Painting the Shrouds
By Gary Harger
Being in Operations the care of the forward mast was delegated to our
department because of all the associated gear we had on the mast,
signal halyards, radio antenna, radar dish etc. Well I'm sure you know
about the laws of the sea, the chain of command, Newton's Law of
Gravity and how things in general just seem to roll down hill. I was
one of the low men in Ops so I was involved in the job of painting the
mast. When I finished that task I remember thinking how glad I was now
that chore was behind me. By climbing the mast I found out just how
frightened of heights I am. I think I did more clinging to rather than
climbing the mast.
To my sorrow I found out that I wasn't done. In fact I was just
beginning. Don Spence and I were next elected to the honorable task of
white leading the shrouds! That time honored naval tradition meant we
had to ride down from the mast along the length of the shroud in a
boatswain's chair dipping our hand into the bucket of white lead and
applying it to the shroud at the same time holding onto the chair with
the other. The worst part was there were several shrouds to be done.
would have it and me being afraid of heights Don Spence kindly
volunteered to ride in the chair first! I was his line handler and had
him tied off on the cleat on the tank deck with a series of figure
eights. After a while I figured out that I could control his decent
with a lot less figure eights. All I had to do was just hold the line.
Then a thought came to me, sneaky as it was, a thought that I would
surely pay for in the end, I knew I should not do it but the practical
joker in me took over. I decided I would let him come down about 4 or
5 feet rather quickly and as this came to pass Don let out a yell
followed by a tremendous verbal out burst that would make even a Chief
Boatswain Mate blush. Don was bouncing up and down like a weight on a
spring. I know I had a good laugh for at least 5 minutes. I dare not
even repeat what the names he yelled down at me, not that I didn't
deserve them all.
After Don finished his turn up on the shroud, guess what? My turn. The
bill came due. Why did I have to play that stupid joke on him? That
old saying proved so true, "what goes around comes around."
I went up the mast and sat there on that little boatswains chair
suspended 80 feet up over steel tank deck, on what seemed to me to be
a very suspiciously thin piece of line. One hand hanging on for dear
life on the boatswains chair and the other on the bucket. I just new
my brief naval career was about to come to an untimely end.
Now Don was the line handler and I was totally at his mercy. I was
trembling as I climbed the mast and left the mast to climb into the
boatswains chair knowing full well what was coming. Don let me sit
there momentarily so I could savor every inch of height and then Don
gave me a ride that was better than any theme park I had ever been on
yet! He let me drop a few feet but that alone seemed to me to be
harsher treatment that I gave to him, it was like that parachuete ride
at 6 Flags over Georgia I was hanging on for dear life! I knew I was
going to crash to the deck below and break every bone in my body.
But just as I held on to Don's line he held onto mine. I not only
learned to trust the line handler I learned a new respect for him too.
I learned a more important lesson too. Don't do anything to any one
else if you don't want it done to you, Trust me, my ride was a lot
worse than his. He made a believer out of this ol'e boy for sure. When
I first got into that chair my only thought was about what I had just
done to him. I know it is coming and by golly it did. He scared the
living daylights out of me, and from that point on I had great respect
for the man holding the bitter end.
Plank Owner's Story
By Gary Harger
|Being a part of the pre-commisioning
crew and serving the rest of my tour of duty aboard the mighty
Noxubee, I had the opportunity to become a plank owner. In the years
since my discharge that plank owner certificate has been lost along
the way. Having done some research I found out that Plank Owner
Certificate is something that is issued by the ship and not the Navy.
I also learned that the Plank Owner Certificate is just what it
implies, and is mighty difficult to obtain a plank off of a steel
deck. So after learning this I had given up all hope of ever having a
piece of the Noxubee upon her decomissioning. I left Noxubee in Danang
in November, 1968 and flew out of country via Flying Tiger Airlines.
They were lobbing motars at the runway when we lifted off and I never
heard much about Noxubee again until the advent of this web page.
There was one time and that gets me back to the point of this
story. Imagine my suprise when in the mid 80's my brother Rickie
Harger formerly HT 3 USS Jason AR 8, asked me for twenty bucks for
something I would be immensely satisfied with. Sight unseen. Twenty
bucks, for something that would make me very, very happy. Considering
the fact that he just returned home from one of his favorite watering
holes, one that was frequented by Naval Avaitors, Trader Johns. It is
a landmark here in Pensacola. I was skeptical to say the least, but
he's my brother so I give him the twenty bucks. He goes back outside
to his car and returns with what he had promised, something that has
made me very, very happy...a very heavy hunk of brass. The Noxubee's
Crest. I was ecstatic. It was mounted on the front door of Trader
Johns and my brother talked the Old Trader out of it for the modest
sum of ten dollars. The way I see it we ALL gained on that
transaction but I gained the most. That hunk of brass now hangs on a
highly polished walnut base under the Noxubee' s picture.
What my Dad, O.V.Harger Jr, SMC USN ret. deceased, told me and
various others along the way still rings true. You can always get out
of the Navy but cant get the Navy out of you. So the feeling is true.
The time I served on the Noxubee and all the shipmates I had the
priviledge of serving with, those are the times that are a very
special time in my life. I was in the midst of 110 brave men. The
times we shared, the stunts we pulled, those were the best. When it
came to stunts, Don Spence was the best teacher I had, He taught me
how to take down a Huge flag in a matter of seconds and run baby run!
Yes those were the fun times.
I'll have to tell you later about Don and I white leading the
shrouds. I'd like to thank you Paul for this site and enableing us to
reunite, rememeber, and catch up on what ever happened to ...thanks
By Gary Harger
My proficiency in this area was unquestionable, I was pretty darn
good at it. I practiced a lot, I formed a mind set at that time. I
considered skating as learning expeditions. I learned a lot on these
excursions. I know you all have seen the movie: (Mr. Roberts) With
Henry Fonda, James Cagney and Jack Lemon. I associate myself with Jack
Lemonís, character. Happy go lucky, and not wanting to be noticed.
That was me.
I would meander into other departments to see what else was going
on. Watch the other guys, do their stuff. The benefit of doing this,
was two fold. I considered it as an overview, to enable myself to see
the whole picture. To be a greater asset to the ship, and to second it
kept me out of sight, out of mind with my department. One particular
excursion stands out in my mind. On this day, I was in deck and in
engineering berthing under the mess deck. I was engaged in
conversation with Gosnell, and a few other guys. It started on a
friendly note but shortly the conversation went to departmental
rivalry. Whose department was better theirs or mine? This lead to a
heated debate all the usual rhetoric was used, anybody can turn a key
to start the engines. Yea, you wouldnít even know where you were
going. Couldnít even send a distress signal for help!
I donít remember at what particular instance it occurred maybe it
was, when I threw " Godís Country" at them, meaning living
up forward adjacent to officers quarters. While they lived down below.
It all happened so fast, next thing I knew I was flat on my back, my
shirt opened, arms and legs pinned and Gosnell, was in the process of
giving me the prettiest pink belly I had ever had. It really smarted
and it was very, very, pink!
I had said these were learning expeditions and I learned that we
all need each other to make it work. Was I mad? Not at all, I was
proud, although I didnít say anything. I knew it took five of them
to hold me down to give me that pink belly I deserved at the time.