26 El Paso to Los Angeles – on Foot

July 31, 2011

When I first read Hayes’ diaries in the 1970’s, the following walk made on me perhaps the deepest impression of any in his 35 year journal.  Imagine walking from El Paso Texas, to Los Angeles California, with no money, a quart jar for water, and only the clothes on your back.  The sheer physical feat, through blistering days and freezing nights, was unimaginable to me even at when I was 20.  Further impressing me as a young man: he made that walk entirely based on ethical resolve – freight trains, easily hopped, rolled by regularly.  But Hayes walked – except for one short stretch when he was invited aboard.

The map below won’t appear in an email.  His desert walk is the green section.


Click here to download chapters 1-26 on Google Earth.  

Here and There Synopsis:
26.1  150 Mile Walk to Rodeo

February 26, 1904

Straight across the desert from El Paso, Texas to Rodeo, New Mexico is 150 miles. Hayes walked it in 5 days – and nights. Some nights he tried to sleep on the frozen earth, but usually he just kept walking to keep warm.

How does a lone traveler walking across the high desert find water? “At long intervals there has been a station, a section house where I could get a drink of water. Once or twice a ranch on the horizon, and one night I slept in a recently abandoned ranch house where a spring burst from the mesa near the track.” Food? With his cash almost gone, “At the few ‘towns’ (Hayes’ quote) – Hachita, Hermosa, Columbus – it has been possible to buy some raw meat and a loaf of bread. Raw beef is not so bad when one is famished and there is nothing else.”

This high flat land supports a few half-wild cows – Hayes describes being chased up a tree by a bull that eventually lost interest and wondered away. The night before entering Rodeo, walking through heavy snow, “a troop of coyotes followed me for miles, howling dismally all the way. For a while I was alarmed at their boldness, but they made no hostile move.” The coyotes feed in a large valley completely taken up by a prairie dog colony.

The only human beings around are railroad workers. The boss is always an American, the workers Mexican. The latter live in huts made of railroad ties and adobe and receive $1.25 a day to be worked continually at full speed. “They are often kind hearted and genial, better than my own countrymen, who look on me as a tramp, which I truly am.”

26.2 A Little Work in Douglas

February 28, 1904

On the last day before entering Douglas some Mormon woodcutters living back in the Chiricahua Mountains stopped on the road to share their meal with Hayes. “They refused my last miserable pennies, and I appreciate it from my heart. … These rangy, bearded men were friends in need. I will always feel kindlier to Mormons after this.”

Douglas rises from the desert around a smelter for the copper mined at Bisbee thirty miles distant. Douglas is booming with nearly 5,000 residents inhabiting new additions sprawling all across the Mesa. Hayes catches on at the Phelps-Dodge Company.

March 3, 1904

Hayes was hired as a rigger setting up machinery in an ore sampler; work he probably could have managed but when the rigging work went flat, “I worked with the bull gang hefting heavy steel rails, timbers and other weight lifting contests until I broke down. There was nothing else to do but hop it.” This means he quit.

“The odd part about it all, I am in debt to the company.” Working two days in February and three days in March leaves a man behind: he owes two months hospital fees, at a dollar a month, plus road tax and poll tax, “this last for the great privilege of voting in elections.” Had the office staff collected full taxes, Hayes would have owed Phelps-Dodge $1.60 for the five days he worked for them. “In the end they were charitable and magnanimously gave me $1.40 of my own money, saying they could not collect a fraction of the tax.”

This tax racket is quite profitable for the “white collar staff in connivance with the elected administrators of Cochise County.” The deputized clerks keep one dollar for every five collected. With the punishing work, as many as 600 Mexican laborers pass in and out of the jobs each month. The hospital fee, poll and road tax amounts to six dollars per man or $3,600 monthly – and there are no roads in the area! “I am sore right through. My luck is out, no use talking.”

26.3 Church at Bisbee

March 5, 1904

After walking thirty miles across the desert to the mining town of Bisbee, Hayes finds no work and no place to stay so he crawls into a culvert in the dry bed of an arroyo where he finds many of the Mexicans employed at the mine already camped out.

The next day, with nothing else to do, Hayes and another wanderer attend the “Negro church” in town. “If one had been at the court of St. James he could not have seen more display of pomp and pageantry than among these simple people, whose love of ceremony and solemn punctilio is beyond understanding.” All are dressed to the nines and speak and pray in grand terms. Hayes is amazed at one prayer: “Oh T’ou Lawd Gawd ob Heaben an’ earth, T’ou who makest de sun to rise and set fah out beyon’ de weste’n hemispheah! We beseech T’ee, oh Lawd Gawd, to heah us!” (Hayes quote.) After the meeting, Hayes went to shake the speaker’s hand “in something akin to awe” at what he assumes must be an educated Negro. Later in the day, both men were “amazed and embarrassed” to meet again at the speaker’s boot black stand just outside the post office.

26.4 Walking

March 7, 1904

Somehow Hayes has heard of a job in Red Rock, 150 miles west, so he departs Bisbee with 85¢ in his pocket walking fast: sixty miles, from Bisbee to Benson, in twenty-four hours! Apparently on these long solitary walks, he usually follows the railroads because on this date he describes, “taking a short cut across the desert to the Santa Cruz River, missing a lot of extra miles by leaving the railway.” His shortcut was twenty-two miles – without water. Oddly, in the middle of the desert, half way to the Santa Cruz River, he found himself on the corner of Magnolia Boulevard and Seventh Avenue. A “grizzled rancher” told him he stood at an intersection in the “embryo city of San Luis,” with lots marked out and sold at high prices to Eastern investors. “There seems to be no law against such robbery.”

