble Head world can no longer smoke anyplace aboard the boat.  Municipalities and states have jumped on the bandwagon and banned smoking in bars and restaurants.  Drive past any bar or lounge and you will see a group standing on the corner smoking and no, they cannot bring their drinks outside. It is against the law to drink in public.

Drinkers are now pariahs in our modern Navy.  The clubs are closed.  They no longer exist or have been converted to MWR game rooms where the strongest drink available is a fucking Red Bull.  Quarterdecks of ships, in addition to a podium, log books, long glass, and weapon are now equipped with Breathalyzer and probably a watch stander to operate it.  Many commands are requiring that sailors refrain from drinking the day prior to a duty day.

Back in the day, a sailor ashore knew that his shipmates had his back.  Whether in a confrontation with a sailor from another ship, marines, or Limeys, he knew his shipmates would stand with him.  Too much to drink!  A shipmate would help you back aboard and even help you to your rack. You would do the same for him when necessary.  These days, you are assigned a “Liberty Buddy.”  You are to stay together and, I guess, keep each other from drinking or smoking.  With the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, I guess a dalliance with a “Rump Ranger” would be okay.  But, before you go ashore, you have to formulate a “Liberty Plan” and get it approved by your Department/Division Liberty Coordinator.  If, during your liberty, you or your, Liberty Buddy change your plan, you must contact your Liberty Coordinator and   get the change approved.  I surmise that, “I’ll be in the Barrio some place getting fucked up, a blow job, and laid.” Would not be an acceptable liberty plan. It always worked for me!

They were more than streets bars. First and foremost, they were the repositories of small bits and pieces of the history of America’s forces afloat. They were the unofficial clubhouses of those of us who went to sea on old gray steel under the flag of the United States. They were places where a thirsty bluejacket could go and park his ass where sailors heroes of earlier fleets theirs. They were the poor man’s Valhalla, where lads who plowed deep salt water, could go and share fellowship and sea stories with fellow sailors… A place where the well-intentioned lie and the bullshit-gilded flawed recollection were readily forgiven and accepted.

They were places where lonely strays could tie up alongside a warm annd willing honey-ko on a cold night… For less than forty bucks.

Where did the streets and the bars go you ask?  Where the fuck did the sailors go?