Ever wonder how all that sustenance & other crap we need out in the ‘Deep Blue’ while cutting holes through the waves ever got there? Five… Six… Seven Decks below, down & around steep ladder wells through passageways so extremely tight you could barely squeeze your butt cheeks through?!? I’ll tell you… ‘Working Parties!!’ ‘Working Parties’ or ‘Stores Onloads’ were the ol’ Canoe Club’s way to get the cargo we needed while surviving long epic journeys underway!! Usually a bottom feeder licensed dumbass at the anchor end of the social pecking order was the recipient of such work!!!
If you were a young ‘Crackerjack’ you got the shitty assignments… the smelly end of the stick! That’s just the way it was!! You were comparable to the domesticated jackass!! Your subservient duty as the shipboard subordinate doormat was to move stores from trucks on the pier or vertrep nets off the flight deck to the holds and refers down below among many other insufferable deeds!!!
“Okay shitbirds… we got some stores to move, and by ‘WE’… I mean ‘YOU!’
But I must admit… as a young dumb ‘Crackerjack’ on a floating tin can… I really didn’t mind jackass’n that stuff back and fro!! Rather it was a fifteen man or fifty man working party I loved that shit… toss’n cases of soda up the brow and down the hole… through the passageways…
“OOOPs… dropped one, GULP, GULP, GULP!”
Nothing like a little cumshaw when it came to store onloads… why the hell else do you think there was noth’n but stale Cornflakes, Total & Wheaties when it came to chow in the mornings… all the ‘Fruity Loops’, ‘Apple Jacks’, Sugar Smacks… and any other good stuff never reached the messdecks!! We had us some ‘Ali Baba and Forty Thieves’ activity going on!!!
Anything not hermetically sealed in a package or box was fair game!! Some ass clown hijacked a tub of premium Neapolitan ice cream headed for the wardroom pantry from a loose package and ate it down in the mess decks. He was a super hero for a minute… until the MAA got wind of it!!! But that's one of the fringe benefits of being on the ‘Working Party’!!!
Yep… nothing like shipmates side by side… sleeves rolled up toss’n boxes back-n-forth like some kind’a crazy ass assembly line evolution! When the truck arrived on the pier or the chopper arrived underway…
“Now muster the umpteen million man Working Party!”
… a little ragged around the edges, & always filled with major horseplay and plenty of grabass to see who could toss a bag of potatoes the farthest or box of dry goods the hardest… once caught the pointy end of a box right in the teeth. It cut my mouth all to hell and I looked uglier than a rabid warthog for days!! That’ll get the attention of a Chief faster than a preacher in a whorehouse…
“Turn off that gauddamned music and clear out… Who’s the pivot man in this here cluster fuck?!? Boy, you’re mouth looks like a baboon’s ass… that’s what happens when you horseplay… always leads to sickbay?”
And God forbid you try to escape one of them there working parties… there’d always be one of them dreaded Store Keeper Chiefs right around the corner… the kind that could chew nails and fart tacks…
“Hey Shipmate… get your gauddamned elbows off the bulkhead! It’s time to toe the line and stop fucking off!”
“But Chief, I think I strained to hard and busted a shit string…”
“Chief he ain’t hurt’n! He’s so lazy he wouldn’t pick his nose if it didn’t taste so good.”
“Shut your Cockholster… I’ll ask if I wanna hear you speak!”
“But Chief… there’s no more stores coming down the passageway… we’re done!”
“Bullshit! This Working Party ain’t over ‘til all this shit gets cleaned up! You can’t say you’re done taking a crap if there’s still shit hang’n from your ass… you need to wipe it up!”
“But it’s supposed to be Holiday Routine…”
“Tell you what… I’ll tell your Chief to give you a half day! 24 hours in a day 12 hours in a half day!”
“But Chief… that ain’t even fair! You think that’s even right?”
“Does a bear shit in the woods?!?”
And that’s usually what made up a ‘Working Party’… a well-oiled, truly motivated ‘Working Party!!!’
Then there were the other times… when you just didn’t feel like showing up…
SH1 Dent was the ship’s barber and one of them smooth talk’n black men from somewhere down south! He was a cool kat… kind’a fella everyone liked!! One day during a stores onload he was in charge and it was quite obvious I was hungover… feel’n like I’d been eaten by a wolf and shit over a cliff …
“Hey Swing, what da fuck is wrong with you? You look’n all raggedy and shit!”
“Aaaah Hell… I just gotta case of the ‘Black Ass’ that’s all!”
“Whatta fuck did you say?!?”
You ever feel dumber than a bag full of hammers?!? You gotta realize as a kid I was a transplanted Midwestern boy in the swampy orange groves of central Florida! It took a couple rotten oranges upside the nogg’n and a few scuffles with some good ol’ boys just to figure out what ‘Hell Naaa’… ‘Shit Fire’… and whatever the hell ‘Bocephus’ on one of them redneck ballcaps was all about!!!
Yep… a few tussles and a couple fat lips later I’d learned not to ask too many damned questions… and I’d heard the term ‘case of the black ass’ on many an occasion! Can’t rightfully say if I was too naïve or too dumb to know the difference… but truth be told I never put two & two together!! Nonetheless, when SH1 raised his voice wound up tighter than a two dollar watch… I knew with outta doubt what it meant!! It took me a long while to calm that feller down before he permanently affixed my scrawny ass to the bulkhead… I think he realized after many a plea that I’d just suffered a case of ‘Dumb-Ass-Itis’!! I guess you could say I was a few fuses short of a full circuit!!!
For many years after that I’d been on birdfarms… auxiliary ships… and things float’n around in the ‘Big Blue’ big enough to carry several zipcodes!! Didn’t get called to do working parties no more! Once you’ve had that crow on for a while you don’t have to do that kind of menial stuff!! Then on my last bit-o-sea duty… showed up wear’n khaki on a small boy tin can!!!
Hell it don’t matter what color the uniform or how far up the pecking order you are on a small boy! There comes a time when everybody’s gotta pitch in and do there part! Never thought I’d have to reach down and get my hands dirty as a Chief warp’n my spine over loads of taters & cases of soda… but life is full of surprises and that was one of many!!!
An all hands working party to replenish stores via verteps, high line, or loading the pier… sometimes you just come full circle!! We worked hard and there ain’t nobody who can say we were slackers… we did our part!!
I’m proud to have played an insignificant part of it all… To have the honor to serve with shipmates I’ll never forget… I think that’s what we all think about when we look back at such a past!! I wouldn’t trade it for a million dollars!! Those were wonderful days of patriotic obligation…