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by Sid Harrison ETCM(SS) USN(Ret)

Thinking about COBs-I-have-known brought back a brief incident on the A. Ham. SSBN617. We had a COB by the name of Catfish Evans who had a most creative and profane way of speaking in his rapid-fire Georgia accent. He could put a sailor in his place in a heartbeat, and with a minimum of words - all, of course, heavily laced with our favorite 4-letters, but most importantly he was an outstanding COB who always looked after the troops.

One night after midrats I had gone down to LLOps to that little cubbyhole we called a library which had a fair cross section of good stuff. I was kicked back with my feet up and reading some high-falutin sh*t from our set of "Great Books of The Western World" when Catfish came in to check our slot machine. (We had an antique nickel slot that was Catfish's baby...all proceeds went to the rec fund...I think). He looked over my shoulder at what I was reading and made some insightful comment that made it clear to me there was more to him then I had realized.

We had about a 30 minute real conversation about non-submarine stuff and I became aware that even his manner of speaking had changed. During the conversation he revealed that at one point he had had some college, enjoyed reading literature and history, and that his sister was an MD. There is no reason I should remember those details except that for a smart a** know-it-all like myself, this was a major moment of insight into human nature which permanently altered my thinking. I had crossed a line of understanding that people aren't always what they seem to be and that we are all made up of many interests and play different roles depending on the circumstances we find ourselves in.

Well anyway, someone came in to play the slot and our conversation abruptly ended. Catfish instantly clicked over to being the trash talking COB and we never did resume that conversation.

That night I learned from Catfish Evans something extremely important that I've thought about many times since. I believe we all have learned much more from one another on those boats than just oolie questions about how to blow sh*t through the whistle.