The Daily Horsecrap Ration

by Bob 'Dex' Armstrong

The 'Alley' was a kind of Cosa Nostra Cub Scout den… A tree house for Huns… An asylum and refuge for Naval peasants, all rolled into one. Our job as permanent residents was to take minor schemes and mature them into all-hands conspiracies, sinister plots and peon uprisings. In conjunction with the above, our collateral duty was to develop new and exotic ways to drive every Chief on the boat nuts… Stark raving, out of control bonkers… Not that driving a Chief nuts took a concentrated effort.

We got together and solved world problems. We also reviewed proposed applications for membership and anointed the chosen. The only thing that could hold up membership was one's rate of military mindset degeneration… Sort of a squared away attitude reversal and backward to buccaneer evolutionary process. According to the Retrograde Darwinian Theory, in a single million-year enlistment we would have regrown tails and returned to caves.

The after battery was the informational crossroad for all enlisted-gathered intelligence. We brokered lies, innuendo, rumors, speculation, wild-ass guessing, "Wouldn't it be nice if…" wishful thinking and no basis, strictly made up nonsense. We were a totally unethical gossip-spreading hoarseshit mill. Our motto was,

"If you haven't heard a good rumor by noon… Start one."

We could take wishful thinking, stir in some highly plausible supporting bullshit, attribute it to some conversation inadvertently overheard involving the skipper and God knows who else, and float it.

"I heard the Old Man asking someone up forward to pull all the harbor approach charts to Port Everglades… Wonder why he'd be pulling those?"

Ten minutes later, some snipe would grab you by the arm, cup his hand and whisper in your ear,

"We're making turns for Miami…"

We could be hammering straight north… Didn't matter.

Once a submarine sailor starts trafficking in negotiable horsecrap it takes on a life of its own.

Members of Requin's crew couldn't pass any grapevine scuttlebutt on without bolting something original on it.

"Fer crissakes wingnut, where'n the hell did you pick that up?"

It always had to have germinated from officer conversation or be rooted in officer-controlled inside info.

"This is no shit… 'Teapot' Bill is two-blocking some chick married to some four-striper… She told him."

Information gained in a reciprocal sperm swap was valid… Very negotiable.

Our steward was a Filipino named Quesada… Known as 'Que.' Great guy. Que had the wardroom wired. He had acoustic magnetic ears… He picked up everything. Since he was used to operating in fluent Spanish, the English translations were a little ragged, but there was always enough to mold into "You'll never guess what Que heard." Major high-powered, high-yield, action-packed trap bait.

Adrian Stuke was by far the greatest gilt edge purveyor of portable horseshit. He sold stuff everyone bought. He sold lies that might have four or five delayed-action lies built into them. Stuke was the master… He even sold me some bullshit and I was his best friend… His runnin' mate! When he started shoveling it, everyone showed up with a wheelbarrow and a child-like faith in the veracity of the Wonderful Wizard of Straight Gauge Dope.

"Once you actually believe that it is the birthday of Saint Archibald, the Latin American Patron Saint of Free Beer and Gratuitous Sex… They can sell you damn near anything."

There is a downside to engaging in the bogus poop trade. There is a point where your shipmates won't ask you what time it is… At that point, you have to start rumors by the 'Confirming Question' method.

"Hey, any truth to the rumor that the Op Order call for drawing fuel and stores in La Rochelle?"

Then it begins.

"Saw the French coastal approach chart on the wardroom table two nights ago…"

"That's nothing. Ensign Pinhead has an English to French / French to English dictionary in his stateroom."

"Yeh, well the Old Man has the NATO Recognition Signal Book laying out on his bunk…"

In the parlance of your after battery rat, this is a "Let them convince me" example of boomerang bullshit. Cast your nonsense upon the messdeck and it will return ten-fold… With hair horns and one helluva long tail. Truth was totally incompatible with diesel submarine duty… I offer Rontini's BBS as exhibit 'A' in my argument.

The cooks had a Navy directive that gave them the officially designated terms to use when announcing meals. The only two I can remember were "Savory green beans" and "Succulent beef stew." There were officially prescribed descriptive adjectives for everything they fed you. It was important to the cooks that these terms were used when announcing meals… Lots of luck.

"Attention all hands… The evening meal tonight will consist of amazing leftovers… Members of the crew may remember the meatloaf that visited us last Wednesday… Well, tonight Mr. Meatloaf will pay us another visit, along with his pals 'Second time around' beans and 'Reincarnated' potato salad. Please arrive early to get a good seat and eat hardy so this will be Mr. Meatloaf's final appearance."

"Following chow, we will be showing the evening movie… The movie for tonight is Guns on the Pecos. A class B western starring people nobody ever heard of. A vote will be taken on what was worse, four day-old meatloaf or the cowboy movie."

"A couple of crew announcements… Quesada will be cutting hair in the forward torpedo room. For those of you who don't give a good gahdam about personal appearance, a Quesada hair mow and scalp rip will set you back a buck."

"At 2000, there will be a paperback book swap in the after room. Lt. Wilson will attend to cover wardroom trading interests."

"Anyone seeking transportation to Philadelphia… And who doesn't mind riding in a rattletrap piece of ill-maintained junk, contact Peto… He's broke and needs you for the gas money."

"Will the ill-mannered ape who removed the girlie magazines from the after battery head… Return them. Signed, the topside gang vigilante committee."

"The Orion is conducting a blood drive next Wednesday. The COB has asked me to inform you that Requin will have 100% participation… Even if he has to hunt you down like a mad dog, cut off your foot and stand you up in a bucket… Consider this a gentle reminder."

"In keeping with the Capt'n's policy of married guys bringing wives 'good to be home' presents, Mr. Woods will hold wife present inspection in the forward battery, immediately following the wardroom movie… Khaki sackers, brown-baggers and hen-pecked sonuvabitches will report forward with this trips collection of skimpy nighties, tasteless lingerie and original oil paintings of naked hula dancers on velvet."

"For the unenlightened, Chief Bretton will be holding a trim and drain instructional walk-through tonight at 1900. The Hogan's Alley Chapter of Friends of the Little Sisters of the Poor and Feed the Children Fund, will be accepting anchor pool donations."

"And last, the COB wishes to announce that being of a generous nature, he is extending an invitation to the entire ship's company, to attend tomorrow night's all-hands turn to. Thank you notes, valentines and other communications of love and undying devotion can be pinned on the goat locker curtain."

"That's it for tonight gentlemen… Movie starts in ten minutes… It's messcook popcorn night."

Bullshit was such a dietary staple on smoke boats, we would have died without our massive daily ration.