Benson “is one of these little Arizona cow towns, where are a few stores, a restaurant or two, saloons to fit the population, gambling and perhaps a Mexican lady of the evening.” The Mexican laborers working the railroad section for a dollar a day live with their familes in traditional “Jacals” made of sticks and adobe.

Jacal, Texas circa 1900

The dollar a day wage buys “beans and chili pepper, perhaps a little flour for tortillas, no more.” The section boss “drives the docile peons at top speed, for every man knows there are others ready to slip into their shoes if they slack in the least.” Speaking to the workers in their broken English and his poor Spanish he reports learning that, “They resent it too.”

With his money almost gone, Hayes must hurry on. At Benson he is able to buy a little food: a loaf of bread for 10¢, and “fortunately meat is cheap. A string of bologna will serve until I reach Tucson,” another 50 miles distant.

Broke, hungry, alone, and exhausted in this fallen-down little town, he nevertheless writes with a little pride of the previous days walk: “Sixty miles in one day is the best walk I have ever made.

26.5 A Job at Red Rock

March 10, 1904

Between Benson and Tucson Hayes’ walking pace slowed a little: only forty-nine miles in one day and night. He thought he might sleep in a boxcar part way along but was rousted by a “surly Mexican watchman,” so kept on walking until reaching Tucson where, “everything was high priced, and I saved every cent I could.” His last 15¢ buys “soggy biscuits” at a section house somewhere west of Tucson. “I ate them all before reaching Red Rock, coming in here hungry.

But, miraculously, the job information back in Bisbee was good; he’s on with a railroad construction crew outside Red Rock. “Almost all the crew are Mexicans or Yaqui Indians, the latter quiet chaps, hard workers, doing their best to get a gunstake to shoot Mexican soldiers in Sonora.” A Mexican boss assigns Hayes to digging sagebrush. His feet are so swollen and sore from the 150 mile, five day walk that he has to kneel to dig. “Later the boss put me to driving a span of mules, and did so well I was promoted to dressing down the dump, a superior position in this camp.” In March in the Arizona desert the days are hot with dust a foot thick, but, “During the night the ice freezes two inches thick on the mule trough, we have to break this with our boot heels.” A couple of stolen grain bags stuffed with straw helps keep off much of the chill of the starlit night. “At least I have enough to eat at last, and this means more than I can say.”

He’d like to be able to stick with this job long enough to earn train fare to Los Angeles. Howwever, can’t stand the mistreatment of the horses here. With the daytime heat and dust, unless a driver bathes a horses’ shoulders noon and evening sores form as the animals are continually flogged to pull hard against their collars. Just when Hayes has a horse nearly healed with humane treatment, the cruel bosses re-assign his horse to another driver who seems to delight in punishing a horse until lame. For fifty cents more the company could get skilled teamsters, but these “would ask for a bed, or at least a blanket.… [so] to hell with the mules”

March 15, 1904

After only seven days on the job, rumor has it that the tax assessor is coming, “so a general exodus took place. Even many of the Mexicans left with we eight Yanks, for none of us cared to further enlarge the exchequer of these hounds who live by robbing men who work thru the medium of “taxation” (Hayes’ quote).” Fortunately a decent station agent cashed Hayes’ time check raking off only 10%. The $8 in his pocket feel like a fortune but it’s not enough for train fare to Los Angeles. The other tax dodgers with whom Hayes left the railroad job look to hop a freight at Red Rock, but Hayes won’t do it. “I quit that when I attempted to straighten my life at Victor, [at the mission in Colorado] and will endeavor to keep on as I am now.” So he’ll walk the remaining 450 miles across the desert to LA.

26.6 Walking

March 17, 1904

Walking along the rail track, Hayes steps out of the way for a passing train and “some of the more friendly Mexicans ensconced on top of box cars waved recognition as I stepped clear.” At Casa Grande, chickens thrive on a few alfalfa patches, so “I bought for 25 cents 18 eggs and devoured them all at one time. Raw, of course, and they heartened me much.” Other than the eggs, he subsists on bread and sausage. At Maricopa several Indians offer Hayes 50¢ to buy them a bottle, “they being forbidden drink.” He refuses, for, “Then I would be in bad with Uncle Sam, and they don’t need the booze anyway.”

26.7 Walking

March 20, 1904

On all this long walk, Hayes has carried a “small quart glass jar” for water. After blistering hot days, the desert nights are so cold, the water in his jar almost always freezes at night. Along the rail track he frequently comes across stacks of abandoned tires. “…so each night [I] take some of these and stack them like the letter H. In the central fleet I place others to lean like a roof, and build a fire before the small cave thus made. The heat is thus reflected on me from every side and in this way I am escaping the bitter cold.” His glass jar froze so hard one night it broke and had to be replaced in Gila Bend.

26.8 Walking

March 22, 1904

“Have had one awful hike so far, but am well and game to keep on. Sore feet, chapped lips, an empty belly most of the time and money slipping away.” At Mohawk a Negro bummed money from Hayes, “and I was weak enough to give him a few cents.” A dog bit him passing the railroad station house where a fire had recently burned a railcar carrying canned oysters. Hayes bought five of the salvaged tins from the station agent for 5¢ each, “Ate the lot during the day and could do with a bit more.” One glance at “the soiled looking village” of Yuma with its penitentiary on the bluff overlooking the town convinces Hayes that “I will sleep on the desert tonight.”

