24. Hico to Galveston to Galveston

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.”

2 Responses to 24. Hico to Galveston to Galveston

  1. Noel Martin says:

    I clicked on the link and down loaded all 24 of the chapters on Google Earth. Everything works for me. When you rotate and zoom in all the markers show up and when I clicked on them the narrative popped up like it should. It is starting to look pretty impressive. As more and more trips are mapped out the globe is going to start looking like a ball of multicolored yarn.

  2. johnmmartin says:

    Hey Noel, Thanks for checking on that download. I know it’s a busy time for you. Everything is on the American continents and a bit of Europe so far. I’m about 2/3 of the way through volume 1. By then end of the fifth volume that ball of yarn will be pretty thick.

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