The Nasty City Snake Ranch

The Nasty City Snake Ranch

By: Garland Davis


Most sailors understand the term “Snake Ranch.” Many of us were involved as either renter, co-renter, shareholder, or tolerated as a visitor at a “Snake Ranch” one or more times during our Naval career. They were usually located within a reasonable distance of the base with a NEX Beverage Store or a liquor store located on the direct route between the base and the Ranch. Most were located in areas that were prime cross-pollination areas. If you couldn’t hook up and get laid out there you were one ugly son of a bitch or had major halitosis or hygiene problems.

I am reminded of an especially memorable Snake Ranch in National City. Now “Nasty City” was the chosen hunting ground for Navy wives whose husbands had the duty, WestPac widows, ex-Navy wives, and every girl hoping to become a Navy wife, often known as National City Purty Girls. Many homely girls, and some downright ugly ones, not to mention the heavyweights, with a tube of lipstick, two pairs of clean cotton skivvies, and a bus ticket eventually found their way to the environs of National City. Mecca of the First Fleet. Right outside the main gate of 32nd Street Naval Station, a bastion of the largest per capita population of totally irresponsible sons of bitches with resources of disposable income, and a monumental appreciation of sexual commingling.

The National City Snake Ranch was, to put it mildly, a dump. Not an ordinary dump, but a spectacular dump, with a record-breaking backyard collection of empty beer bottles and cans, as well as, a co-ed bathtub used more often for hanky-panky than actual bathing.

The house was furnished in a hit and miss fashion. What passed for the dining room had a wire spool for a table surrounded by three or four three-legged stools. The table was usually cluttered with the Colonel’s buckets full of gnawed bones and sacks from the Jack in the Box on the corner. The kitchen had a stove and a frying pan. There were no plates of utensils. I don’t recall anyone ever trying to cook anything. The kitchen sink was used to give the dog a bath. The living room consisted of a couple of sofas and some stuffed chairs with sprung springs. There was a big God Damned anvil where a coffee table would normally be situated. No one had any idea where it came from, why it was there, or who thought it would enhance the ambiance of the room. I guess it stayed there because it was too damned heavy to move. Oh yeah, the beer reefer was along one wall of the living room.

The house mascot was a mutt dog who answered to the name Son of a Bitch. He drank beer, ate Fritos and farted. He tolerated cats. He was so lazy, he just let them wander in and out. All he did was lay around, lick his nuts and ass, and fart. He seemed to just fit in with the occupants of the Ranch.

The rules were pretty straight forward.

  1. You had to be single.
  2. You had to be a Petty Officer. No non-rated and No Chiefs.
  3. No parking your cars in the yard.
  4. When you contributed beer or booze, log it in. The log was checked to see who wasn’t contributing.
  5. When the rent was due, pony up your share or you are out.
  6. Don’t throw beer bottles into the backyard from the second-floor windows.
  7. No goddamn phone. (We knew if there was a phone, the number would get out.)

No Chief or Officer could ever know about the Ranch. If your mother was being tortured by the Commies and your sister was raped by Marines, you were dead if someone showed up to tell you. The Ranch was a serious Monastic Brotherhood dedicated to fermented beverages and porking ugly damsels.

The house had three bedrooms. Someone had rescued about fifteen mattresses from Navy Salvage and they were distributed between the bedrooms. There was always someplace to crash when, after drinking beer for twelve or sixteen hours Old Morpheus hit you over the head with his sack of sand.

Over the years a number of different sound systems had been installed in the Ranch. There was often a battle between Rock and Roll and Shitkicking music being waged between different rooms of the house. There was no problem from the neighbors as they were drunks and derelicts of whom the female members were often in attendance at the Ranch. After all ,it was a “Snake” ranch and we tried to be good neighbors.

You would think that a First Class Electrician and a Second Class ET would know the danger of running six or seven cheap extension cords in a daisy chain to power the stereo. Luckily with our Damage Control training, we were able to put the fire out with a couple cans of beer and one asshole pissing on it without having to call the Fire Department.