26.9 Walking

March 24,1904

At Imperial Junction Hayes begins: “The last two days have been hard ones,” quite a statement following his entries for the last month. He estimates he’s 60 to 70 miles out from Yuma walking through “barren sandhills” along the railroad line. His only food came from a passing construction train: “A sly Chinaman stealthily sold me some food, this when I thought he had a right to. And a friendly teamster slipped me a few biscuits.” In country he describes as “absolute desert,” water is only available at the far-flung railroad station houses; his quart jar quickly runs dry and “it is a thirsty hike between stations.” With no place to make a bed, Hayes walked on through the night. Fortunately the rattlesnake coiled beside the rails in the dark gave him ample warning to make a wide detour and is now miles behind.

Though Imperial Junction has “sage and mesquite, a welcome interlude after the constant sand,” the Salton Sink looming ominously ahead lies so far below sea level it looks like a lake from where Hayes rests before what will surely be another long difficult push.

26.10 Finally a Ride

March 27, 1904

Hayes writes of his walk across the Salton Sink without mention of the Salton Sea that appears on maps today; perhaps it was dry in 1904. At one place before reaching the town of Salton, “I heard in the darkness water running over the ripples in the sand. First it seemed I must be light headed, but it was there. One great gulp went down and it was saltier than the sea … there to tantalize the wanderer.” Finally at the salt works in Salton “at the very nadir of this waste, I got fresh water.”

Continuing on, his knee gave out forcing an hour’s rest at Mecca before pressing gingerly forward to Coachella and then to Indio where fresh water flows freely from artesian wells. At Coachella, as had happened once before, a chef cleaning the pantry on a Pullman train gave him a gift out the train window: “three loaves of bread, each a different sort, pie, steak and other viands almost struck me. I filled up on these, gave a fellow wanderer one loaf and kept on.”

Then after Indio, a trainman did him another real favor: As a cold night-wind blew gravel in his face on a long steep uphill trudge, “A train crawled up the long hill, and the trainmen almost stopped. When I failed to get on they did stop entirely, picked me up and continued on to Beaumont, where I slept for the first time in days.” Hayes’ incredible walk, hundreds of miles through the desert, alongside the track frequented by passing trains, attests to his determined ethic to forego stealing rides. However, a ride offered by a friendly trainman going out of his way to stop the train to invite one on board cannot be considered stealing.

Leaving Beaumont bound for Los Angeles on foot again, but at least rested, Hayes has a loaf of bread remaining from the Pullman and a bucket of oranges a passing wagon sold him for a nickel, “so it is a feast.”

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25. Galveston to El Paso

July 24, 2011

Chapters 25 and 26 recount an incredible walk – most of the way from Houston Texas to Los Angeles California.

Click here to download chapters 1-25 on Google Earth.  

Here and There Synopsis:


25.1 Houston Will be a Great City

January 17,1904

Before coming to Houston, Hayes used money borrowed from his sister Jennie to pay fare over to Orange on the Louisiana border to see about work in the saw or paper mills there. Nothing doing in either and “Sad enough a big hole is made in this money Jennie loaned me, and I don’t know when I can ever pay it back. It seems humiliating to borrow money, this is my first occasion to do so, and I hope my last.”

The land is poor at Houston but the location is splendid for commerce. Cotton, grain, cattle and many other agricultural products of Texas and Oklahoma flow down Buffalo Bayou and through the roads crossing here. The town is still a little sleepy from the Old South days but “virile business men from the north are waking these Southerners up.” Oh, and the oil fields too.

With no job and dwindling resources in Houston Texas, what is a fellow to do? Well, walk to Los Angeles of course: “Now there is nothing to do but to make my way westward toward the Coast.”

25.2 State Farm at Richmond

January 21, 1904

Hayes walked the 32 miles from Houston to Richmond passing a “state work farm where were many convicts.” To Hayes the guards on horseback armed with rifles ready to shoot any prisoner who lifted a hand from his plow look more criminal than the men wearing stripes. “It is not a pretty sight to see men treated thus, but it is not compulsory for men to commit crime. There must be some deterrent, else the country would go into anarchy.”

With no job prospect in sleepy little Richmond and feet sore from walking this far, Hayes spends a little more of Jennie’s money on the train west to San Antonio.

25.3 At the Alamo

January 21, 1904

Hayes has never had much faith in employment offices but he’s far enough down to try even that.

“In the meantime I have been seeing the Alamo, which is sacrosanct in the eyes of all Texans.” The story of the famous battle as Hayes tells it has 183 rough men given the opportunity to desert the fort in the face of 4,000 Mexican troops; “only one took advantage of this last chance for life.” Those remaining fought the Mexican army for days until their ammunition was exhausted – then fought on with “gun butts, knives, and their bare hands.” At last, seven wounded men were captured and killed by Sanata Ana’s men, their bodies thrown on the pile and burned with all the rest. These martyrs to freedom later inspired the men under Houston’s command to defeat the Mexican Army “and freed Texas from the thrall of ignorance and the Catholic Church, which has always dominated the Latin countries to their detriment.”

“But is the tomb of these men held sacred?” Only if you think that plastering an advertisement for a local railway over the bullet-scarred walls and blood-soaked ground is a fitting monument. “The desire for money does not afford sanctity to even a place like this that should be a shrine.”

The rest of San Antonio is, “the prettiest town I have seen in Texas,” with gardens, old adobe walls, and bronzed cowboys “wide hatted and high booted.” A nice town, but Hayes has no time to tarry; all energy must go toward finding a job.

25.4 Overlooking Devil’s River

January 24, 1904

The employment office in San Antonio offered a job but when Hayes showed up at the site there was no work – and sorry, no refund. There goes a dollar. He’s heard of work on an irrigation canal out toward Del Rio so he spends a little more of his nearly empty purse on train fare out that way – “but in vain.” At a canal site in Del Rio he sees Mexicans working for 85¢ a day and offers to join the crew, even paying for his own board. “But they will not permit an American to work with the peons.”

