BREMERTON, Wash. — What happens to the
things they carried?
memories, the stories, the mementoes that
submariners collect during their long months
under the sea? Things only fellow shipmates
would consider priceless?
retired Torpedoman 1st Class Larry Timby,
the personal and unit items shared — and
sometimes pocketed along the way — follow a
you first get out of the military, you have
your plaques and your awards, and you hang
them in your house,” Timby said. “They call
it their ‘I Love Me’ wall.”
over the years, he said, things change.
wife or the girlfriend doesn’t want to see
it on the wall anymore,” he said. “And when
you downsize or move,
do you do with it?”
some stuff gets packed in a box and
forgotten. But over the years, many
submariners have opted to send their stuff
to the Horse & Cow, perhaps the most
legendary submariner bar on the planet.
cozy dive, part museum, the Horse & Cow’s
location in downtown Bremerton stands as an
homage to the silent service, a monument
that you can drink in.
bar’s bukheads swim the history of the
American submariner, through items
meaningful not only to the sailors who
donated them but also the crews that
recognize the artifacts when they spot them.
wall hangs what’s believed to be the
original canvas banner from the Nautilus,
America’s first nuclear-powered submarine
launched in 1954, four years before she dove
under the North Pole.
Another wall features a box of three
military-issue knives, given to the tavern
by a retired Navy SEAL who’d rather have
them displayed here than languish in an
Overhead, attached to a USS Horse & Cow (SSN
333 1/3) sail, the eyes find a pair of Texas
longhorns. They went underway aboard the
now-decommissioned submarine Houston.
tattered American flag that flew on the
sub’s final tour is framed on another wall,
a present from the boat’s last commander.
are pocked in plaques and original World War
II Walt Disney drawings of submarine
insignia. Everywhere are banners and
sideboards and probes and engine room
throttle wheels, gadgets and gear looted by
submariners over the years that ended up
Navy Times visited, Timby proudly showed off
their latest trophy: a sideboard from the
Bremerton, a boat on its way to being
decommissioned after 37 years of service.
then there’s a plaque from the Scorpion, a
sub that sank under mysterious circumstances
in 1968, killing 99 crewmen. A POW-MIA flag
is draped nearby to remember them.
think it was a Cold War incident,” said
Timby, disputing the semi-official
explanation that an accidental torpedo
explosion crushed the boat’s hull.
thinks the Soviets sank her.
yellowing bar biography on the wall explains
that the name “Horse & Cow” stems from
Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, who’s
often portrayed accompanied by a small horse
and a small cow, or bull.
the world wars, “merchant sailors, terrified
of being sunk by submarines, tattooed a
horse on one ankle, a cow on the other, in
hopes of ensuring safe passage,” the bio
might be an architectural homage to the
silent service, but the bar and restaurant
also brims with sailors, Puget Sound Naval
Shipyard hands, military veterans of all
stripes and assorted Bremerton regulars.
recent Friday night, waitresses passed out
shots of “Nuke Waste,” a schnapps-like drink
invented by Mike Looby, the founder and
owner of the Horse & Cow’s Bremerton
everyone has a shot of the bright green
victual in front of them, the girls sound a
klaxon behind the bar and everyone drinks.
Earlier this year, Attorney General Jeff
Sessions gingerly sipped a shot while
visiting the Horse & Cow with his
son-in-law, a Navy submariner.
said he had to gently goad the Alabama
Republican into taking a sip.
of these old guys come in off the old boats,
the diesel boats,” said Timby, who became
co-owner of the bar a few years ago after
spending years as one of Looby’s most loyal
customers. “They have their reunions here.
They see stuff and they light up.”
because at the Horse & Cow, submariners,
their boats and their buddies are never
“There’s a lot of things that just fade
away,” Timby said. “But as long as we’re
here, we’ll always be remembered.”
wasn’t about the money”
Sipping a cocktail, Looby is decidedly coy
about how his watering hole came to hold so
many submarine treasures.
we acquired everything is a mystery,” Looby
he’s acquired a lot. His 5,000-square-foot
Horse & Cow in Guam, another U.S. submarine
hub, displays other keepsakes. Spillover
collectibles are stored away, perhaps
destined one day for outlets in Groton,
Connecticut, and Pearl Harbor.
“Everything’s original, we never paid for
anything,” he said. “Some of the stuff came
under the cuff, some of the stuff by
of it first landed in the hands of his
father, the late Jimmy “The Godfather” Looby.
