“Standby for Heavy Rolls”

“Standby for Heavy Rolls”

By: Garland Davis

“Now Stand By For Heavy Rolls.” In sailor talk, this translates into… The shit is about to hit the fan, all hell is about to break loose… In seconds, the entire crew is reeling around like a bunch of drunken lumberjacks at a log-rolling contest… Stuff you have not seen for six months appears from under bunks, falls out of vent lines, or slides out of cracks and secret rat holes. The heads take on the distinct aroma of feces and gastric juices mixed with partially digested chow… And grown men start making intermittent contact with stationary objects.

It was one of the Frigates that I served in…don’t remember which one. The Supply Officer had finally tired of the XO chewing his butt about the old battered, leaky coffee maker and coughed up enough money to buy a new one.  It was a beautiful compact unit with a three-gallon coffee urn on each side and a five-gallon hot water dispenser in the center, each with a clear sight glass.  The hot water tank had a sensor that automatically refilled it after brewing each pot of coffee.

The Ship Repair Facility, Yokosuka installed it shortly before we deployed for Subic Bay and then on to the Indian Ocean.  It was all stainless steel and mounted on four stainless legs to the drink line.  Copper tubing supplied water from an under the counter manifold that also supplied water to the ice dispenser and the carbonated beverage machine.  Conduits supplied electricity from a junction in the overhead.

It was shortly before the evening movie.  The mess cooks had just finished cleaning the mess decks and securing the scullery.  An IC Fireman was setting up the projector and threading the first reel of the movie. The duty cook had just finished making a fresh urn of coffee and was putting away the utensils.  The night baker was in the Galley measuring flour for a run of bread dough and the engineers coming off watch were beginning to assemble, shooting the bull with the Gunner’s Mates while waiting for the movie.

The weather was rough but nothing exceptional.  The ship was pitching a bit since we were meeting the oncoming seas.  The Division Officers and Chiefs waited in the passageway aft of the Wardroom for the Department Heads to give them the information from Eight O’clock Reports and then fanned out to their divisions to carry out their instructions.  They were descending the ladder and entering the mess decks as the word “Now Standby for Heavy Rolls” was passed.

Almost immediately, the ship heeled to starboard and rolled over at a very steep angle.  The new coffee maker broke loose from the counter and swinging from the electrical conduit slammed into the Plexiglas fronting the mess line.  As the ship rolled steeply to port, the pot swung on the conduit that way and breaking loose went flying across the mess deck, spraying hot coffee and scalding water in all directions.  The latch on the milk dispensing machine gave way and two six-gallon containers of milk joined the melee.  The projector hit the port bulkhead where the urn crashed into it and inundated it with hot liquid.  Sailors piled up along the port bulkhead, yelling. The broken water line for the coffee maker was squirting water into the overhead and shorting out the power to all the drink line equipment.

As the ship steadied on the new course, the severe rolling stopped and the motion returned to normal.  The mess decks were awash in coffee, water and milk.  Two sailors and an Ensign had broken bones and a number of other crewmembers some had burns from the scalding liquids.  The galley was white with the flour that had spilled when the scale pan went flying.

It took half the night to clean up the mess and restore the mess decks to normal.  The legs for the coffee urn were actually aluminum sheathed in stainless and could not take the strain of the sudden weight shift.  We made our way into Subic Bay with the coffee urn, minus sight glasses, bent and battered, lashed to the counter but still serviceable.  The shipyard in Subic Bay machined some proper stainless legs, replaced the sight glasses and remounted the coffee maker, although dented, as good as new.  The movie projector was beyond resuscitation and went to wherever surveyed movie projectors and other useless items go.

The CO had it in his night orders to the OOD to “immediately prosecute any submarine contacts reported by P-3 aircraft in the area and inform me.”  When the contact report came in, the OOD ordered a 180 turn.  The ship was in the trough by the time the BMOW passed the word for heavy rolls. I understand the CO had many words with the young officer who had the con that evening.  He had been in the shower and was flung through the door into his cabin, ending up on the deck under his desk.


