Dirty Tricks

By Charles L. Umpstead  

Practical jokes are one thing as long as they don't become malicious. One such practical joke backfired and the author paid the penalty in later years.

Generally, the movies in the CPO Mess on the ROCKAWAY were held up until the 1600-2000 watch was able to attend. I liked showing the movies simply because the projector had an attachment that allowed you to speak into a microphone while the movie was running—it sounded as though it was coming over the ship’s PA system.

We had a great bunch of Chiefs, otherwise I would have gotten my clock cleaned on a few occasions. One patrol I piped the Chief Boatswains Mate to the 5-inch mount. “Dang,” he said, “No one showed up.”

The Gunners Mate got piped to the armory; we enjoyed the tricks very much.

One night I piped, Mat McCool, YNC, report to the ship’s office, knowing no one would be there. When he didn’t return we knew he had been caught by the XO for some after-hours work. In the morning he said they didn’t finish until 0200.

One evening coming off the 1600-2000 watch, I entered our mess deck and bumped into Short, our Chief Radioman, who was in the process of closing a small knife he had hanging from his belt—he let out a stream of profanity; I saw a finger with a large laceration and a lot of blood. Blood I do not like and immediately started hollering for the Chief corpsman. I must have been excited because everyone was laughing. I expressed my feelings about that: This man is hurt and you are all laughing! Chief Short had got the idea to pull this trick on me when shining his shoes and noted that the brown polish looked like blood.

Some years later I reported into the 3rd District and Warrant Officer Mat McCool for assignment. The night he had spent working because of my dirty trick made me pause and ask, What do you have to offer me beside Vietnam?

“We’ll see when you get back.” Go to Vietnam or go home on retirement? Let’s say that I never saw McCool after that.

And to think we once rode to work together!


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