Somebody had drug home a glass fronted refrigerator that was emblazoned with the Coca-Cola logo. It didn’t work, but the AC&R MM from the ship brought his gear and Freon tank and got the bitch working. He tweaked it until the temp was between 33° and 36°. Cold beer! It would hold a hell of a lot of beer. Seven or eight cases.

We did have a TV for a while, but there were too many arguments about what to watch. Guys would get pissed off when they were watching something and everyone would vote to switch to “I Dream of Jeannie.” A Boatswain’s Mate got pissed one night and threw the TV through the back window into the backyard where it rested among the beer bottles. It was still there when I transferred and relinquished my share of the Ranch.

For all, I know the Nasty City Snake Ranch is still going strong. When I returned to San Diego with a wife, I never went to check. I knew I wouldn’t be welcome. I had violated the first rule.

The only other Snake Ranch I know of that was more depraved and debauched than the Nasty City one was located in the Barrio, but that is a story for another time.


USS Mispillion AO-105

USS Mispillion AO-105

By Brian Stuckey

January 30, 2012

The U.S. Navy fleet oiler USS Mispillion (AO-105) is taking its “sad, final voyage,” according to Jessica A. York in the Vallejo, California Times-Herald. While most people have unlikely heard of the Mispillion, commissioned in 1945 following World War II, the Long Beach-based ship served honorably in both the Korean and Vietnam wars and was active in the U.S. Seventh Fleet until 1974 when the ship was transferred to the Military Sealift Command. The Mispillion finally retired in 1994 when she joined the “mothball” fleet at Suisun Bay in California.

I came aboard in September 1959 when the ship was moored at the Naval Station at Long Beach. The ship would soon deploy for the Western Pacific, or WestPac, as it was known in those days. In the meantime, we were busy getting the ship ready for what was my first deployment to Pearl Harbor and Sasebo, Japan. Our mission was to replenish fuel to aircraft carriers and other U.S. Navy ships at sea while carrying out dangerous exercises in the Pacific. Such operations were often carried out in the middle of the night without any visible lighting.

The Mispillion is leaving her berth at Suisun Bay and steaming to Texas for dismantling, according to the Times-Herald. For many of her erstwhile shipmates, including myself, the departure of the ship evokes memories of a bygone era when the ship sailed into foreign ports for “liberty call” following what were often long and arduous sea exercises. Sadly, many of the shipmates we knew and loved have gone to their long home. Although the “Mighty Miss,” as she was called, is sailing to her final destiny, the officers and men who served on her decks were proud to have been a part of her crew. She will not be forgotten.


Conversations in the Mess Decks

Conversations in the Mess Decks

By: Garland Davis

“I hear that in preparation for expected heavy weather after we get underway, the fuckin’ cooks will be serving pork chops smothered in grease for supper.”

“What are they having for dessert?”

“Probably going to get us to eat those overripe bananas I saw the cranks humping up from the reefer decks. Either that or warm fuckin’ canned apricots.”

“They don’t keep bananas in the reefer.”

“I know, they store em in the reefer decks. Where do you think I have been stealing them from?”

“What’s up with the baker?”

“He’s been working in the galley while a couple of the cooks were on leave. Maybe they will serve some of those stale cakes they bought while we were in port. I’ll be glad when Davy’s back in the bakeshop.”

“I hope they got some good flicks for this trip.” I wonder what they are showing tonight.”

“I saw they had the one where Charleton Heston is a hole snipe pulling an oar in a Roman Light Cruiser while his LBFM is screwing around with some JG named Julius. You know the one where the Chief Snipe walks around with a whip beating the BT’s and MM’s while the CHENG pounds on a drum.”

“I’ll bet the dudes on the flagship don’t have to put up with lousy chow and ancient fuckin’ flicks. I’ll bet they get movies with Natalie Wood and Jayne “Tits” Mansfield while we get this old trash. “

“Why don’t you try for a swap. I’m sure they have some worthless mess crank that you could qualify to trade with. We would probably get the better of that deal.”

