Marrow Paddling in Guam
The day before HMS Dreadnought was to depart Guam, the combined crews of
Dreadnought and Daniel Webster had a beach party in the afternoon. I had planned
various activities with the First Lieutenant of Dreadnought and our first crew contest
was to be a British game called “marrow paddling.” The Brits were not giving us any
clues as to what the game involved, but they provided a keg of beer and pint glasses
all around as we set up the game. We placed a long pole in the ground with a rope
attached to the top of the pole about ten feet above the ground. A pillow case filled
with sand and rags was attached to the other end of the rope hanging about three feet
above the ground. The pillow case represented the “marrow” which turns out to be
a British word for pumpkin. The game was much like ten pins, except the pins would
be members of the two teams. We flipped a coin for who went first and I won the
toss and elected to let the Brits take the field first. They arranged their team in a triangle
formation, filled up their pint glasses with beer and held them on top of their heads. Each
of our players then had two throws of the marrow from the opposite side of the pole and if the marrow hit one of their players and he spilled his beer, then he was eliminated from the field of play. In between the two throws by a team member, the players were allowed to drink as much of their beer as they wished and thus reduce the chance that they would spill their beer on the subsequent throw of the marrow. But we would then “top off” the beer of the remaining players on the field before the next player’s two throws of the marrow. This continued until all the players in the field were eliminated, and the team’s score was the number of throws of the marrow taken. The other team then took the field. The team with the lowest score was declared the winner. We needed something like thirty throws of the marrow to eliminate all of the Dreadnought team.
As our team took the field, I selected the smallest members of the team and placed them as far away from the pole as was allowed, thus reducing the chance that they would be hit by the marrow. Our engineering officer was the shortest member of the crew and was also known for being able “to hold his beer” and he was placed on the outside point of our team. My strategy worked and even though the Brits did their best to “Top off” the engineer’s beer on every occasion, he was able to duck below their marrow throws and held out until they exceeded our score from the first round. As a result, the crew of the Daniel Webster was declared the winner of the first Pacific Anglo-American Marrow Paddling contest. I should also note that the members of both teams had done their best to polish off the keg of beer, but the Brits had more kegs in reserve.
Our beach party was enjoyed by all. The picture is of David Barriclough, XO of Dreadnought, and me at the beach in Guam. The crews of both ships had made many friends and had traded many sea stories about their submarine exploits. I would meet several submarine officers from the Royal Navy in the future and all had heard about Dreadnought’s trip to the Pacific.
The next day Dreadnought left Guam and I went back to work. Our departure date was ten days away in early October and I had a lot of work to do. I still had not heard about my next assignment and I was getting anxious to hear about what submarine I would be assigned to for my command tour. We got underway for patrol and still no word. A nice bit of news was received shortly after we left port; the Commander selection list came out and I had been early selected to the rank of Commander. About a month later we received a message with my orders to report to the Bureau of Naval Personnel in Washington, DC as the Assistant Nuclear Power Personnel Manager for Enlisted Personnel; a desk job! What a let down. Selected for early promotion to Commander and then assigned to a desk job in Washington. It would be another month before we returned to port and I could call Washington to find out what happened to my orders to command. Leo Wright, my new skipper told me that he was pretty sure that I had received orders to one of the top jobs in Washington for post XO submariners. I didn’t know, but I had my heart set on command of a submarine, not command of a desk.
©2007 Hank McKinney