To our New Zealand writers and readers near Christchurch: you're in our thoughts.
This is one of my Grandpa Larry's true World War I stories, written in his own hand around 1979 before he lost his sight and transcribed by me a few years later.
And while I have your attention, I have some winners to announce: January's winner is Virginia and December's winner is Michele L. Ladies, send your mailing addresses to me at this address and I'll do the rest.
Now onto the story.
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I think this is a delightful little story of a bona fide member of the salty crew of the U. S. S. Huntington.
Rags was not an ordinary dog but a dog that looked like he had been pulled out of the Lucky Bag by the Jack of the Dust. He was a little guy and must have had relatives at some time who belonged to the poodle family. He could have had relatives in almost any small dog family, now that I think of it.
He had 1,500 friends, every man jack on the ship. He was supposed to belong to a First Class Bosun’s mate named Ed White, if I remember correctly. Anyway, his part of the ship was the QB division and he stayed pretty close to home most of the time. Of course he knew that was where he got his show at mess time and his sleeping billet was there too. But once in a while he would go visiting and always received a royal welcome from officers and men alike.
The time and place of what happened occurred as we were coming through the Narrows on the way to the Brooklyn Navy Yard for some repairs. As was the usual custom, on Navy ships entering or leaving port in clement weather, we were lined up at quarters. I don’t know why it is done because I don’t think many people on shore were paying much attention to us.
Rags was out on the quarterdeck too, and as we had been at sea for quite a while, I suppose that the sight of land may have excited him. Anyway he decided to take a few turns around the deck. After the second time ‘round, he was going full speed, came too close to the scupper, tried to stop, skidded, then went over the side. He hit the water thirty feet below and when he came up, he was paddling for dear life. As luck would have it, a big Moran tug boat was standing by to take our lines later to help nudge us into the dock at the Navy yard. They saw what had happened and eased over near him. One of the deck hands swung down over the side and hauled little Rags aboard – a very frightened little dog. Later, when they came alongside and put their lines aboard, they were able to hand Rags up to his master. He got a fresh water bath and was fed, then later when the ship had been docked and the gangplank put down, he went ashore with the first liberty party. He was always allowed to go ashore alone in New York.
He came back to the ship the next day a little the worse for wear, very happy to be back, and looking for chow.
The War finally came to an end and when we got back to New York, the ship’s company were mostly transferred, leaving only a skeleton crew. Many of the men were naval militia men and were sent home for good. Others who, like myself, were regulars were sent to some other assignment. The ‘tween decks of the ship were stripped and as many bunks were put in as possible and it was converted into a troop carrier to help bring troops back from France.
I never heard whether Rags was allowed to stay aboard the ship or not, but if he did I will bet that he made as many friends among the soldiers as he did among the crew of the U. S. S. Huntington.
So long, Rags!
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