“Blow it out your ass.”

“Hey, Joe.”

“Yo, what’s up?”

“You ever get that old Subaru running?”

“Yeah, Voltage regulator.”

“I’ll go in on gas if I can catch a ride to Yokohama next weekend.”

“Sure, halfers on gas and beer.”

“You got it.”

At sea, there was no change in the conversation.

“Who’s drivin’ this son-of-a-bitch? Do they have to find every fuckin’ trough in the Western Pacific? I can’t get my beauty sleep with all this rolling around.”

“Yeah, you fuckin’ Yeomen need your sleep. What do you do stand one watch a day up in the fresh air and sunshine? Come down in the pit and do port and starboard before you bitch about losing sleep.”

“Yeah, you fuckin’ Snipes got it bad. I slave over a hot typewriter all day and then have to stare at the ocean for four hours trying to see something that the Ruderman missed. Fuck a bunch of lookout watches. After a while, you start seeing shit that ain’t there.”

“Why did they build so many of these Fletcher Destroyers?” What, they get a good deal on them?”

“These cans won the war.”

“What, they do it when they weren’t puking?”

“Why do they say set Condition Zebra? Why not Condition Zulu? Zebra went out with WWII.”

“They built the worn-out bastards in the war, probably that’s why.”

“Man, you know what’s wrong with you? No gahdam curiosity!”

“Well if you are so concerned, why don’t you write the CNO and ask him? ‘Dear Admiral Moorer, I’m a worthless son of a bitch on an old rusty assed Fletcher can, and I am losing sleep over why we are setting Zebra instead of Zulu. It is adversely affecting my ability to operate wire brushes and chipping hammers. Please write and satisfy my intellectual curiosity, since I am sure you have nothing better to do. Love Daniels, your next mess crank.’”

“Would you assholes knock it off. I’m trying to study here. The test is next week. Chief told me if I don’t make Third, that I will have to go crankin’ again. How did I get stuck on a ship full of brain dead idiots?”

“You’re just fuckin’ lucky to have us.”

“Hey Dave, does that girl you’re rolling around with up in Yokohama still have that barky little dog?”

“Naw man. It’ dead.”

“What happened? Did somebody poison the yappy little son of a bitch?”

“It run into the street and got hit by a car. She had his nuts snipped about a week before it happened. I figure the poor bastard committed suicide.”

“Jack, somebody told me your old man was a cow farmer.”

“At’s right.”

“Man, that sounds like a racket. Cows stand around eating grass and pooping ‘til they are growed and then you turn ‘em into hamburger. Sweet.”

“It was a dairy farm. We start milking at zero dark thirty. Why I joined the Navy. I get to sleep in ‘til six.”


“Later Dude. Play hearts tonight?”



The Old Navy

The Old Navy

By Unknown

Come gather round me lads and I’ll tell you a thing or two,

About the way we ran the Navy in nineteen sixty two.

When wooden ships and iron men were barely out of sight;…

I am going to give you some facts just to set the record right.

We wore the ol’ bell bottoms, with a Dixie cup or flat hat on our head;

And we always hit the sack at night but we never “went to bed.”

Our uniforms were worn ashore, and we were mighty proud;

Never thought of wearing civvies, in fact, they were not allowed.

Now, when a ship puts out to sea, I’ll tell you son, it hurts;

When suddenly you notice that half the crew’s wearing skirts.

And it’s hard for me to imagine, a female boatswains mate;

Stopping on the Quarterdeck to make sure her stockings are straight.

What happened to the KiYi brush, and the old salt-water bath:

Holy stoning decks at night, ’cause you stirred old Bosn’s wrath!

We always had our gedunk stand and lots of pogey bait;

And it always took a hitch or two, just to make a rate.

In your seabag, all your skivvies were neatly stopped and rolled;

The blankets on your sack had better have a three-inch fold.

Your little ditty bag, it is hard to believe, just how much it held;

You wouldn’t go ashore with pants that hadn’t been spiked and belled.

