Holidays at Sea
By: Garland Davis
Just sitting here this Labor Day thinking about the holidays spent at sea. There were almost too many to count. Holidays underway have special meaning for the cooks. It brings to mind the old adage, “Holiday Routine. Holiday for the crew, routine for the cooks.”
How many Thanksgivings, Christmases and other holidays did I spend extra hours decorating special cakes, baking pies, breads, and rolls for the special meals?
I remember one particular Christmas, the one of 1972. We were on the gun line, although there was a temporary cease-fire, we were ready. The evening before Christmas, we were in the galley preparing for the Christmas dinner. I was decorating a cake in the back of the galley, while the baker was preparing rolls for baking. The other cooks were doing prep work for breakfast and brunch and the big Christmas dinner.
Throughout the rest of the ship, all sorts of non-regulation nonsense broke out, preparations were made for the holiday. The snipes hung dirty (happy) socks from overhead vent lines in preparation for Santa’s visit. They decorated the fire station like a Christmas tree. Someone had a tape of Connie Francis singing “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree.” Unfortunately, it was the only Christmas song available and was heard an incomprehensible number of times.
Someone came to the Mess Line and yelled in, “Davis, here, Merry Christmas,” and handed me a mess decks cup. I caught a hint of the aroma. Jack Daniel’s! It might just turn out to be a Merry Christmas after all. Now I don’t know how many bootleg bottles were open that evening. But I was passed quite a few drinks through that mess line. For one whole wonderful night, I knew what it must have been like to work the graveyard shift in a distillery.
That evening over the airwaves came an avalanche of Bullshit from every half-baked politician or top-heavy Admiral in Washington. The only one missing was something from the CNO’s dog.
“Tonight I know our men and women of the armed forces are standing their vigilant watches throughout the far-flung reaches of our vast globe… To those of you safeguarding the ramparts of peace and freedom, I send the warmest greeting from those of us here by the hearth of home fires. We want you to know that on this night of cheer and celebration, our hearts go out to you and your loved ones in wishing for a safe and speedy return to a most grateful nation… Merry Christmas and God bless, we hold you in our thoughts this night… Rear-admiral William P. Numbnuts USNR, COMDOOFUSLANT.”
Horseshit inundated Radio for hours. Each was read out loud during reel changes of the all night movie marathon in the mess decks. Each one was greeted with laughter and disrespectful remarks. “Here comes another one. Wait ‘til you get a load of this simple son of a bitch. He wishes he could be with us instead of shucking his old lady out of her drawers.”
And on it went, out of control laughter. Men who could have cared less, listened to the crap and rolled with laughter.
“Hey Dave, you think these guys really think up this horseshit?
Hell No, they have a career DiddleDick YNSN in the basement of the Pentagon who spends the whole year writing this kind of horseshit.
Finally, the cake was done, the movie had been shown for the fourth time and the bottles were empty and we were all laughed out, we hit our racks for a couple of hours sleep. Somewhere in the night, Christmas came to a bunch of good-hearted, totally unimpressed men, snoring and farting, dreaming of turkey roll, mince pie and all the bug juice a man could drink. Life was good.
And the topside and engineering watches were alert, the sounding and security watch made his rounds, the bilges were pumped, tubes were blown and the night mess cook dumped the garbage off the stern. And there, amid the glow of red lights, in poorly ventilated, smelly compartments and assorted gear adrift, could be found the Defenders of the Free World in gentle repose, while visions of San Miguel and LBFM’s danced in their heads.