A Tale of the Sea…and Me (for Sam)


This is a different way for me to tell stories, sea stories to be exact. It is not for the faint of heart, the politically correct, or the pious. i am writing it to give my grandson an idea of what my life was like and what i experienced.

It is also written to share sea stories, wonderful tales of what used to be in our Navy on ships at sea. Until my last two tours, my Navy was all men on steam ships, mostly old steam ships, but very, very reliable for accomplishing their mission. It was a man’s world then. We cussed, we chased women on liberty, and we drank too much on liberty. We were as close to “Fiddler’s Green” as any mariner would ever get. Oh yes, we laughed a lot.

This is sort of a Charles Dickens kind of thing. i am not in the financial position to publish another book. As i write this, both of the books i have published, one, A Pocket of Resistance: Selected Poems through a “print on demand” company, and my last one, Steel Decks and Glass Ceilings, which was self-published, are in the red. So my idea is to publish this book as a serial as Dickens did with a number of his novels. Therefore, the serial will not have an editor other than moi, which means it is likely to have a lot of errors.

if there appears to be enough interest, or if an “angel” steps forward, i may decide to go ahead and publish in one manner or another. But for now, you get what i got. And what i got is nearly thirty years of sea stories,

As much as possible, when there are negative characterizations of the folks in these sea stories, i will attempt to make them fictional. That is, of course, unless i am that folk. i can laugh at myself, and i don’t have a problem with others laughing with me. But i don’t wish to hurt anyone’s feelings while telling funny stories about another time, another place in a world that no longer exists.

i would like to know how you feel about these serial posts other than this is gross, this is inappropriate, this is disgusting, kinds of comments.

You see, during my Navy service, i was somewhat of a swashbuckler, although it was more swish than swash. i loved most of it. It was unlike any civilian pursuit or any pursuit that did not include long deployments at sea. And these sea stories are indicative of the environment that shaped me.

Sam, both of my grandfathers both died before i was born. i have always longed to know what they were like. Due to many things, distance, time, etc., i have never spent enough time for me with you in your youth. i want to give you a clear and unadulterated idea of what i was like. These sea stories are a a large piece of me.

i hope you understand.

Chapter 1: How It Began

My life can best be described as chequered. I don’t know why. I am not really sure why.

But it has happened.

Through it all, the Navy has had a thread in my life beginning with my birth.

In January 1944, my father cobbled together enough liberty passes from his friends in the 75th Seabee Construction Battalion to spend about a week back home. He took a train from Gulfport, Mississippi to Nashville. His battalion was awaiting a liberty ship to take them to the Western Pacific. He was there when i was born at 7:30 in the morning, 19 January 1944. He left the next morning to catch a train back to Gulfport. The Seabees were a branch of the Navy. After my mother and aunt took me to Gulfport in May so he could see his infant son, he left for over two years in the middle of the Great War in the Western Pacific.

It wasn’t until my junior year at Castle Heights Military Academy that the Navy entered my thoughts again. Someone, perhaps Col. Brown, our professor in calculous our senior year, informed us a Navy scholarship was available. Lee Dowdy, another town boy who was much less frivolous than I, pointed out we should try for that. The Naval ROTC scholarship paid for tuition, provided books, and gave the students $50 a month (a huge sum in 1962) toward room and board. Being awarded the scholarship would open up the possibility of attending some of the best universities in the country for us.

Lee and i were both making good grades and while applying – we were filling out much of the required paperwork for the NROTC scholarship and others in the “Cavalier” room, the journalism center for the award-winning newspaper, The Cavalier, and The Adjutant, the school’s annual.

When we reached the section where we were required to enter our top three choices for colleges to attend, Lee and i discussed our options. We both expressed the desire to attend Duke.

Then, as just about any two 18-year-old boys i have ever known, we figured out how to outsmart our seniors. We figured we would be less likely to get our desired program if both of us applied for Duke since we were from the same high school. I demurred.

I put Vanderbilt as my top choice, Duke as my second, and Michigan as my third – Jimmy Gamble and i had dreamed of playing football at Michigan since we were the co-captains of our junior high team.

Lee got Duke. I was awarded a scholarship to Vanderbilt.

And so, my life with the Navy began. Although i have delved in numerous other pursuits, The Navy, or more accurately being on Navy ships at sea, is me, part of the core of me.

4 thoughts on “A Tale of the Sea…and Me (for Sam)

  1. So I’m sucked in on your story….are you giving us a chapter per day or a week? Are you writing this as you go or do you have a ‘book’ already done and you are sharing as you go? This reader is curious and looking forward to the ‘rest of the story’.

  2. XO I will gladly follow and read your stories!
    I was watching for your book to be released and things in my became very complicated, very quick!

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