We had scullery maids and succotash and good old S.O.S.;

And when you felt like topping off, you headed for the mess.

Oh, we had our belly robbers, but there weren’t too many gripes;

For the deck apes were never hungry and there were no starving snipes.

Now, you never hear of Davey Jones, Shellbacks or Polliwogs;

And you never splice the mainbrace to receive your daily grog.

Now you never have to dog a watch or stand the main event;

You even tie your lines today; back in my time they were bent.

We were all two-fisted drinkers and no one thought you sinned;

If you staggered back aboard your ship, three sheets to the wind.

And with just a couple hours of sleep you regained your usual luster;

Bright eyed and bushy tailed, you still made morning muster.

Rocks and shoals have long since gone, and now it’s U.C.M.J.;

Back then, the old man handled everything if you should go astray.

Now they steer the ships with dials, and I wouldn’t be surprised;

If some day they sailed the damned things from the beach computerized.

So, when my earthly hitch is over, and the good Lord picks the best,

I’ll walk right up to Him and say, “Sir, I have but one request.”

Let me sail the seas of Heaven in a coat of Navy blue.

Like I did so long ago on earth, way back in sixty two.”


Captain’s Mast Afloat

Captain’s Mast Afloat

By Garland Davis

RM1 Jernigan (I know, he wouldn’t mind me using his real name for this story) was my friend. I was a twenty-three old kid, way too young to be a First Class Petty Officer and Claude was a thirty-five old First Class Radioman looking forward to retirement in a couple of years. What the hell, the best way I can explain our friendship, I was a cook and he liked to eat. I’ll tell the story the way he told it to me.

“It was 1949 and I was on a Fletcher Class Tin Can rocking and rolling between Taiwan and China. We had been doing the Formosa Straits patrol for a month before we were relieved. After we took on chow from a stores ship and fuel from a tanker, we departed the area for five days in Hong Kong.

The day we pulled in to Hong Kong was a good day for me. I made RM3 for the first time that day, I had a forty-eight, duty the third day, another forty-eight, and almost three paydays in my pocket.

After the first two days, I stood a duty day and then had another forty-eight. I got my days mixed up and missed ship’s movement. As soon as I realized it, I turned my self into the Station ship which was getting underway that morning.

I rode them for a couple of days until we rendezvoused with my ship and I was high lined across. As soon as I stepped on deck and started taking off the life jacket so it could be sent back across, the word was passed over the 1MC, ‘RMSN Jernigan lay to the bridge.’

That was all the formality of my C.O.’s Mast and the first time I made and lost Third…

…but not the last time.”


John Arthur “Jack” Coates

John Arthur “Jack” Coates

By Garland Davis

I recently talked about a Subic Bay icon, Jack Coates. Jack was retired, I think he had been a Boatswain’s Mate and lived there somewhere. I ran into him from time to time in different bars. Every time I saw Jack he was drunk except for the last time.

There was the time I was at the Salakot Beach Resort(?) having a cold one when Jack, his daughter, her LTJG fiancé, and a couple others came in, pushed a couple of tables together and sat down to plan the wedding. The prospective bride announced that the wedding would be in the church at seven in the evening to be followed by a reception at the Marmont.

Jack, in classic Jack moment, said, “Now wait just a fucking minute. You know I’ll be drunk and probably passed out by seven. Why don’t we make it at seven in the morning? I am at my best then after a couple of beers.”

I left after everyone started talking and still don’t know the outcome or if they were able to keep Jack sober long enough to have him at an evening wedding.

I walked into a bar one afternoon and found Jack at the end of the bar talking with one of the hostesses. Jack’s shorts were around his ankles and like everyone in those days, he wasn’t wearing underwear. I said, “Jack, what the hell are you doing?”

Jack, standing there with his dick flopping in the wind, yelled, “Bartender, give the Stewburner a beer. Hey Stewburner, I’m just familiarizing this girl with the gear she is going to be working with later.”

