Artwork by Terry Wylie
Artwork by Terry Wylie
Hiraeth (pronounced [hiraɪ̯θ]) is a Welsh word which means ‘nostalgia’, or, more commonly, ‘homesickness’. Many Welsh people claim ‘hiraeth‘ is a word which cannot be translated, meaning more than solely “missing something” or “missing home.”
I ran across this word in one of my sojourns through the dictionary. Yes, I thumb, actually scroll, through a dictionary from time to time. It kinda describes how I feel about our Navy, the ships homeported in Asian ports, and the ports we called in. Just some of the things that come to mind.
Stolen from Paul Reuter on Facebook
Now each of us from time to time has gazed upon the sea
and watched the mighty warships pulling out to keep this country free.
And most of us have read a book or heard a lusty tale,
about these men who sail these ships through lightning, wind, and hail.
But there’s a place within each ship that legend’s fail to teach.
It’s down below the water-line and it takes a living toll…a hot metal living hell, that Sailors call the “Hole.”
It houses engines run with steam that makes the shafts go round.
A place of fire, noise, and heat that beats your spirits down.
Where boilers like a hellish heart, with the blood of angry steam,
are molded gods without remorse, are nightmares in a dream.
Who’s threat from the fires roar, is like a living doubt, that at any moment with such scorn, might escape and crush you out.
Where turbines scream like tortured souls, alone and lost in Hell, are ordered from above somewhere, they answer every bell.
The men who keep the fires lit and make the engines run,
are strangers to the light and rarely see the sun.
They have no time for man or God, no tolerance for fear,
their aspect pays no living thing a tribute of a tear.
For there’s not much that men can do that these men haven’t done, beneath the decks, deep in the hole, to make the engines run.
And every hour of every day they keep the watch in Hell,
for if the fires ever fail their ship’s a useless shell.
When ships converge to have a war upon an angry sea,
the men below just grimly smile at what their fate will be.
They’re locked below like men fore-doomed, who hear no battle cry, it’s well assumed that if they’re hit men below will die.
For every day’s a war down there when gauges all read red,
twelve-hundred pounds of heated steam can kill you mighty dead.
So if you ever write their songs or try to tell their tale,
the very words would make you hear a fired furnace’s wail.
And people as a general rule don’t hear of these men of steel,
so little heard about this place that Sailors call the “Hole.”
I’ve seen these sweat-soaked heroes fight in the superheated air,
to keep their ship alive and right, though no one knows they’re there.
And thus they’ll fight for ages on till warships sail no more,
amid the boiler’s mighty heat and the turbine’s hellish roar.
So when you see a ship pull out to meet a war-like foe,
remember faintly if you can, “The Men Who Sail Below.”
THIS IS WHAT A SNIPE IS:
By MM 3 Jesse Fox 1959 aboard USS Henry W. Tucker DDR-875
This is what a snipe is,
This is what I know,
They’re the mighty men that make the ship go,
Down in the bilges,
Or in the steam drum,
There is always someone to call him dumb,
Down in the hole,
Whether early or late,
The watches he stands are always 4 and 8,
Now you never see a snipe with a good tan,
Though he gets all the sun that he possibly can,
Dirty and tired they come up for air,
One at a time or pair by pair,
Down in the engine room, fire room too,
None has pity, no, none for you,
Now this is what a snipe is,
The usual type,
This is what a snipe is,
But there is no gripe.
BM3 Boy Howdy
By Garland Davis
Boy “Howdy” Jenkins made Third Class Boatswain’s Mate.
After being assigned to run the Paint Locker and his excellent performance there, the CO decided that Boy Howdy should be a BM3. When he discovered that Boy refused to take the test because he was happy as the Leading Seaman and purveyor of paints and brushes, he called Boy to his cabin and asked why he didn’t want to be a Petty Officer. Boy explained that he was happier as a senior Seaman than he would be as a junior BM3.
