A Christmastime Seagoing Adventure

An anonymous member of the SS Frederic C Howe seagoing cowboy crew penned this poem about their trip to Trieste, Italy, the end of 1946.

“I’ve sailed the seven seas my lad, I’ve sailed the seven seas,”
the captain very calmly said to Jimmy on his knees.
“Tell me more,” young Jimmy said, “Will you, dad? Please do.
Tell me all about your trips out on the ocean blue.
“Ok, ok,” the cap replied, “I hardly know what’s best,
But I shall tell you some about my last trip to Trieste.”

Loading horses onto the Frederic C Howe in Newport News, Virginia, November 1946. Photo credit: Henry Weaver, Jr.

“We docked along the cattle pier one night at half past nine,
And on rushed the cowboys, a thirty-two man line.
They grabbed and growled, and clawed and fought till each a sack had won.
And acted like a bunch of kids just out to have some fun.
These boys, oh me, they were a mess. I’ve never seen the beat.
My lad, my lad, what boys they were; you should have seen them eat.

Seasick cowboys. Photo credit: Henry Weaver, Jr.

“The first day out they all got sick, at least all but a few.
They didn’t work, they didn’t eat, but oh how they did spew.
No matter when I took a look along the metal rail,
I saw a bunch of cowboys, sick and deathly pale.
A few of them, as I recall, acted like happy boys
And hopped and skipped and jumped around like kids with brand new toys.

On deck of the Frederic C Howe. Photo credit: Henry Weaver, Jr.

“Now when the deck crew put to work, to raise some hay or oats,
I nearly toppled off the bridge to see how young was ‘Boats’.
But as I watched from day to day, their work was very good,
When chow time rolled around at night, they’d earned their daily food.
They very seldom beefed or griped or gave me any sass,
But my, they hated quite a bit to raise a half-dead ass.

“The boys who laboured day and night down in the engine room,
Were still a different bunch from those who manned the boom.
They usually kept her going right, the prop would spin and whirl,
And leave behind us on the blue a foamy, frothy swirl.
But every other day or so along our pleasant hop,
The ship got very tired, and so they’d let her stop.

“One more group I’ll tell you of, they ate in the saloon.
For them the trip across the deep was ended none too soon.
The first mate was a splendid guy, the third was quite a clown,
The second always liked to sleep, but never let me down.
Young Sparks, the vets, and all the rest who had their chow with me
Would whistle loudly every time the purser’s girl they’d see.

Seagoing cowboys on the Frederic C Howe, December 1946. Photo credit: Henry Weaver, Jr.

“Now lad, the trip itself was very fine, especially for one thing.
We missed the holidays at home, the songs by Frank and Bing.
We missed the crowds, the Christmas rush, the trouble and turmoil,
No trees to bother fixing up, no gifts, no wrappers, no foil.
But my we had a lot of fun, we really had a spree,
With songs, poems, and everything, a regular jamboree.”

My thanks to Henry “Hank” Weaver, Jr. for sharing his slides with me!

Wishing all my readers a blessed holiday season ~