" A hit. You have sank my battleship." - The Grim Reaper, Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey
The Battleship Texas. This ship fought in WWI and WWII, losing only one man to combat related injuries. A symbol of pride for all Texans, this ship was forever defiled by horrible snoring the other night. My snoring.
Cub Scouts presents many an opportunity for The Boy and I to interact in a way more meaningful than, “pick up your socks, now take out the trash, get me a Phillips screwdriver from the shop” sort of way. One of those is camping. Preferably it’s outdoors, since then we can start a fire and then heroically save the camp when it slips its bounds and begins to flame everywhere (this has happened to us). However sometimes a fire is just a bit inappropriate . . .
In Texas, we have a variety of ships that are available for Cub Scout sleepovers: the USS Cavalla (a submarine), the USS Lexington (I haven’t been to this one – it’s either an aircraft carrier or a Constitution-Class starship) and the USS Texas.
My first experience with the USS Texas came when I was reading a book, The Ayes of Texas by Daniel Da Cruz. In this 1982 version of Red Dawn in Texas, the Soviet Union is preparing to kick the heinies of a complacent America. Texas? They won’t hear of it, succeed from the wussified Union, and with the help of NASA engineers refit the USS Texas into a high-tech war machine that keeps the Russkies out of the Brazos. It was a good yarn.
Rather than read about it in a book that I bought at a supermarket back when Reagan was president, this time I was fortunate enough to spend a night on the Texas with The Boy’s Cub Scout troop. The Boy and I were the first ones there – I didn’t think that I’d be able to take him at all, since on Thursday he was sick. The Mrs. took him to a doctor, and the doctor indicated that it was a virus – no antibiotics required. He felt fine the next day but they booted him from school because the doctor’s note said “he’s sick”, and we proceeded to pack and head to the USS Texas.
I had been on the Texas before, primarily above decks, and, well, it seemed small for the term “Battleship.” Heck, this battleship, (at least the sign said) was a dreadnaught which meant at the time of its construction, was considered one of the baddest ships at sea. The baddest, in 1914.
Inside, however, it was a completely different story – it was not small at all. The ship was huge. I learned on our trip that at one point, 1,600 men lived on board the ship – working multiple shifts (though, unlike a submarine, people didn’t have to share bunks).
Walking through the maze of history with a batch of Cub Scouts is enlightening. They got to see where the sailors ate, where they worked, and where they, ahem, went No. 2. They even got to see where the sailors got put when they were bad when we visited the brig. In the brig, the sanitary arrangements consisted of a bucket, and the bed consisted of the cold, solid steel floor. All while the prisoner was in a locked iron box with no light and just a few holes for ventilation. The prisoner got a bread and water for two days, and regular rations the third. This, to me, seems a bit more of a deterrent than our current penal system, but I’m thinking that the tennis skills and bench press abilities of our inmates would suffer should we follow a course of punishment similar to this.
Anyhow, after a tour belowdecks, we went to our room to sleep. It was 10PM, and I was tired. So were the Cub Scouts. We went to our bunks and bunked down. Outside of various Other Boys coughing, and my Olympic-Quality snoring, the night was uneventful. At 10:30PM the speakers came on and the mournful melody, Taps, played. Of course, by that time all the Cub Scouts were nearly asleep, so another five minutes of “What’s that??” was followed again by quiet.
Until 6:30AM. That’s when Reveille played. I was completely not ready to get up. While I do not turn to dust at 6:30AM on Saturday, I do turn into pea gravel. Ugh.
We convened for a nice breakfast, and, mercifully, some coffee. After about six cups I gain an actual personality. I could only get my hands on three, so I had to fake it. We walked about the upper deck, and got to view the Captain’s quarters, the inside of one of the 14” guns, and the bridge. Standing up on top of the bridge, imagining the ship under full steam into the sea, was wonderful. Or would have been wonderful, had my head still not been ringing from a conk from a low overhead beam. I’m imagining that sailors must have been shorter at some point.
Well, the Texas isn’t a futuristic war machine slated to kill Evil Soviets, but, with a few lasers here and there and maybe a cold fusion drive . . .