U.S.S. McKean Sea Stories

July 1965 WestPac

 " 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 was in conference at the time with one of
our cooks, a black guy, whose name I don't remember.  The cook was
pleading with Captain Mitchell to transfer him to another command as he
didn'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, I
had 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 wore
on , Cookie was baking more and more pies and loaves of bread. Each time
he finished a few pies or loaves, H e would put them in the cooling
locker which was outside the galley and across the passageway   from
where he was working.  BINGO!!!  A light bulb came on inside my head
....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 theforward 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
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