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Beer Truck Boutwell
By Maurice D Karst

I met a lot of characters in my Navy career but few could compare with my old shipmate “Beertruck” Boutwell. “Beertruck” was one of the many sailors who knew their jobs but just could not pass the test for the next higher rank. If he could have taken the tests orally, I would have been working for him but he just could not get it down on paper. The fact that he loved his beer almost as much as he loved the Navy may have added to the sad situation that kept him stalled in the lower ranks. “Beertruck” worked hard and he played hard. Sometimes he would forget when it was time to come back to the ship. It became one of my duties to track him down when he was A.W.O.L. and because of his shipboard performance the Captain would usually forgive him and just keep him aboard for a week or two.

One afternoon, I received a phone call from Boutwell informing me that he was in Balboa Naval Hospital and when I inquired what happened he said, “I got run over by a beer truck,” and when I said, “Don't give me that crap,” he insisted that it was true. As it turned out, when he was leaving one of his favorite haunts by the back door, a beer delivery truck ran over his foot. No matter how hard he tried to live it down, from then on he was known as “Beertruck” Boutwell.

The Navy issued “Beertruck” a set of false teeth shortly after he joined and he loved to use them in crude ways. One of his favorite tricks when we were drinking beer with our shipmates, was to drop his teeth in the pitcher of beer therefore claiming it for himself. Nobody argued because they didn’t want to pour themselves a beer with Boutwell’s teeth smiling back at them through the brew. “Beertruck” was not the barmaid's favorite customer.

One afternoon, we were off the coast working with marines bringing small boats into the well deck of the ship. Boutwell and I were in the ballast shack flooding tanks to raise the ship up and down to allow the boats in and out. We discovered there was smoke coming from behind the electrical switchboard and I told “Beertruck” to get me an electrician and a CO2 (fire extinguisher). The next thing I realized the Commanding Officer was standing in the ballast shack telling me Boutwell said I wanted to see him. We laughed until tears came to our eyes when we figured out “Beertruck” did what he heard me say.

Boutwell made my time in the Navy seem a little shorter and wherever you are, “Beertruck,” thank you for being you.

© 2001 Maurice D Karst