Boy Howdy and “Special Bug Juice”
By Garland Davis
Seaman Boy Jenkins was hanging around the door of the Bake Shop about 1900, shooting the shit with CSSN Davy and CS3 Ike hoping to purloin some sweet rolls before going on watch at 2000. Yeah, Boy Jenkins was his name. His Mama neglected to name him and his twin sister before she died a few days after their birth. The county clerk had just entered “Boy” and “Girl” on their birth certificates.
Davy was busy getting some pans of pies out of the oven while Boy and Ike were discussing the merits of Japanese and Philippine beer. Their consensus was the best beer was the one in your hand.
Ike asked Boy, “Boy Howdy you’re from the South. Do you know anything about making wine?”
Boy replied, “My brother, who I lived with growing up used to make moonshine. I know about making the mash. I guess you could drink that, it has alcohol in it.”
Ike asked, “Did you ever make any Apple Jack. I heard you mix apple juice and raisins with sugar and yeast and let it ferment a few days then strain it. It is supposed to be pretty good. This old First Class told me all about it, but I never have seen it made. Me ‘n’ Davy can get all the stuff. We should give it a try. Hey, Davy, you want to make some hooch?”
Davy said, ‘I don’t know. How do you do it?”
Ike laid out the procedures. “We get one of them stainless five-gallon milk cans they use to mix powdered milk in, fill it almost full of Apple juice and Grape Juice, dump in a number ten can of raisins, a couple pounds of sugar, and a handful of yeast. We hide it someplace where it is warm and let it work ‘til, I guess, it stops bubbling, then we strain it out and drink it. I think behind your ovens would be a good place. That should be warm enough.
Davy and Ike decided to get all the ingredients and after Boy got off watch, they would mix it and put it to work. Davy cleaned out the corner behind the ovens, got one of the milk cans and had the midrats mess cooks run it through the scullery and took it to the Bakeshop. He opened a can of raisins and set them to soak in warm water, otherwise, they would be a big clump. He had also dissolved two pounds of sugar in a half gallon of hot water and left it to cool.
As Night Baker, Davy also served midrats. He was secured from that by 0030 and went to the Bakery to find Boy and Ike waiting. Ike pulled a Church Key from his pocket and started opening cans of apple and grape juice. They poured the juice and the sugar water into the milk can along with the raisins. Davy put a cup of warm water into a pitcher and threw a hand full of yeast in it to bloom. In the meantime, Ike was looking in cans to see if there was more stuff that could go in the brew. He came up with a number-ten can of prunes, almost full.
Ike said, “these will work” and scooped them into the concoction. Boy dumped the yeast in and stirred it with a long handles spoon. Davy covered it with the lid that he had punched a couple of holes in. That way the gas from fermentation could escape.
The milk can was ensconced behind the ovens and the wait began.
The next day the three culprits came together in the Bake Shop to check the concoction. Davy, being the only one small enough to fit behind the ovens, slid back there and opened the can. The surface of the Applejack was covered with bubbles and smelled something like yeast dough fermenting.
By the second day, the smell was strong in the Bake Shop and Davy was forced to keep a yeast dough working to blame for the strong smell.
They checked it each day and by the sixth day, the fermentation seemed to be about finished. That night they mustered in the Bake Shop at 0030 and strained the liquid through a strainer and cheesecloth into a fresh can. Davy made room in the Bake Shop reefer for the can. Plans were made to do some drinking the following night.
Boy Howdy got off watch at 2000 and they met in the shop at 2030. Three Mess Deck cups were filled with the glorious elixir and it was sampled and pronounced good. After the second and third cups, Boy Howdy said, “Damn, guys we make some pretty good stuff, better than fuckin’ bug juice.” And thus, it came to be called “Special Bug Juice.”
After Midrats, they laughingly broke up the party and set a time for the next night and went off to their racks.
About 0300, Boy came wide awake with an overwhelming urge to take a crap. He bailed out of his rack and rushed into the head to find Ike and Davy taking up two of the shitters. Davy said to Ike, “And you had to put them mother fuckin’ prunes in the Special Bug Juice.
That didn’t stop them drinking it and they eventually became immune to the laxative effect of Special Bug Juice just as one does with that same aspect of San Miguel Beer.
They never made Special Bug Juice again but Boy Howdy would occasionally bum cans of juice from the cooks and frequently the Jack of the Dust would come up short a case or two of apple and grape juice during stores onloads.
A motley crew of Deck Apes was often found hanging around the paint Locker drinking coffee during the second Dog Watch.