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Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune: Saturday, August 5, 1933 - Page 1

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   Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune (Newspaper) - August 5, 1933, Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin                               Nard Jones I WAS waterfront reporter on the Daily Dispatch when they towed in the Chinese fishing vessel. She had no name, and she shouldn't have had we reporters called her "The Junk." The port authorities wouldn't let us go aboard until she bad been well fumigated. that we really wanted to I There were five dead aboard her when she was found on the west side of the Pacific. "Not much more than bones wrapped in was the way it was put by old Captain Axelson. who had picked her up. They had died in a most horrible way: by slow starvation while the boat drifted on and on yet never crossed a steamer lane at the right time. Cap Axelson told me he believed there bad been more than five aboard. When I asked him what he meant he raised his eyebrows, spat over the side of the dock and said, "Can- nibalism, that's what 1 The poor devils had gone through hell all right First there had been a storm which tore their canvas into useless ribbons. Then their auxiliary engine, one of those pitiful Chinese copies of American manufacture, had refused to function. The scattered, rusted tools on the engine room floor told of hours of fruitless toil. One of the bodies had been found there. The man had tried until the last, until he was too weak to lift a hammer. OF course the bodies were gone when we went aboard. But the feeling of them was still there. When I went below to [he engine room I wanted to come up again as quickly as possible. The arrangements of a Chinese fishing vessel are vile. You drop through a hatch just big enough to admit a narrow-shouldered a small reporter. Then you scoot for what a mile down an iron ladder. And there were no ports; the only light drifted through the open hatchway. It was while I was below looking at the engine room that some- body tapped me on the shoulder, practically sending me off. with heart failure. I whirled around to see Heal Jeffries. "Good I said. "What are you doing aboard this "Just looking her over." Neal told me. "She's got a sweet hull." "I know you're a boating it must take some enthusiasm to go for this tub." Jeffries laughed. I remember wishing that he wouldn't laugh down there. It didn't seem right. "I'm thinking of buying her from the port commission." I said. we've dubbed her 'The this. It's a fine hull. She'd need some changing around. But in a month or two I'd have as fair an offshore yacht as you'd want to see." "You mean you'd actually sail in "Why There wasn't any answer, really. The big hardy sportsman wouldn't have understood me if I'd tried to tell him. He would have laughed again. Even then he half divined what my silence meant. ___ "If you think I'm afraid of a lot of dead Chinks It wasn't that. Not exactly. It was something I couldn't get over to Jeffries. It was simply a feeling that a fellow should leave this hulk alone now. The feeling was so strong that 1 was fearful for Neal should he really decide to buy it. Yet he did buy it. He bought it the same afternoon, an- nouncing that he intended to con- her into an offshore yacht. And he was going to christen her The I considered thai this was car- rying his bravado rather far: and, too, it seemed to me that if Jeffries wonted to buy the craft and make a yacht of hei he should have done it quietly. Those dead had been just sim- Chinese but they had been human beings. "Silly Chinese Or a ship with a curse on it? Ah Ling that the nnROUBLE came swiftly enough. Some local China- men traced the vessel's home port and got into communication with relatives of the dead fish- ermen. They received orders that the craft should be burned to destrov the evil spirits therein. Now many people thought this an amusing idea, and Neal Jeffries was one of them. But to me it was one of the most sensible plans it has been my good fortune to hear. The fact was that the port commission should never have sold the boat to Jeffries, and there was very nearly some unpleasantness with the Chinese consul. Fortunately, the consul was an enlightened Oriental who had no great faith in ;vil spirits and he was able to assure the little fishing village across the Pacific that an influential Chinatown merchant, warned him evil spirits would do him and all connected with the boat some real harm. no further tragedy would come to it through the existence of