Tuesday, September 24, 2013

from Old Sea Chest / In the East Riding of Yorkshire

-->By Jesse Halsey
Back to my whalers—and the fireside. Capt’n Guss (Halsey) would come and spend the day. He and my Uncle Will (a real uncle—Father’s brother) were my favorites. (When I was seven Uncle Will drowned before my eyes
one day when we were clamming—I was too young to understand what was happening but not too little to help had I only known.)  Well, Cap’t Guss would come from Watermill two miles away, and once or twice a year father would go and spend the day with Cap’t Guss (and take me with him). Most Cap’ns’ who came would pat me on the head and straightway forget (I caught on to what they were saying to themselves-“poor child, with no mother”). But Captain Guss thought it worthwhile to talk to a boy. So did Uncle Will who lived across the street. He and father had married sisters. I’d go across the street after our early farm breakfast, in time for theirs. My aunt would try to send me home, but I can hear Uncle Will now . . . “Feed him . . . feed him.” Between Uncle Will and Aunt Libbie I was well supplied.

Captain Guss had a story about how a half dozen whalers were caught for weeks in the doldrums of some harbor on the west African coast. At last a breeze stirred and all made sail trying to be first out. Capt. Jerry Jennings neared the narrow opening and started to tack. One of his crew—an Indian—failed to loosen a line and the Captain boomed out so all the harbor heard—“Let go that clew line, you damned painted angel.” That Indian always thereafter went by that nickname, “Painted Angel.”

In our village only two men are now living who have made whaling voyages; when I was a boy every other man in the town was a Captain. Capt. Jethur Rose and his wife used to come to dinner occasionally. (Most people in the town were somewhat related.) I heard him tell father one day that when he first started out on a new voyage that he was always seasick for a few days. That gave me courage when in after years I went to sea.  Always sick and very sick, I thought of Capt. Jethur and would keep at my task if and when I had one.
On the first trip I made to Europe, among my steamer letters marked “first day out” was a package “From Cap’n Hugh (White).” I opened it. The inside box was inscribed—“Sure cure for sea sickness.” I was sick—very sick. With difficulty I opened the box. It was a half dozen pieces of salt pork the size of a quarter, strung on a stout string and with directions “Swallow while you hold the string, regurgitate) (those old fellows, many of them knew the dictionary, the Bible, by heart) “regurgitate and try again until cured.” Disgusted, I threw the contraption out the porthole, but in the box I found a note—a real cure. “Get some soda crackers, eat all you can, when they come up, eat some more and so on—the only cure.” And I have found it works, time on end.

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