U.S.S. McKean Sea Stories

" The Cranky Cook" submitted by George Johnson ( Feb

" The Cranky Cook" submitted by George Johnson ( Feb 1964- Nov 1966)

Preparations were being finalized on that July morning in 1965 to get underway for Westpac and the troubled waters of Vietnam. I was on watch at the quarterdeck, and had to deliver a message to our Captain's stateroom. Captain Mitchell as in conference at the time with one of he cook waspleading with Captain Mitchell to transfer him to another command as hedidn't want to go to Vietnam. Captain Mitchell steadfastly refused to even consider the cook's request for transfer. This left the cook in a terrible mood, which never changed the entire time we were on that cruise.

After we had been underway for two or three days, Ihad to pull roving patrol watch on the midnight to four am shift. The same cook was also on duty, baking bread and chocolate cream pies. Man, you could smell his goodies baking all over the ship, and what an aroma! Unfortunately, this guy had an obvious dislike for white guys especially ones from the deep south. I 'm sure that since I was from Alabama, white and with a very southern drawl. I fit his image of the perfect person to dislike. I can't say that I blame him, as Racism was still quite the norm for that period of time. Any way no matter how hard I tried, I could never convince him that I wasn't Racist. So as the night wore on, I made my rounds from one end of the ship to the other, passing the galley where Cookie was working his heart out. He took a lot of pride in his work and more delicious bread or pies have never crossed my lips!! Anyway, He disliked me and made it clear every time I passed the galley where He was working. He made smart remarks, called me names , and was very obnoxious in every way. Every time I passed the galley that night, more name calling, more smart alec remarks and a progessively worsening attitude toward me. But not wishing to have trouble with him , I kept my cool.

As the night woreon , Cookie was baking more and more pies and loaves of bread. Each time he finished a few pies or loaves, He would put them in the cooling locker which was outside the galley and across the passageway from ....I had found a way to get even with this guy who had made my life miserable for the past few hours....I began stealing his pies and loaves which he had spent so much hard work on and had prepared with such a moving labor of love. I would pass his cooling locker, making sure that he was hard at work and not paying any attention to me...and then I would strike with a vengence. I would nail me a couple of pies or loaves of bread with perfect timing and scoot on down the passage way, My arms full of loot! This went on for some time. I had the routine down to a science...pass the place and pillfer the pies ..and scoot. I guess you might say that I became quite expert that night at passin' pillferin', and scootin' !! Man, I gave everbody on watch that night something good to eat. I went down in the boiler room, to the forward gun mount, to the Asroc Deck....Anybody and Everybody had something to eat that night! I swore everyone to secrecy as to the origin of the contraband as I didn't want to be shipped back home early....in a body bag. Not a pleasant thought. Toward the end of the watch I was on my way to strike again.. to do some more Passin' and Pillferin' When I heard the most bloodcurling YELL from the vicinity of the galley...COOKIE had finally missed his goodies!! What should have been a full cooling locker after almost four hours of hard work was now practically empty!! This guy was furious. He would look inside the cooling locker then up and down the passageway back to the cooling locker....totally confused and realizing that he was not going to get off duty, but would have to spend more time and hard at work. Not a pleasant thought at 3:45 AM after working so hard all night. Being the nice guy that I am, I listened sympathetically and after I got him calmed down (he was climbing the walls..or bulkheads if you prefer) I asked him what the heck rhe problem was, told him to calm down before he had a heart attack. In a very sad tone of voice, he explained that somebody had ripped off his pies and bread not just one or two but the whole shootin' match (to hear him tell it , there must have been 75 - 100 pies) but I distinctly remember probably 20-25 pies and maybe 10-12 loaves of bread) Anyway ,I made him repeat the story again and again and again. after all, I was the roving patrol, and roving patrol are duty cops and cops are supposed to get all the facts.....right? I crossed examined him rigorously and got him thoroughly confused. Anyway, when I tired of the fun, I agreed to help him try to find the phantom thief . I also suggested that he might want to work extra hard for a couple of hours to at least make it appear that he had been working. For God sakes , man get- something in that cooling locker, before the Chief finds out, as he was not the kind of guy to take derelection of duty too lightly. Anyway, I told Cookie that I had to make a few more rounds to attempt to find the thief before I got off watch, The Last I saw of Cookie that night, he was heading down the passage toward the stern with a meat cleaver in his hands, and I headed up the passage way toward the bow and my sleeping quarters. And guess what? I went by the cooling locker and "passed, pillfered and scooted one last time! I went to sleep that night on a very full stomach! SORRY ABOUT THAT, COOKIE...... THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT!!!!!