A couple years later, I was in an FF. We were moored at the Shipyard piers in Subic Bay. The Shipyard had Security gates limiting access to the area. I was on the way out passing through the gate when the guard on duty said, “Hey, Stewburner, long time, no see.”

I was wondering who this was talking to me. Looking closer, I saw a sober, healthy-looking Jack. I asked, “Jack is that you? What happened to the Jack Coates that we all knew?”

Jack said, “Well this Joe broke into my house, so I went to the Exchange and bought me one of those hard plastic kid’s baseball bats to beat the fuck out of him if he tried again.”

“I’m having a hard time following Jack.”

“Wait, I got married to this nineteen-year-old girl and knocked her up. I went home drunk the day she found out she was pregnant. She told me about having the baby. Then she told me I was going to quit drinking and be a husband and father to the kid. I laughed at her. That is when she beat the fuck out of me with that Goddamned baseball bat. After that every time I started drinking, she would track me down and beat me with that fucking bat. So, I quit drinking and had so much time on my hands that I got this job.”

That was the last time I saw Jack Coates!


Baby Oil

Baby Oil

By Garland Davis

I was serving in USS Ponchatoula. We had been in Subic for a couple of weeks waiting for a generator part. I was staying at a shipmate’s place at Baloy Beach. It was about nine on a Saturday morning and I was sitting at the open-air canteen a couple houses down from my friend’s place nursing my second ice cold Pepsi in a feeble attempt to cure the raging hangover that was about to cause my imminent demise. I felt so bad that I was sure I would have to get better to die.

As I sat there in my misery a Tricycle cab came down the dirt track running along the beach. The passengers were a couple of alcohol sodden reprobates who peopled the Barrio. The tricycle came to a stop by the canteen and they climbed out and came to the bar where I was sitting. Jack Coates looked at me and said, “What tha fuck are you doing drinking that shit, Stewburner?” Then to the girl behind the counter, “Give us three San Miguel’s,”

The young lady delivered the beer, he pushed one to his companion and the other to me. I said, “Jack, I’m drinking Pepsi this morning.”

Jack grabbed my Pepsi bottle and threw it across the road and onto the beach. He said, in a loud voice, “Stewburner, when I’m drinking beer, ever body is drinking beer!”

You can’t argue with logic like that, so I faced the San Miguel, not knowing whether I could keep it down. I took a drink and surprisingly it went down really well. I turned the bottle up and drank half of it down. I could feel the healing starting almost immediately.

The retired Gunner’s Mate with Jack ordered another round as the girl came back to the canteen after rescuing the bottle from the beach. This second one went down much easier and I was feeling better by the minute. Jack waved for another round and told the girl, “He’s paying,” pointing to me.

I said, “Wait a minute.” Not that I was unwilling to pay for another round, I was just pulling Jack’s chain.

Jack said, “Now Damnit Stewburner, you know that when I’m payin’ ever body is fuckin’ payin’.

I knew the healing was happening. I could laugh again. So, I took a bite of the third San Miguel and it was better than the second one. A couple more and the healing process would be complete. As the canteen girl was opening the fourth, a very pretty girl wearing a bikini that was small enough to be folded up and carried in the watch pocket of my Levi’s came to the canteen,

got a beer and carrying it, a towel, and a bottle of baby oil walked across the street, spread the towel, and began applying the baby oil while she sipped from the bottle.

I asked, “Jack who is that?”

Jack replied, “She is staying with the guy that lives there.” (I knew him. He was in the submarine homeported in Subic.) His boat was at sea and had been gone a couple of weeks.”

I ordered four beers on the next round, picked up two of them and walked across the street, sat down beside the blanket, handed one of the icy bottles to the girl. About fifteen minutes later, I made a trip back to the canteen for two more beers as she shook out the towel and met me at the street as we walked to her house.

After about an hour I walked out to the canteen to get a couple more beers.

Jack yelled, “Come here boy and let me smell yo breath. I bet yo breath smells like baby oil!”

No doubt about it!