January 26, 1904

On this date Hayes begins the entry with an extended paragraph describing the natural beauty where he’s seated “on the bluff looking over Devil’s River, a sparkling stream far west of Del Rio.” Here, spreading oaks relieve the sage, mesquite, prickly pear and thorn bush of the unirrigated lands surrounding Del Rio. Fish swim in the river and across the nearby Rio Grande in Mexico he sees a deer come from the chaparral to drink from its clear waters. (I believe this place where Hayes took inspiration is now submerged by Amistad Reservoir built in 1969 where Devil’s River meets the Rio Grande.)

Refreshed by the untouched beauty at this wild place where the Rio Grande flows between “two rugged hills on either shore that extend up and down the river as far as eye can see,” Hayes finds a reserve of strength to meet the challenges of the human world. “I am hiking west, hoping against hope to find something to do along the line. There is not much chance now, but there may be something.” He’s sleeping in the bush and has “some charqui (dried meat) and a loaf of bread, a that has kept me thus far.”

24.5 Manna in the Desert

January 28, 1904

Walking hard by day on “a rocky track” and sleeping out by night in the bitterly cold winter desert of West Texas, Hayes has no food – yesterday nothing at all. “I was reconciled to starve, when a pullman train passed me and the cook must have cleared out the pantry. For steaks, bread, even pie came from the window of the dining car, and the gravel where it fell was easily brushed off.” One wonders if a kindly cook saw a lonely wayfarer in need of help or if this was just an impossible coincidence.

By the time he walked into the small village of Comstock, he’d eaten the largesse from the train and hunger returned. “As there was no restaurant, I entered a meat shop and purchased some raw beef. This was very acceptable as good meat as I have ever eaten.” Fortified, he continued on, walking toward Langtry.

25.6 Langtry

January 28, 1904

Hayes walked the sixty-five miles from Del Rio to Langtry in two and a half days. To cross the chasm at the Pecos River he mounted a viaduct 300 feet above the trickle of water below, leaning forward into a cold sandy wind with all his strength. At Langtry he found “a water tank, a railway eating house and a small round house.” When he asked at the eating house to work in return for food, the “genial proprietor” offered him a job for as long as he liked. At this new place he writes, “At least I am gorged to repletion.” He looks forward to getting strong again after spending most of his time in Texas half starved.

February 2, 1904

The “genial proprietor” initially offered to pay Hayes $5 a month, but now that’s been raised to $10. Most of the custom at this place comes from trains passing through – freight train workers get a fair price, which is promptly doubled for passenger trains. Many of the trains coming through Langtry must have passed Hayes walking alone through the desert. “Now the trainmen know me, and marvel because I do not beat my way. But when I reformed at Victor, I barred hoboing, and will to the end, I hope. This has given me considerable prestige among them.”

All the railway men say that Hayes reminds them of “Fitzsimmons, the prizefighter, who was one of the participants in a scrap here a few years ago.” That fight took place in 1896 and Fitzsimmons knocked out the reigning heavyweight champion, Peter Maher in one round in a bare-knuckle fight held on an island in the dry bed of the Rio Grande River (prize fighting was illegal in both Texas and Mexico) half a mile from Langtry .

Robert Fitzsimmons
Alex Maher

The fight promoter had to build a road down to the dry riverbed. He didn’t make much money because spectators on the American side could sit on cliffs on the riverside for a good view of the fight; almost no one paid for ringside seats. The promoter died in March of the previous year, so Hayes just missed meeting Roy Bean.

25.7 Judge Roy Bean

February 2, 1904

Some tall tales have been told about Roy Bean including the ones by Walter Brennan and Paul Newman in two separate movies, by Edgar Buchanan in a television series, and by Larry McMurtry in a Western novel. Hayes tells a couple of tales too, stories he picked up “reading the correspondence of this strange man,” in his hometown, in the year after he died.

Judge Roy Bean

Bean “set himself up as justice of the peace in this out-of-way spot, and dispensed justice according to his own idea of right, or rather that of the Southern Pacific Railway, which is the source of Langtry’s prosperity.” Judge Bean decided any case between a crippled train worker and the Southern Pacific in favor of the company; in return he rode Southern Pacific trains anywhere in the country on a free pass.

“He married and divorced people, settled the rows among the cattlemen and cowboys, fined any who had money heavily, and if they would not pay imprisoned them in a cellar under his hall of justice, as the sign above it says.” Bean’s saloon/hall of justice was the Jersey Lilly. Keeping the peace west of the Pecos included issuing and enforcing injunctions against any other drinking establishment that tried to set up in Langtry. It also included all manner of petty shakedowns. One time a man fell off a bridge over the Pecos and was killed with $100 and a gun in his pocket. “He said no sober man would have fallen off the viaduct, so fined the corpse $50 for being drunk and $50 for carrying a concealed weapon.” On another occasion, two Mexican couples came to be divorced, then both couples re-married, swapping mates. Bean charged them all he thought they had but on the way out one of the women dropped a purse containing $12.50. “Bean called them back again. He had forgotten something. He charged each couple $6.25 witness fees, thus getting hold of every peso they had.” Hayes says he could tell dozens of other stories about this “rascal” who sounds more like a small time grafter than the wild west hanging judge of the books and movies.

25.8 Roy’s Son Sam Bean

February 10, 1904

Broke in Langtry on his 26th Birthday, Hayes receives a pay increase to $15 a month, and a letter from “my people” in Hico, “They bawl me out, of course, for no one loves a man who is unfortunate.”