A native of North Carolina, Garland Davis has lived in Hawaii since 1987. He always had a penchant for writing but did not seriously pursue it until recently. He is a graduate of Hawaii Pacific University, where he majored in Business Management. Garland is a thirty-year Navy retiree and service-connected Disabled Veteran.


A Christmas Story

Another story from my childhood.  This is probably a good place to leave it.


By Garland Davis

My uncle Theodore was a Redneck and a tobacco farmer.  The farming was just a front to fool the Alcohol and Tobacco, (this was before firearms became so dangerous) agents, more commonly known as revenuers.  He was a middle-man distributor and sometimes retailer of a non-tax paid alcohol beverage, otherwise known as moonshine, white likker, and in more recent times, ethanol.  He often conducted protracted quality assurance tests of his product, in other words, he would get drunk and stay shit-faced drunk for days.

I remember a Christmas when I was eight or nine years old.  I was already old enough to know that Santa Claus was a fictional character that children are misled to believe in. I had suspected as much for quite a while, the fat son-of-a-bitch never brought the things I asked for in the lengthy letters I wrote and my parents mailed to the North Pole for me.  My brothers, sisters and many of my cousins still believed that Santa Claus broke into their houses on Christmas Eve and left them cheap ass toys and ugly clothing.

It was a snowy afternoon and evening.  My father worked for the state highway department and had been called to work operating a snow plow scraping snow off the roads and highways.  My mother had taken my brothers and me to my grandmother’s house for Christmas Eve. Two of my aunts and many of my cousins were also there.  My Uncles also had been called in to plow the roads.  We had finished supper, the other kids and I were listening to the radio (my grandmother didn’t have a television), playing board games or reading. All the women were in the kitchen making cookies when my uncle Theodore arrived.

He parked in the front yard and came into the house carrying a shotgun in one hand and a quart fruit jar in the other.  I never knew how to take him.  I don’t know whether he liked kids or not, but he always acted as if he didn’t.  We were all a little afraid of him.  He went into the kitchen and set the shotgun in the corner by the door.  He sat down at the table and asked for an empty  glass and another glass of water.  His method of drinking; he would pour a half glass of whiskey with a glass of water on the side.  It may take an hour, but when he drank, he killed the whiskey and followed it with the water.  Then he would refill the glasses and begin the wait until next time.

After about an hour, he yelled, “Hey all you young’uns git in here!  I brought you some candy.

The younger kids jumped up and ran into the kitchen. I trepidatiously followed.  He had a pile of candy on the table and was handing it out.  My aunts and mother were reminding the kids to say “Thank You” and were smiling at their kids.

My uncle suddenly said, “Be quiet, I heered something.”  He jumped up grabbed his shotgun saying, “Hear that?” and went through the door onto the back porch.  Almost immediately the shotgun fired and then again. He yelled, “Git yore ass outta here you fat bastard!”  Everyone was wondering what he was shooting at.  I started through the door, but Mom grabbed me and said, “Don’t go out there.”

He comes back through the door and sets the shotgun back in the corner and says, “Well they ain’t gonna be no goddamn Sandy Claus this year.  I just run that Sumbitch off.”

Those Santa Claus-believing kids were screaming and crying. They probably suffered mental problems and may have needed therapy for many years.

I must have inherited some of the same genes as my uncle.  I thought and still think it was hilarious as hell.  He died during my second year in the Navy.  He was in prison during my boot leave.  I never got the chance to have a drink with him.  I think we would have hit it off. He would have probably been a good Asia Sailor.


A native of North Carolina, Garland Davis has lived in Hawaii since 1987. He always had a penchant for writing but did not seriously pursue it until recently. He is a graduate of Hawaii Pacific University, where he majored in Business Management. Garland is a thirty-year Navy retiree and service-connected Disabled Veteran.