14. San Francisco to Eureka

To some readers of the diary Here and There, segment 14 contains Hayes’ most remarkable decision.  At age 22 he’s been on the road for 7 years and apparently swindled, cheated, or stolen from a lot of people along the way (I wish he had included a little more detail about the misdeeds, the list seems to be quite long).  On September 30, 1900, he decides to make amends.

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Here and There Synopsis:

14.1 South of Cape Mendocino

June 7, 1900

After searching up and down the wharves at San Francisco, Hayes gives up on a ship to China. He cannot catch on with the British ship Straghgyle just leaving port for China, nor can he stow away – they’ve just fumigated its hold turning out 22 “embryo warriors” headed for jail rather than the Boxer War.

So instead, Hayes pays $2 to “Murray & Ready’s, labor agents and robbers who contract workers for the entire state.” His first thought was a mining job but someone in the office said that job was no good, second choice was logging work in Mendocino County.

14.2 Dumped at Usal

June 10, 1900

For transport north, Hayes and a dozen other recruits including one Bill S. Hogg, a “London Bookkeeper,” roll around the empty hold of a steam schooner, “every one of us deathly sea sick because of the stench and rolling of the empty ship.”

At Usal near Cape Mendocino, “baskets strung on cables” dump the men like cattle onto the redwood shore. In reply to Hayes’ joke about a thirteen hour work day at this camp, a grinning Irish dock man replies “Ounly Twilve” (Hayes’ quote). Bill S. Hogg blusters back at the dock man but Hayes can see Hogg already: “the city life has ruined him as a man of the woods.” Hogg doesn’t even know to load his pockets with sandwiches at dinner for the next day’s work.

14.3 Cutting Redwoods.

June 14, 1900

Cutting a redwood trunk right to the ground won’t kill the tree. The massive stump immediately sends multiple shoots struggling back toward the sky. Near Usal, “for seven miles the fine trees have been destroyed completely,” by burning and repeatedly cutting – to clear the ground for cattle pasture.

Redwood Crew circa 1900
photo sent by Kayann Short

As predicted, Bill S. Hogg broke down 17 miles out of Usal. Hayes left him a dollar alone in the woods and continued on himself, hiking 90 miles in two and a half days through the dense forest to a job in the planing mill at “a big sawmill thirty miles from Eureka.”

June 22, 1900

At every new place, Hayes almost always comments on the availability, quantity or quality of its food. At this rough lumber camp with its “vast rambling cookhouse” feeding 500 hundred hungry lumberjacks three times a day, he writes three awed paragraphs concluding: “The technique is that of hogs in a pen. No other example would express it more fully.”

Unbarring the door releases a mad scramble: any piece of fruit anywhere in the room disappears into a “sweat-soaked shirt”; whole pies vanish; a giant Swedish hand clamps the milk pitcher to the table until the giant Swedish lumberjack downs his seventh cup of milk. Hayes and a tattooed buddy, Preston, position themselves to grab as a team so that together both can insure that neither goes hungry. Each tries for a good bit of meat for the other but, “the steak and other meat seem to be put through some sort of process whereby it is preserved indefinitely.” Outside the hall, for recreation, Preston throws a piece of meat to the huge bulldog kept by the superintendent of the mill. “Every muscle under his sleek hide may be seen hauling and sliding and writhing with tremendous effort, and men gather round in admiration at his strength.”

If a man can hold his own in the cookhouse melee, at least he can get enough to fuel the heavy work required in the woods. At the camp work-shifts end at ten hours but Hayes says, “I get tired sometimes. … There is a good bit of overtime.” This written as he’s coming off a 36-hour shift. “It’s all right for a while.” Now he’s thinking maybe he’ll travel south to Australia.

July 2, 1900

Hayes must be in correspondence with his mother and sisters. He knows that one sister works as a nurse in Galveston, Texas where the tidal wave from a great hurricane has killed thousands. “Whether she be alive, I do not know.”

Galveston Flood, 1900

Hayes’ mess hall buddy Preston, “a genial German we call Frenchy,” has cleared out in search of more tattoos. “Almost every bit of his body other than his head is already covered with weird pictures of art from all the world.” The shrewd logging company, knowing the leisure time habits of its employees, lets the men drink – at the saloon owned by the company – up to the amount owed them. Accordingly, Frenchy got paid out, went straight to the bar ahead of the accountant, drank all night, and then skipped the camp.

Cutting redwoods stains Hayes’ hands black and fills them with angry splinters. The black comes off only with the skin, “so deep and lasting is the juice that filters from the wood.” Hayes still dreams of Australia even as a tug of guilt nags him about deserting the McCulloch back in San Francisco.

14.4 Eureka!

July 20, 1900

Fed up with the logging camp, Hayes hikes the 30 miles back to Eureka determined to board a ship for Australia. But just as he was “shipping to Tasmania on a sailing vessel, the Woolhara of Sydney,” an agent from a mill in Eureka offered a job at “a place too good to pass up lightly.” Australia will have to wait for another day.

Eureka is to become a place to which Hayes will periodically return from his far-flung travels over the years. “It would be hard to find a more congenial place.” So, with his hands still stained black from lumberjacking and starting into a new mill job in town, Hayes also enrolls “into a business college here with a lot of other young folk of my own age.”