the boat. A number of local Chh.amen were not so sure They offered to buy the craft from Jef- ries, but he stubbornly refused. He had. he told them, bought and paid for it. and there was a signed contract with a boatyard for her conversion into a yacht. I happen to know that they offered him enough to take up the contract and build a whole new yacht into the bargain. But Jef- had his head he was basking in the publicity. (Copy Illustrated By JOE KING the thing calmed down, although Jeffries had telephoned me hu- morously to say that Ah an influential Chinatown merchant, had warned him that the evil spirits would do him and all connected with the boat some real harm. "What did you tell "I told him where to go. And I also said that I might have him thrown into the brig for threatening me." "But that wasn't a I said. "It was valuable advice." Jeffries roared. "You're as superstitious as those slant-eyes." The next I heard of The Junk was through a small item on the back page of the morning newspaper. It said: "Michael O'Leary, 48, workman at the Dodd Shipbuilding Company, 7543 North- lake, was instantly killed late yesterday after- noon when a boat slipped its scaffolding nnd crushed him beneath the stern. "Thu is the third time the craft under con- sliuction has slipped the scaffolding, although Raymond Dodd, owner of the company, claims daily inspections are made. He blames shift- ing ground under the foundation. "O'Leary was empIoyeJ in rebuilding a yacht for Neal Jeffries, well-known yachtsman and member of the Cordray Yacht Club." "OTRIKE I thought, and felt sure that Jeffries would begin to change his mind about the advisability of sailing The Junk. But before the month was out he had invited me to the launching! As waterfront reporter for the Daily Dis- patch it was my job to accept. I tried to trade an assignment with Kimball in the sports de- partment, but he was covering a baseball series and wouldn't listen. Launchings are exciting enough, but was afraid this one would be too exciting. It took a good deal of will power to get myself to the Dodd Shipbuilding Company, where I found right. 1933, by EveryWeek In U S 'I he bracelet on her vfra1 had wedged between the uooden teeth of the dragon. Neal Jeffries lunged toward her. but too late. She rvas carried screaming down the at the prow of T he Junk! Jeffries and a host of friends gathered around a punch bowl. But for once the punch bowl did not interest me. I looked up at the white on the ways. White paint had not changed her unmistakable lines. And the low teak cabin and bright fittings could not erase from my mem- ory the sight of her as she lay dejected and brown alongside the pert dock. "Hi, there, Reiterl" Jeffries caught sight of me and called. "Aren't you going to drink to the I heard his words, but for the moment I could not respond. 1 had just noticed the figure on the prow of the was a diminutive head of a Chinese dragon. Jeffries saw me looking at it, and an amused grin lighted up his features. "TVTOT bad for a figurehead, he asked. "That's my little tribute to the China boys. Maybe it will stop their worrying." I nodded dumbly, and in the next moment he was introducing me to a tall slender young woman quite as sure of herself as was her com- panion. "Leah is going to christen Jeffries told me. The girl flashed a dazzling smile. "I un- derstand you're suspicious of the new "I'm afraid Neal has been I lied. "Let's hope so. I shouldn't like to sponsor a boat that was to be unlucky." The workmen were greasing the now, and Neal and the young woman left me to ascend to the little platform built up under the bow of the vessel. Hanging from the fig- urehead was a beribbr-ned bottle. The girl took hold of this, holding it up and laughing at the crowd below. Someone called and the workmen began pounding the blocks out from under the keel. The boat trembled ever so slightly, and Neal prompted thv. young woman to break the bot- tle against the nose of the craft. I saw her arm upraised probably higher than necessary, for she was then, quite suddenly, she uttered a startled cry. THE bracelet on her wrist had wedged be- tween the wooden teeth ot the dragon and she was held! Amid shouts of enthusiasm from those who did not realize the girl's plight, the vessel began to move down the ways. Neal leffries lunged toward her. but too late. Her wrist imprisoned, she was crashed through the scantling rail of the platform and carried screaming down the ways at the prow of The Junk! As the boat struck the water the bracelet snapped and she plunged into the 'churning waters below the ways. I knew that she had fainted that terribli instant before