By: Garland Davis
Duty sections were a kind of family. When you stand duty together, you become a little closer to the sailors in the section, especially the ones in your department. This was back in the archaic days of three sections. Four or more section duty was a myth like the Loch Ness Monster. Everyone talked about it but had never seen it. After you stand duty with the same people, you learn how others take their coffee, who still has money two days before payday, and who has terminal athlete’s foot or crotch rot.
Sometimes being assigned to a particular duty section was a lot like being a mangy, stray dog in a cage at the dog pound and being rescued by the worst family in a rundown trailer park. Kinda like being adopted by a mangy bunch of guys with ragged, greasy white hats, who answered every question with, “I don’t give a shit.” or “Who gives a fuck?”
I was a member of all the duty sections although not assigned to any of them. I was the night baker and intermingled with all the duty sections. I pretty much controlled my own liberty. As long as I baked the items called for on the menu and the Chief always let me fill in the desserts when he was writing a menu so I could make it easy on myself when inport. I pretty much did as I pleased. Although, I remember once getting a message from the Chief that said, “Stay on board and get your ass to quarters tomorrow morning.”
I spent most of the night wondering where I had screwed up. Presenting myself to the Chief the next morning, I asked, “What do you need Chief, did I screw something up.”
He said, “No, I just hadn’t seen you in so long, I forgot what you looked like.”
Once the liberty sections had sprayed themselves with copious amounts of “Rat Guard”, shaved with three week old Gillette Blue Blades, almost screamed when the Old Spice felt as if it was burning their face off, pulled their blues from under the mattress and dressed for a night of fermentation and (hopefully) female flesh, The duty section members were either on watch, asleep, or lounging on the mess decks trying to scare up a game of Spades or Hearts, or they were embellishing stories of memorable liberties.
Along about 2300, the midwatch standers and others began to gather for the nightly ritual of midnight horsecock and cheese. I usually made a pot of soup to go with the cold cuts.
Once I had the line set up, I would yell, “Eat it, the shit molds fast.”
For all my hard work, I usually got, “Hey Davy, how about one of them pies I saw you baking. What you waiting for them to get stale like this fuckin’ cake?”
‘Fucking horsecock again, on my last ship, we got steak for mids.”
“Davy, you got any peanut butter and jelly, I don’t think I can choke down another slice of Navy horsecock this year.”
“Did you hear that BM3 Jones got kicked out of the Star Diner? When the waitress asked what he wanted, he told her, ‘Bring me a horsecock sandwich.’ The dumb son-of-a-bitch swore that was all he had ever heard them called. I guess they don’t have horsecock in Arkansas or wherever.”
But, they ate everything, well, almost everything. Leftover tuna casserole from supper was a non-starter as was Turkey Ala King.
There was the Gunner’s Mate that always cut his sandwich diagonally, with the same knife that he had been trimming his toenails with earlier. When someone called him on it, he said, “I wiped it off before I cut the sandwich as he demonstrated by wiping the blade on the leg of his dungarees.
But, like most sailors, especially the snipes, they operated on the premise that “If a buzzard would eat it, it must still be good.” Somewhere they got the idea that mustard, catsup, and hot sauce counteracted germs and made everything fresh again. Well, at least long enough to be eaten. I have seen grown men eat that oily Navy version of mayonnaise that could have easily been mistaken for the contents of a zit on a fat Bar Hogs ass.
But what the hell, no one ever took the mess decks to be a fine dining establishment.
“Hey, Bo. What you reading?”
“A three-week old version of the East Bum Fuck Farm Gazette.”
“Yeah, Truman won the election!”
“But Eisenhower is president.”
“Well, I guess they are a little slow in East Bum Fuck.”
“Why are you reading it then?”
“Cause I’m queer for tractor parts sales and agricultural reports on pea and watermelon prices.”
“Anyone interested in Lesbian Lovers?”
“Jesus, is that piece of crap still around? I swapped it for Truck Stop Bimbos last Westpac.”
“Anybody want to watch a movie?”
“What do we have?
“Well, you are gonna see it again.”
“Wanna make popcorn?”
“Yeah, but Davy says don’t use the butter in the mess decks reefer. The shit smells funny.”
“What kind of funny?”
“The inside of a porta potty funny.”
“Well melt it, that’ll kill the fucking germs.”
And that scene was repeated many nights. The members of the duty sections were the night baker’s family. They watched the midnight movies, feet propped on the tables, eating popcorn with rancid butter, drinking bug juice, and commenting on every pair of tits owned by any actress who appeared on the screen.
And I knew, from their remarks that they appreciated the cinnamon rolls I brought out about 0400, hot and fresh out of the oven.
“What Davy, you fuck up another pan of cinnamon rolls and expect us to eat the evidence before the Chief gets here.”
“I’ll help you, Davy. Any of that butter left? I can probably gag down four or five of these mother fuckers before they make me puke.”
You know, looking back on those times, those nights were some of the best of my life. Why? Because the ugly bastards I spent them with were some of the best men I ever knew. They were my Shipmates; my Brothers!