Making of a Sailorman can be found in


by Roy P. Churchill

Author of "The Devil Takes Care of His Own," "Inside and Outside," etc.

HE WAS so big and husky that a pea-coat looked like a vest on him. He sat on the afterbitts abreast No. 4 hatch on the cargo ship Alta, his broad shoes resting comfortably on the rail. Presently he came hurriedly into the afterquarters. The Alta, deep laden, had scooped up a sea, and he was dripping wet.

"I was settin' on them stumps there," he explained to grinning shipmates, "with my feet on the fence, and the water come right up and hit me."

There you have Orion Saltsman, a big, good-natured country boy pried loose from his native clods and set down, man size and awkward, in the primer grade of old Mother Sea.

"What're you doing in this outfit, Bud?" said the boatswain's mate, spare and gnarled of form and sharp of voice.

The Alta's crew, all recruits except the skeleton complement of old-timers, had been aboard too short a time for "Hasty" Day to know them by name, but some men take nicknames as a dog does burrs.

"I aim to learn the work," said the farmer boy with friendly respect. "My name's Saltsman."

"Old Salty, eh?" said Hasty. "You're the one that was after me for red and green oil for the running fights?"

"Yes, sir; I aim to do what they tell me always."

"You do?" said the little man, putting that full measure of sarcasm into the tone to which his five red enlistment stripes entitled him. "Two-thirds of you fellows think salt water is something to gargle your throat with. Give your conning tower an overhauling and see if you can find a brain or two. There's no such thing as green and red oil, but if some of these wise birds think they're going to turn this ship into a vaudeville circuit, they'll find themselves studying art after hours. You don't know what that is, either?" asked Day, as the boy stood, his whole attitude one of question. "Well, it's painting the smoke-stack by moonlight."

Hasty Day was a wonder at handling recruits. His words were as sharp as knives, but they pared away only the outer crust and left the heart unhurt. Instinctively Saltsman knew that here was a man who would tell him just what he wanted to know about this new, strange business and with his scathing tongue would put him right when he went wrong.

The Alta was on her maiden voyage with a cargo of barreled oil for an English port. Her skipper, first lieutenant and navigator were merchant seamen serving in the Naval Reserve, and in addition to this deck force she had two ensigns from the Pelham Bay school. Her crew, made up of the different required branches, had been sent aboard her from a training station only three days before she sailed. Most of them were young and enthusiastically eager in their new job, but depressingly green, as far as knowledge of it went.

The first week out, as if to haze the candidates, there swept down across the Grand Banks the best half of a northwest gale, raking the deep laden ship with great green seas that slapped over the battened hatches and whirled and raced up the gangways to plunge in foaming cataracts over the wallowing sides. The Alta groaned and pitched and rolled as if she, too, new to the job, were taking a beginner's lesson.

The crew, having lost interest in the palatable concoctions of Tony Ravellotti, the cook, stood unsteadily on the boatdeck or lay in their bunks near convenient deck buckets. The officers and old-timers stood the watches.

Bob Woten, the chief yeoman, had the wheel, and Hasty Day came up to relieve him.

"Course is three hundred and forty degrees," said Woten, "and the old girl's making a trail like a yeomanette's first shorthand—carrying half a turn left wheel. Guess who I relieved, Hasty? Old Salty, the farm-hand wonder. Had the wheel gripped like the handles of a plow, but hanging on and keeping near enough on the course to get by.

"'Hello, old Salty,' I says to him. 'How's ...

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