The Great Rat Roundup Days

by Bob 'Dex' Armstrong

The largest rats I've ever seen (and I've seen a helluva lot of rats) lived in Norfolk Virginia at pier 22 Des Sub piers. They had rats you could have entered in the Kentucky Derby. Big, nasty rascals… They moved like the 1870 buffalo herds.

If you became the inboard boat in the nest, all lines to the pier had to have giant, sheetmetal rat guards on them. They looked like tin Chinese coolie hats. Once you doubled up your lines, you slipped the Chinese tin hats over them.

I once brought a Crossman pellet pistol to the boat. I figured that a little big game hunting wouldn't hurt and would help pass the time on the 12 to 4 topside watch. I filled the window ledge in the topside watch shack with three boxes of pellets and loaded my foulweather jacket with CO2 cartridges. I was nineteen… At nineteen, it is very important to perfect your fast draw… By 25, you have matured to the point where you give up the possibility of ever becoming a circus acrobat, a Congolese mercenary or a western gunfighter… But at nineteen, you feel compelled to work on your fast draw.

However, for those of you needing to develop your pellet gun fast draw, a few pointers… First, practice on the side of the conning tower fairwater that cannot be seen by the quarterdeck of your tender. Why? Because at 0200 the blind sonuvabitches who inhabit a tender quarterdeck can't tell the difference between an issue model 1913 service 45 pistol and a J.C. Penny issue Crossman pellet gun… Actually, the kind of clowns they give the mid watch to in port (to include myself), probably would have difficulty distinguishing the difference between the main battery of the USS Missouri and a Red Ryder B.B. gun.

Around the time you are about to turn your fast draw on the pier's wandering herd, a J.G. appears to tell your OD, you are monkeying with your 45.

Never use your holster. To do this would require the removal of your issue pistol which comes under the 'Monkeying with your pistol' category.

No, the best idea is to employ the official mid watch rat shooter fast draw… The one where you stuff the barrel down the back of your dungaree pants or in your hip pocket. When you do this, you will hear all the rats yelling,

"Watch it… Requin has a hired gun!"

It also improves your image if you whistle the theme song from High Noon. Rats will immediately recognize you are not messing around.

You also need to work on your night shooter's flashlight fast draw. You need a coordinated, simultaneous pellet pistol / flashlight fast draw. All of the legendary pier rat night shooters have the technique down pat.

"Do not forsake me, oh my darlin'… On this our wedding day… Hey… Do not forsake me, oh my darlin'…"

Click… Pooosh!

"Take that, you four-legged, beady-eyed sonuvabitch."

The rat would do the triple flip, full gainer with a tuck… Hit the tank top and bounce into the scaloosh locker… Requiring you to fish out your handy dandy, multi-purpose electrician's knife and cut a notch in the watch shack's door frame… Then, you would look across at the boat outboard, smile and say,

"And that's the way it was, movin' west."

A lot of them… The clever ones looked like tiny Rickovers with raggedy foul weather jackets… That made it a helluva lot more fun.

"Do not forsake me, oh my darlin'…"

Click… Pooosh!

"Take that you beady-eyed rascal."

Doc Rohr used to say,

"I can't understand the fascination you idiots have for gahdam pier rats. The bastards carry a million diseases."

"Doc, we're ordained instruments doing the work of dedicated emissaries of public health advocacy."

"That's a crock… What you are, are a bunch of idiots who have no gahdam idea of what standing a proper topside watch looks like."

"Chief, that's harsh… Shooting rats increases our combat effectiveness. What if the Russians are training rats to attack our boats? What if Pier Rat Shooter becomes a new enlisted rate and to start up the rate, they make all the guys with a lot of practice, Master Chiefs? Doc, if that happens, I promise I won't bump you for your rack."

"Jeezus, did your mom turn out any other complete idiots… Or are you the only one?"

"Do not forsake me, oh my darlin'…"

When the Orion made a big stink about the poor perception playing with a pellet gun made, we substituted electrocution… We secured copper foil and an electrical feeder line to a knife switch in the dogshack. This way, we could give several rats the 'forward nest hotfoot' at the same time… The only problem being… Singed, smoking rats leave a lousy smell.

Fast draw was definitely the preferred method of rodent reduction.

By the way, they never went for the RSMMC(SS)… Make that 'Rat Shooter's Mate Master Chief, Submarine Qualified'… If they did, I'd bump Ray Stone for Toots.