February 16, 1904

Hayes still works at the eatery but the constant quarreling between the husband and wife ownership team makes it uncomfortable. Sam Bean, the son of Roy Bean came through on one of his trips across the border. “Sought by the authorities of both countries, he skips to the U.S.A. when Mexico gets too hot for him, then returns when the southern Republic seeks a closer acquaintance.” The younger Bean makes his living smuggling and stealing cattle and horses, driving stolen herds across the shallow Rio Grande to whichever country he’s not in. Hayes describes him as “a genial soul.”

Some of the local Mexican citizenry still come to Langtry seeking justice, as in the denial of paternity dispute before them just now. Hayes gives no report on how they decided the paternity, but remarks that the wife “is a remarkably beautiful girl.”

A cowboy stopping in for lunch had a fox tied to his saddle horn; he says he shot it while mounted with his “six-gun.” These men shoot so accurately they can snip small lizards from the limbs of trees. “But there is none of the fighting so well advertised elsewhere in the world.”

25.9 El Paso by Train

February 21,1904

Even at the increased wage of $15 per month Hayes couldn’t have made more than about $10 staying at Langtry less than a month. Nevertheless, he’s back on the road, paying train fare as far as El Paso where the only work not done by Mexicans calls for “a highly specialized mechanic to work in the smelters or for the railways.” Since Hayes has neither skill, he’ll have to look elsewhere, “God alone knows where, I don’t.”


24. Hico to Galveston to Galveston

July 17, 2011

Sorry to miss a week.  We had a lovely holiday in Oregon during which the farm went crazy.

Following the death of his father, Hayes says he’s affected no more than by the death of a casual acquaintance.  Nevertheless, the particularly fruitless and brutally harsh wandering of the following two years might suggest otherwise.

On the map, the light pink is his trip down from Alaska.  The blue with popups is the current chapter.  The darker pink is the beginning of an amazing desert odyssey.

(If the map doesn’t appear in the email, click the title to go to the blog.)

Click here to download chapters 1-24 on Google Earth.  (If a reader has time to click and download, I’d like to know if it’s coming through and if it’s impressive.)

Here and There Synopsis:


24.1 Irish Shipmates on the Norseman

November 12, 1903

Hayes writes only three sentences concerning his family after traveling with his mother and sister to Galveston then parting from them less than two weeks after learning of his father’s death: “Galveston. Mother came down with me, came on to this city with Jennie and I. They have returned, and I am signed on the steamer Norseman, a big Dominion liner carrying cotton to Liverpool.”

That’s enough of the family – on with the adventure of traveling the world: The crew in the forecastle of the Norseman are mostly wild Irishmen from Liverpool with strong accents, “and whose tongues are constantly active, as well as their fists, for fighting is the best loved sport among these men.”

Hayes claims inability to understand the point of view of these devoutly religious men who nevertheless, “blaspheme, steal, fight, seek the companionship of the lowly sisterhood of the streets in every port, and quarrel with their officers when at sea.” Each man wears a “Joseph’s Cord” hung with St. Benedict’s Medal purchased from a priest in the previous port which “is supposed to shrieve (sic) them from all sin during their absence, and being already forgiven they throw the throttle wide open in every foreign port.” (you can still get one) While some of his misunderstanding is genuine awe at the “childlike innocence” of his mates, most of it has to be read as a barb aimed at the Catholic church: “When they return to home port, another medal is purchased, the first having lost its power. Not so bad a game for the priest, if he only has enough credulous believers to buy his charms.”

These sailors welcome Hayes, for “Every Irishman loves a Yank,” and before long they’re spinning him tales of sailing the world. Jerry O’Connor recently survived shipwreck and attack by the natives off the north coast of Moroco: “They gotta board too, but th’ ould man dug arrms from somewhere and give us rifles to beat thim off. Then we got clear av th’ rocks agin, every man av thim screamin’ bloody best becase he couldn’t eat us!” (Hayes’ quote.) Another mate, Mike Murphy, had nearly starved to death on his last voyage to Montreal on a freighter: “Ivery day th’ bloomin’ spud barber who passed hisself off for cook slung some mystery at us, what I canna tell. Nayther potaties nor nayther wather, we packed aft to th’ ould man.” (Hayes’ quote.) After telling all their stories to their new shipmate the yank, conversation settles to one of the two inexhaustible topics of every ship’s forecastle: women and booze.

November 15, 1903

Very much as when the Santa Ana hung up on a rock leaving Resurrection Bay, Alaska with Hayes aboard just one month previously, the Norseman dragged her hull on the Galveston bar at high tide. With the Santa Ana’s heavy load, including 27,000 bales of cotton and thousands of tons of grain, if the big ship failed to float free before the tide ebbed she’d “break her back.” The tides at Galveston are nowhere near the 30 feet at Resurrection Bay, but fortunately at Galveston a strong tug drags the Santa Ana free and the crew batten down the hatches headed for Newport News.

The sailors of the forecastle have settled down now – to fighting. “These fights are intense while they last, but are easily forgotten.” Just the sport of men at sea – “Not a bad lot of shipmates, all considered.”

24.2 Cold in Newport News

November 22,1903

Bitter cold grips Newport News where the Norseman anchors to take on a load of cattle once the gang of carpenters on board finish building cattle pens. None of the regular crew gets shore leave because “it is too much trouble to search the jails for errant seamen.” Stuck on board with the carpenters, the hammering night and day drives all the sailors to distraction.

Unconsciously symbolizing the end of an era, the Thomas W. Lawson, “the largest sailing ship ever built, so tis said,” lies just across the dock at Newport News. Because “she is geared with every convenience for handling sails with little effort,” her crew is as small as that for a much smaller ship. On the coal-powered Norseman, cutting and feeding coal is a sailors principle duty – no more climbing to the to’ gan’ sails and reefing canvas. One reads in Hayes’ diary not a hint of wistfulness for the work of hauling sails.

