Crossing the Line

At 0705 the Royal Party was sighted on the line, rising up through a haze of mist and seaweed, and the Joolly Roger was broken at the fore as they came aboard.  They then proceeded to the quarterdeck to be received with honors.  First came King Neptune in his Royal Robes, with the Royal Consort, followed by the Royal Princesses and the Royal Baby.  Then came Davy Jones, Peg Leg, the Royal Navigator, the Royal Judges, Royal Prosecutors,Royal Counsellors, Royal Executioners, Royal Chief of Police and the Royal Cops, the Royal Barbers, the Royal Undertake, Electricians, Torturers, Docs, Cook, Sea Hag, Conchubine and the Royal Polar Bears, plus dozens of strikers to bring up the rear.  Captain Wiley descended from the bridge to receive the Distinguished Party in these terms:

Captain Wiley:  "Your Imperial Majesty, I welcome you and your court aboard my ship.  The United States Navy needs men with strength of will, courage,and ability to learn the Mysteries of the Sea.

"We bring you today, for initiation into the Order of the Shellback, an extraordinarily large group of officers and men, some of age and experience, some young and innocent and new to life at sea.

"We ask that you try them, to test them, with the hope that many will be found worthy of the name Shellback."

Neptunus Rex:  "I request permission to take over the ship, Sir."

Captain Wiley:  "You have the ship."

Neptunus Rex:  "Royal Navigator, take the Conn!  Two block the Jolly Roger!  Inform the Royal Judges to prepare to open court!  Call the candidates to Quarters for inspection!"

These ceremonies completed, the Captain returned to the bridge and, to put it mildly, all hell broke loose.  The wild ensuing melee would be impossible to describe in full detail in the short space of a book, for the Royal Party was adequately manned.  All that can be attempted is to trace the route taken by each of the nearly two thousand pollywogs.  What actually transpired is best left tot he worst possible imaginings of the read.

Each member of the Royal Party carried a wooden paddle, and demonstrated a Royal Technique in using them in the inspection.  Grease, lampblack and graphite appeared as if from nowhere, and was soon transferred to faces, arms, backs and -- especially -- hair.  As soon as the Royal Party completed its tour of inspection it moved up to the scene of the Royal Court to convert these landlubbers into fit subjects for His Majesty's Great Domain.

Each candidate approached the throne from the starboard side of the forecastle, through a brief but efficient receiving line.  Here he was taken into custody by the Royal Cops, and borough to tail before the Royal Judges by the Royal Prosecutors, Counsellors and Executioner.

A careful subsequent examination of the findings of the Court fails to produce a single instance of a pollywog not being found guilty of every count, and more.  With resounding raps of their gavels the Royal Judges meted out justice--found each and every pollywog guilty--and sentenced them to "The Works,"  "The Royal Works" or "The Royal Double Works."  Special Friends of the Cops received Extra Special Attention.

From the Court it was but a surprisingly short trip to the excruciating rack of the Royal Torturers, where the candidate's body was paddled into shape, his joints thoroughly examined, and his landlubber's dust dusted off.  His tonsils were effectively sprayed before he was permitted to enter into the presence of His Majesty and Royal Consort, and he was allowed but a brief instant to gaze upon the Exotic splendour of the Court, the Beauty of the Royal Princesses, the Enticing Dancing Girls, and the Sultry Royal conchubine.

A selected few were permitted to kiss the chubby stomach of the Royal Baby.  Then all were hastened to the Royal Barbers, for most hair was too long and many whiskers needed lathering.  The situation was, indeed, so drastic that an unfamiliar and especially viscous type of deep sea lather was required.  Fortunately the Royal Barbers had been forehanded enough to see that plenty of grease was available.

Then, head over heels into the pool and the arms of the Royal Polar Bears, who had patently waited shoulder deep in the sacred portion of the Briney, where they faithfully executed their duty in rinsing off the last distasteful vestiges of each pollywog.  From there it was out-of-the-pool, for a quick trip down Lover's Lane.

Some pollywogs were so unworthy that they were seen to falter occasionally as they scurried aft on the port side, to be greeted by their Shellback shipmates.  This was especially disappointing to some of the Shellbacks and difficult to understand, for no tripping was allowed -- though most of the pollywogs received a stimulating blast of water in the face just as they neared their goal.  But all were duly qualified.

As the last new Shellback joined our ranks, King Neptune took the leave, and "clean sweep down, for and aft" was piped.  The First Lieutenant buried his face in his hands and wept as all hands went to the showers and the supply of fresh water fell to a new low.

It was not long afterwards, in the Philippines, that the West Virginia met the supreme test.  Flying the same colors she had flown when she went to the bottom on December 7, she paved the way for the successful landing of our forces by a precise and terrific shore bombardment.  Then, in company with her sister ships, she sank and defeated a considerable portion of the Japanese Fleet.

Neptunus Rex must have been well pleased with the initiation.

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