Top Culverhouse asked if we needed help cooking the traditional Friday Southern Meal. * I told him we had it under control, but as he was leaving I asked, “Could you help serve on the chow line?” He understood I was asking him to “sell it” to Bravo Company, and he agreed.
Gunny Sampson arrived early and did a complete inspection of the mess hall. He posted the results on the partition dividing the Officer/ Staff mess. It was a good score, but he busted us for not having a cover on the central floor drain (there were no drain covers).
After lunch Sampson reviewed our dinner menu and said, “I’m going to spice up the beans.” His “Louisiana style” red beans added some heat and color to the menu. I asked the Gunny, “Will you serve the beans on the line?” He laughed his deep belly laugh and said, “Ca c’est bon” (that’s good). He could sell almost anything.
The final surprise of the day was Staff Sergeant Lopez from Hill 37. He was making a courtesy call representing 1/7. He knew the Marines of Bravo Company, and they respected him as their own Battalion Mess Sergeant. I gave him a tour of our mess deck, galley, bakery and walk-in. Pointing to our hooch and shower he said, “What’s that?” I let him into our hooch, and he was flabbergasted. “You have a mattress and pillow?” He laughed at our homemade shower with the immersion water heater (misappropriated equipment).
As we returned to the mess hall, the conversation turned to the subject of Bravo Company providing mess men. We always operated with three from India Company, but technically we should have had four. I trusted Lopez to be fair and asked if he would stay for dinner. He said, “Oh yes, I’m spending the night.”
This was another opportunity so I asked if he would help serve the fish on the chow line. “Ocean Perch?” I told him, “We call it Catfish.”
The mess hall doors opened at 1630, and the “Southern Meal” was transformed into a Tex-Mex Mardi Gras Carnival. Culverhouse was barking about splitting the cornbread in half, and Sampson ladled the beans over it saying, “Ah . . . les rouges.” I served the coleslaw, and Lopez followed with, “Catfish Here.” Reb and Fernando stalked the mess deck with baskets of hush puppies, talking in their natural Mexican/Carolina accents. For many, this was as close to home as it could get in Vietnam.
* See previous blog, “Texas Style Pinto Beans” June 7, 1968