Thomas W. Lawson
Seven Masted Schooner

He would however like to leave Newport News for the relative warmth of the open sea; all the sailors are poorly fed and ill clad on a ship covered with ice. Shivering on the cold Virginia coast in late November, with hammer strokes making him crazy, Hayes dreams of finally making it to the “dark continent.” But for now, it’s only back to Liverpool.

24.3 Another Hungry British Ship

November 30, 1903

Leaving port didn’t immediately help with the cold. The Captain started on a northern route past Newfoundland where the weather became so bitter, “the old man shaped a new course southward into the confines of the Gulf Stream.” This helped warm the crew but didn’t fill their bellies: “She is, like every British ship, hungry.”

As partial remedy for the scant food, “A son of the emerald Isle whose arms are like those of a gibbon ape,” reached again and again through an open port in the galley wall filling his shirt with cakes while another sailor kept watch. This booty was shared with all on the forecastle as is customary. Had the thief been caught, a small fine might have been imposed but “If he gets away clean, nothing is said for so small a breach of discipline.”

24.4 Liverpool is Still Drab

November 29, 1903 (as sequenced in the diary)

Finally arriving at their home port at Liverpool, “The men are frantic to get clear of the ship.” But first the cattle dung must be carefully saved for resale. A crew of men and boys works energetically while continually cursed by the English bosses. “There is yet a lot of the old cruelty from former times practiced even if these men are called free.” Watching the bosses extract the last ounces of energy from the workers, Hayes appreciates his own nationality: “I am glad not to be an Englishman, or any other sort of European, for there is really no personal freedom, unless it be one does not wear chains.”

Liverpool on the brink of December gets a hard description: “The city is remarkably drab, and seems worse every time I see Liverpool. Smoke begrimed houses, all of red brick, and the wet, slippery docks where an almost constant drizzle falls on the hurrying throngs of ragged men and more tattered women. The latter all seem to have bad teeth, are sloven in dress, and soon lose whatever girlish bloom they may have had in their teens. Shawls over their heads, shapeless dresses and poor, ill fitting shoes make them worse than they really are.” One almost reads a preference for a red light district where the women for whom Hayes always expresses great concern are instead painted and costumed.

December 4, 1903

“I have been a boob to leave Eureka, which is now 6,000 miles away. I am sitting in the bleak sailors home in Canning Place, listening to a grouchy steward talking left handed to me.” The steward bawls that any man without money will be put on the street straight away; Hayes listens to the shouting fingering less than two pounds in his pocket.

If he’s broke in the sailor’s home, he has plenty of company; every man in the home has been “walking these docks from Honsby to Herculaneum on the Liverpool front, crossing to Birkenhead, offering to go as workaways or any thing in this world, just so long as we can get away from Liverpool.”

Liverpool Dockers at Dawn
Victor Francois Tardieu

As a backup plan, Hayes can sign back on with the Noresman but that will mean sailing straight back to Galveston in a big fruitless circle.

A possibility: “I can get a place on the Elder-Dempster boats to West Africa, but these carry booze, and I am thumbs down on that.” So, his morality about alcohol prevents signing on to Africa – the one place he most wants to go.

December 5, 1903

And then another possibility: “Have a chance to go to Batoum. A fellow American has just returned from that trip, and says he can get me on.” If Africa is impossible, Russia might do. But sailing the Black Sea in winter when too broke to purchase proper gear? “It is a toss up between the Norseman and this Tanker to Russia.” One of these will have to do; an adventurer about to be evicted from the sailors home out onto the street “cannot be choosers at such a time, it is one of these or starve.”

24.5 Mid Ocean Again

December 10, 1903

With no further mention of Bartoum, Hayes signs back on with the Norseman – as a workaway. This means he’ll work most of a month back to Galveston for no pay other than the passage. The ship’s mate scorns the lowly status of a workaway, “but the chief engineer, the captain and most of the other officers are sympathetic. Very likely they have been in a jam in their younger days, and know what it means.”

For the return trip to Galveston, the forecastle holds an entirely different crew of Irishmen together with a few Englishmen. One of the latter tells Hayes tales of sailing up the Amazon as far as Iquitos. Thrilling stories, but Hayes is set on Africa – if he can manage a way out of Galveston with those two thin pounds still so light in his pocket.

December 20, 1903

Because the Norseman runs to the States without cargo, she rides high and rolls miserably “and to keep from rolling out of my bunk and to get a bit of sleep, I have wedged myself in with life preservers.” On the plus side: “We are in the Gulf Stream, and it is warmer.” On the minus side: “The ship is hungrier than ever.”

Hayes cuts hair for the men forward and gives an occasional shave. He doesn’t say if this is the share and share alike of the forecastle or a way to supplement his two pound bank account.

“The skipper says we are going to New Orleans.” This suits Hayes fine; he knows of timber mills around Louisiana where he might find work and “It will be a new scene too.”

24.6 New Orleans – Almost

December 31,1903

Mud flooding down the mouth of the Mississippi discolors the gulf waters far out to sea even where the crew on the Norseman can barely see the low coastline. Tomorrow “we will haul up close to the light at South Pass and get our orders, for it may be Galveston and it may be here.”

South Pass Lighthouse

January 1, 1903

The orders say Galveston. Steaming along on glassy seas “we have been slung over the side on stages painting the rust spots.” Hayes writes no mention of any celebration for either Christmas or the New Year.

