In the old days of sailing ships, fishermen faced daily hazards of storms and waves. Wives never knew if their husbands would come back in the evenings. The following folk tale from New England takes us back to one such sad event.
Captain Bill Johnson rousted his unhappy crew out of their warm beds at three AM. “We sail at six. Get a move on!”
The drowsy second mate said, “But Captain, the glass is dropping. A big storm’s a comin.”
“We’ll beat it. The price of cod has doubled. All those lazy landlubbers we’ve got for neighbors won’t go out. We’ll make a killing in wild cod and bold mackerel.”
The mate said, “Where are we going? Give me the bearings.”
“We going to the best fishing place out there – Pimbico Sound.”
The rest of the crew had stumbled down to the boat and “Pimbico” jerked them awake. The said, “Pimbico! That place is dangerous on a calm day. The crashing waves and treacherous currents will kill us all.”
The Captain said, “I thought I hired real men. If any of you little boys want to go back to your sweet woman, leave now!”
None left and they set sail. It was as hellish as the mate predicted. The men in the stern let out the nets and Captain Bill went to the bow to watch for shoals and reefs. He watched for the wrong things. A giant wave hit the boat broadside and washed him into the ocean. He thrashed and gasped, yelloed and bellowed, but not help came. With his last breath he said, “Fare thee well, Mari Jane.”
The crew cut the dragging nets and headed for home singing the local death chanty as they pulled on the ropes, “Twinkey doodle dum, twinkey doodle dum, nothing can be done, nothing can be done.
That evening, his ghost walked at midnight to the bedside of his wife, Mari Jane. He told her how dead he was and she said, “It can’t be! All my joy is gone. I’ll never be happy again and she went staring mad.”
That morning, the neighbors sang a memorial dirge for the Captain, “Twinkey doodle dum, twinkey doodle dum, nothing can be done….”
A second legend of another brave man comes from Letcher County KY. The Louisville paper assigned a new reporter to do interviews with coal miners. He visited a small family run mine, working in a forty-two inch coal seam. The sons gave him a hard hat, laid him in the buggy, and took him to the face where the father was working. It was lunch time and the reporter opened his notebook for the interview. The old miner explained that they were now drilling bores into the coal and packing the holes with dynamite. At three PM it was everybody out and they would shoot and go home. In the morning, the Joy loader would scoop the shattered coal into the buggies to take out.
The old miner opened his lunch box to a big bologna sandwich, an apple, a thermos of coffee, and a double pack of Twinkies. He started on the Twinkies and offered one to the reporter. The polite young man declined, but he said, “I see you’re starting with the good stuff first. Most people save the best for last.”
The miner said, “Not me. Roof might fall.”
The reporter looked up at the slate three inches above his head and said. “I think I’ll take you up on your offer and have a Twinkie after all.”
(The moral of the story is: Women have one big advantage over men. They can go to Hell and come back again.)