You Can Take the Boy off the Farm, But....

By Captain Richard (Nick) Holman, '67, USNR (Ret.)

I’m not sure if the academy mess hall still has raisins for breakfast in the small, one ounce food service boxes, but they did when I was going through school.  It was during 1C year that it occurred to me that raisins are dried grapes.  As a farm boy from Iowa, I’d had plenty of experience gathering wild grapes from our woods and turning them into a concoction euphemistically called “country wine”.  I think you can see where this is going.  Raisins were not particularly popular at my table so I had no trouble accumulating about 50 boxes (about three pounds) of raisins.  I won’t bother giving the details of turning table raisins into wine but, at one point, sugar and the harvested juice are combined, and then it’s just a matter of sitting back and letting nature do its’ part.  And that’s when the trouble started.

My “still” was a couple of glass bottles that had the screw-type tops.  They had to be kept screwed very tight so that:  (a) my room wouldn’t smell like a still, and (b) the bottles would safely fit into my confidential safe laying on their sides.  (Where else would you keep a top secret item like this without fear of it being discovered during a room inspection by the company officer?)  However, it was extremely important that the pressure building up in the bottles – they were fermenting, you know – was released every day, without fail.  I made it a point of routinely doing this right before noon meal formation.  One day I was running a tad late, so I decided I’d wait until after the noon meal to open the safe and relieve the pressure in the bottles.  In those days only Firsties were allowed to leave the mess hall early – which I did as soon as they gonged the bell.  As I was coming down the corridor on my deck I picked up a distinct and aromatic smell.  Knowing instantly what it was, I rushed into my room and there, dripping onto the floor, were the remains of my prized concoction.  Both bottles had blown.  I immediately went into overdrive, racing to the Moke Shack to get a mop, pail and lots of Pinesol.  I was able to get the mess – broken bottles and all – cleaned up before the rest of the company returned from noon meal.  My one, last concern was turning in the confidential pubs at the end of the year with wine stains all over them.  I was, fortunately, able to put the really badly stained pubs at the bottom of the stack and get them turned in without incident.

I’ve often wondered what would have happened if I’d gotten caught.  At a minimum I suspect I would have “earned” a Black N.  And, if the Administration wasn’t particularly taken by my creative and daring initiative, it probably would have been much worse!


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