The Captain said, “I could make you unhappy as a Seaman if you refuse to take the next test.”
“How could you do that, sir?” asked Boy
“Well I could move you from your sinecure in the paint locker or I could restrict your liberty. How would you feel if I restricted you until the test next month and if you weren’t selected for advancement curtail your liberty, so you could study for the next test in six months?” the Skipper replied. “You are a good man and you know deck operations as well or better than the Petty Officers you work for. I need you in a position to supervise and train the new men.”
“But Captain, you know I would get in trouble on liberty and you would probably bust me.”
“Seaman Jenkins, I admit that is a possibility and something we may have to face. Promise me you will take the test and try, and I won’t curtail your liberty. I need your knowledge and expertise as a leader and trainer not as just a doer. Think about it until tomorrow and let me know what you decide. You are dismissed.”
Boy went down and unlocked the paint locker, moved an empty bucket upside down on deck just outside the door and lit a smoke. The BMC came down the ladder and asked, “Boy, what did the Old Man want?”
“Ah, he wants me to take the test for Third next month. He said he might restrict me if I don’t take it and make BM3. Can he do that, Chief?”
“Yeah, he is the Captain. If you don’t make Third he can make life grim for you. He could send you Mess Crankin’ or since you are undesignated, he could move you to the Fireroom as a BT. If I was you, I would do my damndest to make Third. What are you gonna do?” the Chief asked.
“Well, I guess I’ll try to make Third. I don’t want to go Crankin’ and I damned sure don’t want anything to do with the snipes.” Boy said accepting that which must be.
The Chief said, “Good man. Well, time for coffee. Stop by the CPO Mess after dinner and I will give you some study materials that will help you,” the Chief said as he went forward.
Boy didn’t see the Chief give a thumb up to the Captain looking down from the starboard wing of the bridge.
Boy Howdy in Taiwan
By Garland Davis
Boy Howdy’s ship pulled into Keelung, Taiwan after a month of straits patrol. The command deemed their stay there a working port. Boy Howdy was selected to make a Guard Mail run to the Naval Representative’s Office in Taipei. The uniform for this evolution was Undress Whites (White Jumper uniform without the neckerchief). Boy prepared for the run by securing his neckerchief around his waist under the jumper. He mustered with the Quarterdeck at the specified time of zero nine hundred and collected the message pouch. A Navy vehicle with a Chinese driver was waiting to drive him to Taipei.
An hour and a half later Boy Howdy had completed his Guard Mail duty and was freed to return to the ship. Boy had other plans. He removed the hidden neckerchief and was ready for liberty. Boy, being familiar with both cities, he quickly repaired to the Bar/Red light district and commenced doing what sailors do on liberty.
Meanwhile, back aboard the ship, stores, water, and fuel were coming aboard and a topside freshwater washdown was being performed. The interior of the ship was receiving a thorough field day under the critical eye of the Executive Officer who had announced that liberty would start at seventeen hundred.
At sixteen hundred, knock off was passed culminating in a rush for the showers. By sixteen-thirty the liberty party was beginning to assemble aft of the quarterdeck. At seventeen fifty the OOD, an Ensign, had the liberty party fall in for inspection. He conducted a cursory inspection to determine that uniforms were clean, and shoes shined.
Seventeen hundred and Liberty Call resulted in a line of sailors and the OOD thinking that his arm would fall off from returning salutes. Within fifteen minutes the liberty party was gone, and the quarterdeck settled down to what was usually a boring watch.
At seventeen thirty the Shore Patrol and Keelung police arrived carrying a disheveled, dirty, drunk, and passed out Boy Howdy. As the duty Master at Arms and members of the duty section carried Boy below, the Ensign, shaking his head, was heard to say, “It’s only been a half hour since liberty call, how the hell do they do it?”
Just another tale of Boy Howdy who was to become the legend.
Fourth of July!