24.7  8,000 miles and Nothing to Show For It.

January 5, 1904

With a frigid wind blasting from the north out Galveston Bay, Hayes must stay on board among the foreign sailors until the ship docks. Previously, entry for an American citizen had been immediate, but “they seem to be tightening up on immigration.”

The delay on board gives Hayes time to recount an anecdote about a foul-mouthed fellow crewman who was lowered over the side on a stage with a sailor from the Amazon to paint rust spots. Part way down the ship’s side, one end-rope slipped dropping the two about six inches.

“Oh Gawd! Hold that rope! Hi’m not ready to die yet.”

“Time you was bloody well gittin’ ready then, myte” rejoined his companion.

“I know it! I know it! Hi’m just talkin’ this wye Hi do to keep from bein’ conscious of my wrong.” (Hayes’ quote.)

Now safely back on deck this man is strangely quiet. Where another observer might have seen a silent man in shock from his fright, Hayes’ stubborn optimism reads the event as possibly redemptive: “He has knowledge that his filthy tongue is unacceptable to both God and man, and tries to hide in fighting against that which is best.”

January 12, 1904

On shore at Galveston, Hayes’ purse now holds six dollars – maybe augmented by cutting hair – “and sister Jennie says she will loan me $25 which should take me to where I can find a place.” He’s going toward Orange, Texas on the Louisiana line in search of mill work, all the while kicking himself for leaving secure work in California: “I ought to have stayed at Eureka instead of this wild goose chase across half the world.”


23. Resurrection Bay AK to Hico TX

July 1, 2011

Down from Alaska for the winter, Hayes declines an offer to study at Stanford returning coincidentally to Hico to see his mother and sisters just as word of his father’s death arrives from Colorado.

On the map, chapter 22 is the yellow path.  The current chapter is pink with popups.  Chapter 24 is the blue circular path.

(If the map doesn’t appear in the email, click the title to go to the blog.)

Click here for links to maps and downloads of more maps.

Here and There Synopsis:
23.1 A “four flusher” and Hundreds of Sea Lions

September 14, 1903

Before Hayes and Martin changed ships from the Newport to the Santa Ana at Resurrection Bay, they got an illustration the danger of the extreme tides in these long narrow Alaskan Bays. The Newport dragged anchor and came to rest against a rock at high tide; as the tide ebbed, the fore part of the ship pointed high in the air threatening to snap the hull. Fortunately, it held, and when the tides reversed, the ship floated serenely off. “Now all is well again, and the priests, the whores, the prospectors and various scientists who make up the list are celebrating with wine and song.”

On the Santa Ana Hayes bunks with an interesting mate, Jack Carroll, who with another sourdough and three college students looking for adventure, accompanied Doctor Frederick Cook on an expedition to climb Mt. McKinley.

Dr. Frederick Cook

Ignorant of even the rudiments of Alaskan life, Cook scoffed at Carroll’s insistence on a mosquito-proof tent. The first night Carroll and Jones, the other sourdough, slept comfortably inside the tent while the other five roughed it outside. “Next night, and each ensuing night thereafter, seven men were crowded into this 7×10 tent.”

Carroll took ill with pleurisy and had to leave Cook’s party at the foot of Mt. McKinley, but not before forming a poor opinion of the expedition’s leader: “Carroll says Cook is a fourflusher.” (The word comes from bluffing with a weak hand when playing poker. It now roughly means one not true to his word.) Carroll’s principle evidence for the charge is Cook’s inability to listen to men more experienced in the wilds of Alaska. (Wikipedia cites other evidence supporting Carroll’s assessment of Cook’s character, including a famous faked photograph of a first ascent of Mt. McKinley from a 1906 attempt.)

On a great rock off shore from the mouth of Resurrection Bay, hundreds of sea lions line one wall, some several hundred feet above the sea. “The Santa Ana ran near the rock, then gave a loud blast on her whistle. The lions tumbled down any way they might, rolling, somersaulting, leaping to the water, then surrounded the ship and barking their indignation.”

23.2 The Beauty of Southern Alaska

September 16, 1903

Snow creeping toward the edge of town brings “the lonely men who have spent the short summer on distant creeks in search of the elusive gold,” down into Valdez where the fortunate “are given smiles, and if necessary further favors by the ladies of the evening,” who haunt the dance halls, saloons and other sporting houses. The nights are lengthening and, “In a few weeks all will be covered with snow for the winter.”

“Words fail to tell of the marvelous scenery of Southern Alaska. The highest mountains on the North American continent front on the sea here, and snow is always present on these above 3,000 feet, even in mid summer. There is forest below the snow, and rivers tumble down the steeps into the sea, and glaciers may be seen at every turn. Islands separated by winding blue channels give passage to the heart of these mountains… It is an empty land, these fine harbors wasted on a wilderness where they are of no use to man.”

23.3 Yakutat

September 20, 1959 (sic)

(The misdating of this entry probably reflects when the diaries were typed.)

At Yakutat native women “sit in front of the trading post and sell beaded moccasins, ladies hand bags and all sorts of trinkets they have made during the long winters,” for whatever price they can get. The young people native to the area “are becoming Americanized,” at a school in Sitka where they are taken when quite young. The US government offers men who live with Indian women two choices: “marry her and keep her as wife, or else jail.”

At Valdez most of the passengers left the ship to be replaced by a new list. Now Hayes bunks with “one Cloudesley Rutter,” a biologist at Stanford University, who offers Hayes a job for the next summer assisting Rutter’s study of the Alaska salmon industry. In the meantime, Rutter asks why doesn’t Hayes come down and enroll at Stanford? “It sounds good, but I wonder.” Maybe the quick bond between Hayes and Rutter forms because, “We have one thing in common, both dislike Martin’s pretensions.”

