|My 22 birthday was coming up. I'd spent
two years on the boat so far (out of a total of 6 1/2 on the old Seawolf).
The thoughts of birthdays past with my family were crowding in during those
dead times when nothing else took precedence.
We had been at sea for what seemed forever. And we would continue to be at sea for another forever. Another summer of my life spent under the sea, punching holes in the ocean for whatever reason the Navy sent submarines out to sea.
We were all getting bummed about missing the big bicentennial celebrations at home. New York was supposed to be putting on quite a show, as well as the Capital. Well, we knew that we'd at least get a chance to see some of the pictures in the magazines piling, up waiting for us to get back.
Our cook, the most excellent Ron Payton, and his trusty cohorts had a big surprise for the crew. They brought out what amounted to half a beef, ribs and all. Big bags of spuds had been stashed for this day. After breakfast, Ron ran everyone out of the crews mess, and started carving the prime rib out of the rib cage. With great fanfare, these huge slabs of meat were sent into the galley.
We had to gather round, because most of us had never seen an artist swing a knife like Ron did. I'd cleaned and dressed deer and other woodland critters growing up, but when you looked at the meat, you knew that a teenager was doing the job. Not so with Ron. Very professional. To make it even better, Ron had the ribs cooked up for lunch while making the prime rib for dinner. Man, waiting was a bitch.
Dinner came, and the skipper came down to the crew's mess and had a little ceremony to celebrate the nationís birthday. Privately, I celebrated my own birthday as well.
Dinner was incredible, prime rib cooked to perfection, baked spuds, butter, dehydrated sour cream (well, we were out to sea), and the rest of the fixings. Dessert was a big cake frosted to look like the flag.
I know that it might sound cheesy, but we were united in a way that day that Iíve searched for since and havenít found. We knew that we were doing something important for our country, that we were doing what had to be done to preserve our country, so that there would be other centennial celebrations in the future. Of course, mostly what we were feeling was full. Damn that was a great dinner.