she fell, and no one can realize my relief when I saw a workman dive toward her. He brought her in alive, but her wrist was cruelly broken and lacerated. I knew that the ripped bracelet would leave its scar as surely as a dragon's teeth might have left one I was convinced now. and that night I called at Jeffries' t.rartment "She'll be all he said, in answe- my question about the girl. "OHE'LL always have a bit of a tear, ot course. the shock rather bad. Damned rotten shame, you know. Spoiled the launching ceremony, too." I said drily. "And now I hope that your plan for The Junk is simply to burn sink it." He stared at me half angrily. "I'll do nothing of the kind! Good God! You'd think we were living 2000 years ago behind the Great Wall of China. Just because a work- man happened to be killed while re- building her. and Leah hadn't tense enough not to wear one of those silly dangling "Then you 'jelSeve we've been wit- nessing "Perfect examples. What do you I ignored the sarcasm in the question he flung at roe. "You're a stubborn fool, that's what I think. And if you try to sail that boat you'll be sorry you live. Pe-haps you don't care about yourself, but it would be criminal to take guests or crew aboard her." Jeffries made an impatient gesture of disa- greement He went on, triumphantly: "Well. I'm going to sail her, Reiter. A lot of superstitious rot won't keep me from it. either. You'll be interested to know that my stateroom is built right where they found two of the I intend to sleep there, too. What do you think of He glared at me triumphantly. what I think of all this half-baked monkey business." As I went out into the hall he called to me. "You caii put it in your paper. Reiter, that 1 leave for a trip down the coast next with a crew of four. It'll be a pleasure trip and a sort of shakedown cruise. I don't know just how long I'll be gone or just where I'll go. Might wander quite way before I get back." "All right." I said, slapping on my hat. "It'll be in the paper." T WROTE a little squib about his departure for the yachting page, and that was the last time Jeffries' name Appeared in the Daily D spatch for more than a month. I had almost forgotten both him and the boat; and whenever I did think of them I as- sumed he was still in southern California, en- joying himself. If anything had happened, I told myself, we'd have heard of it. I began to think that I had been sort of foolish, after all. He had been so confident; and, after all, it was a bit silly to let one's self pay too much heed to what, at bottom, he had been perfectly justified in designating a lot of superstitious non- sense. His boat was certainly sound enough, seaworthy enough, for anyone. He was an experienced yachtsman, too; it hardly seemed intelligent to go on expecting disaster to befall him. It was more than a month later that I learned through the Yacot Club News Ex- change that The Junk had never reached south- ern California. There was no alarm in the report, for Jeffries had intimated that he might off toward Honolulu. Fifty-foot yachts aren't great ocean liners, and if their positions happen not to be reported regularly nobody pays much attention to the omissions. T HAD my own ideas, but I kept them to myself. They were with me night and day. I wished I could be rid of somehow I couldn't. Late one Saturday afternoon, well along toward fall. I got a telephone message from Ah Ling, the Chinatown merchant. "I he said, "a news item for your waterfront page." I think I knew wSat was coming. I remem- ber that I said "Shoot in sort of a whisper, and had to repeat it so Ah Ling could hear. "It's fron. a Shanghai newspaper I received Ah Ling went on. "I'll translate it literally for you." Involuntarily, my hand tightened its grip on the receiver of the telephone, and my body stiffened with an odd nervous tension. T OOSENING Ah Ling's literal translation into American newspaper style, here is what the Shanghai newspaper told us: "Inhabitants of Haichowfu, near Nam- kwan, today reported the finding of an American sailing yacht adrift and disabled in Haichowfu Bay. Sails were stripped and the engine was useless. "One dead, identified as Neal Jeffries of Seattle, U. S. A., was found below decks in a berth. Death was due to starvation. Other members of the crew had evidently deserted ship. "Fishermen of Haichowfu claim to recog- nize the disabled craf: as rebuilt from one of their own fleet which met disaster and was picked up weeks later off the western coast of the United States. It was reported that vil- have burned the i'1-fated vessel on the ill I Illll   

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