Perhaps the long nights with the coming of winter send Hayes back to his darkest assessments of humanity. A prostitute on board has lost the malamute pup she loved, tangled in some rigging and killed; maybe that set him off – or the end of the Alaska adventure with no plan for tomorrow? At any rate, he writes: “Men are the most degraded animals this world holds. They prostitute their own kind, exploit each other and slay each other without mercy if it profits to do so. The most fortuned die in infancy, or are never born at all.” And so on at some length.

23.4 Summing up Alaska 1903

Septermber 23, 1903

After some geological speculation about how glaciers carved the bay leading to Juneau and all the waterways south to Puget Sound, Hayes comments on the viability of the future state capital: “Mining keeps Juneau from dying, there being no industry or farming hereabout to make a town.” Juneau will be a business center of the region until the rich mines at Treadwell across the bay are worked dry – but then what will support a town?

A comment Hayes makes on passing again through Sitka encapsulates his impression of Alaska and its cultural history formed while traipsing about the region in the summer of 1903: “Sitka remains the same sleepy village is has always been. The Indian schools, the territorial staff who govern the country and the old Russian mission makes a living for 1,500 people”

He goes on to say that 50 years of Russian occupation stripped Alaska of its furs and broke the spirit of the native population: “The 36 years of American rule has been insufficient to uplift them from their lowly estate, but it can be done.” He sees the Indian schools as the great hope for future civilization of the area because the native children will be taught practical skills and, “kept free from the gamblers, the licentious miners, and others who corrupt them utterly.” In Hayes’ view, these young natives will surely inherit Alaska. When the minerals are stripped and the fisheries regulated, there are too many mosquitoes in summer and too much cold in winter “to make it a white man’s country.” He’s hopeful that the educated children of Alaska “will rebuild what has been lost within a hundred years.”

As for Hayes? He’ll be in Seattle within the week.

23.5 Where to next?

September 30, 1903

Slow boats like the Santa Ana poke down the coast “for they creep into all sorts of outlandish places and load and unload cargo for small mines, fisheries, trading stations and such.” But the pleasant sightseeing trip will end tomorrow in Seattle.

Hayes’ will be glad to part ways with Martin whose “head has been turned by the publicity he has received.” Early in the summer he was reasonably companionable but now, “he seeks the society of scientists, politicians, or rich mining people who can help him up on his way to the top, wherever that is.” While softening the critique about Martin’s turned head with,“I suppose we are all like that,” Hayes makes clear by his own choice of working class companions that he understands “the top” differently than Martin.

So, that’s Alaska – what next? Uncle Epam in Washington who wrangled the trip for Hayes wants him to visit another uncle, Epam’s brother, out in Oregon. To Hayes this seems an odious though necessary part of the job. Nevertheless, “I think I’ll funk it this time, go back to Eureka and stay the winter.”

23.6 Same Old Eureka

October 10, 1903

After a brief stop in Victoria BC – “a dull town with an English atmosphere” – and the usual violent seasickness coming down the coast in a small boat, Hayes arrives in Eureka where George Glynn, his old boss at the mill, has a job waiting for him. But “I don’t like it. I want to wander.”

In this frame of mind, of course Eureka receives a tawdry description: “There is little to recommend Eureka to a vagrant.” With five large sawmills, a shingle mill, and some dairies and farms, “It is one of those towns that is built, has no further need for expansion.” No need for any new houses, and “the business section has a run-down appearance.”

Uncle Epam still presses Hayes to visit the family up in Oregon, George Glynn wants him to stay on –“but I wonder.”

23.7 Galveston? Stanford?

October 22, 1903

To wander the world one must have either cash or sailor’s work. Lacking the former, Hayes tries in San Francisco for a ship to China or to the South Seas. “Nothing doing, no chance ever.” So, it’ll have to be Galveston and wherever ships are going from there.

On a visit to Stanford University, Cloudesley Rutter, the biologist Hayes met on the Santa Ana out of Valdez, offers another alternative: an expedition to the Galapagos Islands departing some months hence. In the meantime, Rutter wants Hayes to enroll in a special geology course. Never mind the tuition money, Rutter can set him up with a job as a club secretary.

October 24, 1903

“Was out at the Twin Peaks yesterday, thinking it over.” It’ll have to be Galveston: “I won’t handle booze, and to be a club secretary means I must do just that.” The decision made, he’s on a train for Texas that very night.

23.8 William Morrison Perkins 1841-1903

October 30, 1903

At 25, Hayes has been traveling the world for 10 years since leaving Hico at the end of a horsewhip. Returning to a place he says he never cares to see again, he gives the following terse account of his sisters: “May is married, lives in Oklahoma. Jennie is in Houston. I will see her on my way south. Annie is teaching at Iredell, a small village next station to Hico. Memrie is in the post office here, and Pearl and Vance still attend school.” He reports being happy to see them.

November 3, 1903

Remarkable that Hayes should be in Hico with the family when “Word has come that father was killed by an unruly horse at Walsenburg Colorado.” He lived three days after the horse crushed his head against a fence rail.

“Our reactions were different when the tidings came.” He reports that his mother went pale, “But there was little sorrow for his passing. He had been too cruel for that.” Hayes is glad to have written to his faterh before he died, but “To be truthful, it means no more than any other person whom I have met casually. Whatever affection there may have been, it has been wholly eradicated by his brutality when I was in his power. Somehow I am glad it has been no worse, for I might have slain him had I stayed home.”

Hayes and his mother will leave for Houston tomorrow to visit sister Jennie on his way to find a ship at Galveston.