August 21,1900

For the moment, he enjoys the company of the “refined type” of young people at the business college even if, “they have never rubbed up against the realities of life as I have.” And the mill work suits him: “much rowing a boat… a horse that must be looked after twice a day… helping the carpenter, the blacksmith and engineers.”

Oddly, at Eureka, Hayes fails to describe the saloons, gambling houses, and prostitutes as he usually writes when arriving at a new place – this town has a library! With a full time job and attending business college, Hayes writes that the library “ holds me most of my spare time.” How can there be any spare time? However, in addition to the job, school, and the library, some of the same missionaries Hayes encountered in Victor preach in Eureka and he starts attending church, “for though I am a wrong ‘un I like to see decent people.”

September 30, 1900

Business College comes easy, “because I always liked figures,” and Gill, the mill superintendent encourages him to continue but a remarkable new idea has come into Hayes’ consciousness: “I believe I am wrong and should pay up the money I beat people out of.” He is about to quit business school to work overtime at the mill so that he can begin sending reimbursement to everyone he ever cheated – including the railroad companies whose trains he hopped without paying fare!

14.5 Restitution

October 27, 1900

Of course, Hayes’ new conviction stems from conversion by the mission. “I have peace in my heart now that does not come to one in the world.” With “the divine presence” keeping him free from sin, he dons his oilskins out into the rain seven days a week to pay back all his old debts. “One has to be clean if he gets by in this world. I believe I will be happier for it in the end.”

A Norwegian sailor pal at Eureka, Ted Sundbye, “has fallen for a lovely missionary girl and it is likely they will be married.” Though Hayes admits marriage tempts him too, he knows he’s got to choose: a married man in Eureka will never make it to Africa. If he is to emulate “the explorer Stanley [who] has always been a demigod to me,” Hayes must “put all out of my life I can to achieve the goal I have set.” He will not marry; he will be an adventurer.

October 30, 1900

Ted’s girl left for California urging him to follow but Hayes wonders if Ted shouldn’t clean up his responsibilities back in Norway before chasing a new girlfriend to Pasadena. To Hayes’ way of thinking, the family servant Ted loved “unwisely” and the child he abandoned in the old country, are Ted’s first responsibility. Watching Ted’s low dealings, Hayes’ redoubles his own intention that all must be made right with those he cheated.

December 3, 1900

Hayes declines the honor serving as best man at Ted’s wedding in Pasadena; he’s too busy with the repayment project. “The first man I sent $25 to returned it.” Nevertheless, Hayes thinks the gesture made a “profound impression” on the man and he vows to continue despite, “the deep sense of shame on admitting his folly.” Ignoring the siren call of ship’s adventure and sure that he’s “ruining my own career,” Hayes works on in the rain. “I must clean up the entire business of the dark days regardless of what people did to me. Then there may be something else left for the days to come.”

January 16, 1901

Six month of mill work and every dollar gone to pay self-imposed debts. “Some of them write me bitter letters, some demand more… some return the money, some never answer me, some chide me.” Still he keeps on paying. The list remains long after retiring the largest debts first.

And the business of the McCulloch – deserting ship still bothers him. He thinks about returning even though, “it would be hell.” Perhaps that sin can be cleared after all the debts are paid…

14.6 About Ready to Leave

March 22, 1901

Even at a place like this with decent working conditions, the supervisors “wring every ounce of strength from every man.” Hayes writes, “Gill, the superintendent constantly worries me,” to work more and faster. Because Hayes works harder and more efficiently than others, Gill always pushes him for more.

The mill supervisors ratchet up the speed of the machinery until the older men break from the pace and can be replaced by younger men hungry for work. An older man can still do lighter work – for less pay – outside – in the rain. “I see all this, and wonder if I, too, will come to this.” With their riotous living, none of these men saves any money. But sending all his money off to clear his conscience leaves Hayes in exactly the same financial strait as his profligate workmates. “It is easy to make money if one has no scruples, that is why most of these great companies have so much ahead.”

April 16, 1901

For Hayes, “tired, both physically and mentally,” nine months is a long stay even at a good place like Eureka. The bickering Jewish landlady who wants him to wear a good luck charm, the old married couple he hears cursing each other through the thin walls of the rooming house, and worse, the “two turtle doves” newly married, all grate on the nerves of a traveling man overstayed in one place.

Then too, an event more serious than these slight domestic annoyances: Hayes hoisted the ballast from a schooner from Hawaii captained by the 21 year old son of the owner accompanied by another sailor on their way out from Eureka to Arcata at the head of Humboldt Bay. A storm in the night upset the schooner and both men drowned, their bodies washed up on the flats the next morning. From a 23-year-old adventurer poised to strike out again into the world, Hayes’ summary reads with a certain self-reflective foreboding: “Life is so uncertain. … Just as he begun life it is finished.”

But, as often in the diary, an observation of some natural beauty dispels such a dark thought: “There are thousands of ducks on the bay. Canvas backs, mallards, teal, widgeon, spring, bluebill and so many other sorts.” Who knows what beauty lies beyond the horizon line? A man wishing to see some of it has to accept the risks.

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