An Army vet, he founded the first Horse &
Cow in 1953 with his brothers in San
then, surface warfare guys or civilians
risked their butts daring to enter a
submariner bar, but times have changed.
you brought something of value from the
submarine and we put it up in the bar, it
was open tap,” Looby recalled. “Beer, booze,
food, whatever was available, and it was
just given to the guys, and it wasn’t just a
39 actually had boats tied up there. After a
Defense Department round of base closures
shuttered the waterfront, Jimmy Looby moved
his operation to an area near Hunters Point
Naval Shipyard in San Francisco.
another round of consolidations scuppered
that location, The Godfather relocated to
Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo,
northeast of San Francisco.
“You’re there to make money, but it wasn’t
about the money,” Looby said. “In Vallejo,
when I was working for my father, I know for
a fact we gave away more booze than most
bars in that town sold.”
that base shut down, the Looby operation
again shifted, this time to Bremerton, but
The Godfather was done by then and his son
had taken the helm, launching the Puget
Sound outpost in 2000.
“Things I shouldn’t have”
and Looby have an obvious affection for the
submariner artifacts sailors have entrusted
to them over the years. And some of the
items submariners have smuggled to them are
while working with his dad in Vallejo, “we
had non-charged reactor rods,” Looby said.
also have an undisclosed number of primary
valve cap covers from submarines, known in
their post-service lives as the “Horse & Cow
don’t know what a primary valve cap cover
is, you’re probably not a submariner.
after a primary valve cap cover’s
retirement, barkeeps will pour a bottle of
Nuke Waste into one of the caps and pass it
in the nuke room, somewhere back aft, near
the nuke room, they have this in the engine
room,” Timby said. “That’s all I’m gonna say
are highly controlled,” Looby added. “I’ve
got quite a few of those, and when those
come to me…I don’t know where it came from.
I don’t ask questions. I don’t care.”
Sometimes, buttoned-up officers come into
the bar, demanding to know who gave Looby
his latest memento, but he said he’ll always
protect his sources from the squares.
“There’s some officers out there that
everything is by the book,” he said. “Things
show up and they’re out of their mind when
they see it here.”
Sometimes they raise hell, Looby said, but
nothing comes of it.
ends up at the Horse & Cow, it’s at the
Horse & Cow,” he said. “You can come look at
it anytime, but it’s at
Horse & Cow.”
Sometimes things even move through official
guys recently acquired two seats off the
fast-attack submarine Albuquerque, which was
“Official paperwork and everything,” Timby
the most part, it’s drama free, but there
are somethings I get that I don’t want to
boast about,” Looby said.
“You’re one beer away from Navy Times!”
is sometimes wistful for the old Navy days,
when everything wasn’t so sanitized and
same time, he doesn’t swab up as much puke
or stopas many fights as he did back in the
day. In fact, today’s
enlisted kids look out for each other.
“There’s always at least one designated
driver and they’re always making sure
everybody has a ride home,”
some of the younger guys are really putting
them back, Looby asks how they’re getting
home, and the
designated driver always raises his hand.
the one sitting there going, ‘I gotta sit
here with all these drunk bastards and deal
with them?’” Looby said.
Guam to Bremerton and at several points in
between, Looby has tipped back too many
drinks to count,
sipping with every rank from seaman to
even gotten straight twisted with some flag
officers, and recounted stories not fit for
always remind them, 'Hey man, you’re one
beeraway from Navy Times!” Looby said.
sea story starts “in a land far, far away,
in an undisclosed location” outside the
was this admiral friend of mine,” Looby
recalled. “We were hosting a boat from
another country. It
becomes a challenge to get them drunk.
foreign dignitary’s going to drink us under
the table, or we’re goingto drink them under
battle commenced at about 4 p.m., and by 2
a.m., everyone was legless.
don’t want to hang anybody, but by that
time, he was speaking ‘drunkanese,’” Looby
said of the anonymous
admiral. “I don’t think he even knew his own
name, snot running from his nose.”
ventually, the duty drivers for the foreign
captain and their commodore finally
staggered out the door and that’s how it
ended,” Looby said. “And we
staggered out ourselves.”
knows all the boats, and all the crews, even
submariners who arrive in Bremerton years
after they got
just to belly up again at the bar.
picked up where we left off, like we haven’t
missed a single day or a single story,”
Looby said. “The
rumors. He thought I was dead, I thought he
was dead. But we’re sitting here, drinking