By ‘Okie’ Bob Layton
While us adults celebrated it, with an outdoor barbecue, watermelon, and cold beer, our kids would hit up the local fireworks stand and stock up on all the fireworks they could afford.
We had a large gravel parking lot drive-thru located in front of the bait shop, and it was there I would let the kids pop off the fireworks.
I guess it was the hissing fuzes of the firecrackers that drove Flood completely crazy. The hissing sound must have reminded him of snakes, for Flood would attack a lit firecracker, and even if it went off with a loud boom, he was undaunted and would return time after time, to attack, and kill all lit fireworks.
How he kept from getting injured, I don’t know for he was never hurt. We learned to hold him back from the fireworks, for we had determined, not to trust him around any fireworks— because of what happened one fateful Fourth of July.
We had friends from town, Mike and Judy Yarbrough, David and Brenda Dehart, who would bring their kids out to shoot off fireworks along with our kids.
Us adults would sit on the porch of the bait shop. Lounging in lawn chairs next to our ice chests with beer in hand, watching the kids pop crackers and such. It was normal to have a dozen or two grown-ups sitting around the porch enjoying the Fourth.
Shortly after sunset, the kids would break out the Roman Candles and other aerial burst fireworks. I would kill the outside lights, and the after-dark fireworks show would begin. So we assembled on the porch the adults lounging and drinking
My son stuck a nine-shot Roman Candle in the ground and lit the fuse. Before the first colored fireball exited the tube, Flood grabs the Roman Candle by the middle and starts to shake the fiery beast for the kill. The problem was, his mouth full of fireworks——was now aimed right at us!!
As all nine shots of fireballs were discharged, we were, the post-analysis revealed, “shitting and a getting” all the while ducking for cover as the colored projectiles were being lobbed our way.
It was a country version of a drive by! Except no Glock Nines were used— Just one K9 with a Roman Candle.
After the last shot was discharged, Flood just dropped the “gun” out of his mouth, and trotted on over toward the porch, anticipating an earned scratch behind the ears!
We were all patting ourselves down with open palms, fingers extended checking for any hits when the second barrage went off.
In front of the porch sat a paper sack full of fireworks into which one of the stray fireballs had dropped an amber, and just about the time we thought we were safe—- Ka-Boom! We were lit up like the Fourth of July!!!
Bottle rockets went flying, whirly jigs went whistling by, Black Cats were popping off, Helicopter spinners were taking off, Aerial bursts were exploding –at –ground– level, while fountain cones spewed their blazing sparks of fire.
We went into hyperdrive, “Shitting and Getting.”
Flood, meanwhile, was trying his best to attack and kill all that unruly pyrotechnics. Running to and fro he finally grabbing a roll of Black Cat firecrackers shaking them violently while tossing them about our feet, all the while we were dancing a jig as they went off.
When it was finally over, I gathered up Flood and checked him over. Other than a few singed hairs he was unscathed.
The kids were disappointed, for their Fourth of July fireworks display had gone up——- in one quick dog orchestrated calamity.
The adults, however, were accessing the damage.
Temporarily blinded by the brilliant light and suddenly plunged into darkness, with ears still ringing, one could make out the noise of ice chests opening, cans being extracted, and that familiar spewing fizz— as beers were simultaneously opened.
We stood in DARK HEAVY silence.
Someone finally spoke, “Wooooooooe”.
Unknown loud voice: “Far out Man”.
Inquiring voice: “Someone pass me a beer?”
Another unknown voice: “Did you see that?”
Unknown questioner: “What the heck just happened?”
I added: “Damn, this Beer tastes good.”
Another unknown questioner: “Did Flood just try to kill us?”
Another comment: “That was a quick fireworks show”
Me again: “Damn this Beer tastes good.”
And that folks— was
And that folks— was the great 1995, Okies Oar, Fourth of July, Fireworks, Celebratory Ordnance, and Dog Show!