A marathon of midsummer mirth — A story of the Big Swim, the Big Fish and his lady
JAMES A. COWAN
FIRST I WISH to state that I do not personally know any horses, and that it is not for treating horses I get my reputation as a horse doctor. I am general hanger-on at Pop’s camps for marathon swimmers when they are training at different places for some big crawl. In the papers, it is a custom to write about stables of swimmers, a stable being no more or less than a training camp full of these swimmers. So Pop always says to me if a bunch of these lugs is a stable, then I am a horse doctor, ha ha !
This marathon swimming is a leading sport for human fish, with big prizes being put up in cash. Every year there will be a couple of these famous splashes at places such as Catalina or Toronto or Chicago, where as much as two and three hundred of these fish will start in these big classic races, and there will be purses up to twenty-five grand, which is considered important dough for such a battle. Because of this money there is always many punks in these classic races, but it is very hard to say who is a punk and who is not a punk as even many crack ace performers will fold up on you in these long grinds and very few swimmers anyway will ever finish.
When we are getting the boys into fine condition for one of these big classic crawls, it is then my job to work on these boys and their muscles, also helping with their digestion by feeding them and so on. It has got to be that the boys holler at me when they see me, "Well, you old horse doctor, you," just like you would say to a fella, "Well, you old so-and-so.” using some term which is customary. That is why I speak of my like as a horse doctor, being the way I am known throughout the swimming game.
I explain these things regarding the marathon swimming game and my life in this game so you will understand what I tell you about Barney Long when he was the world champion at long distance. Many hard things has been said about Bamey such as that he is a yellow quitter. 1 would like to say that this is not the case, but such trouble as has happened was due to artistic temper and to love and also to the swell head. Barney has been a credit to the marathon swimming game of the world and to his home town
where he come from. Many hard tilings has also been said about Pop such as that he is a bum. I would like to say that this is not the case as Pop is a man I am proud to call my friend.
We get Barney into our camp just before the big Lake Mara grind when he is already the world champion at long distance. At that time we are up there training with many smart swimmers and good boys in our camp such as Pete Witt, the sea-going cop; little Freddy McGonigle, the pocket walrus; Joe Wyclinzcka, the Polish Johnny Weismuller, and other guys. It is a surprise to us when Barney walks in one day and says he is washed up with Walter Grady, his manager. Walter has been coaching this boy since he is a sardine, and is managing him the year before when he wins the title.
“A chamj) is different,” Barney says to us. “A champ has got his dignity which no ordinary swimmer has got. When some guys don’t know any better than to treat the champ like he was a kid, then it is too bad for those guys as they shouldn’t never be handling a champ.”
That is all he will tell us. So Pop says he must see Walter first as Walter is a friend and he does not wish to swipe a pal’s stars. Besides it is only a sucker who will take on a swimmer, even if this swimmer is the champ, without he is sure there is no strings on him. Walter may have Barney on a contract, so that if he wins a big purse we would be holding the bag. So Pop says we must see Walter, and when we talk to him over at his camp that is another surprise. He is not sore. If we take the champ, it is okay by him.
“What about this kid’s contract?” Pop asks. “I suppose that you got him sewed up."
“Sure 1 got him sewed up,” says Walter. “I will show you a contract that is so tight a drop of water would not leak through it. And then I will show you what I think of this contract, as 1 will tear it up into little pieces and throw it in your face.”
WALTER does this, Pop first looking to see that it is the contract he is tearing up and not a phoney. I think to myself that this is a very strange way to act, but I do not remark as Pop has decided to take Barney on. In case he is gone stale, we put him into the water right away. But he swims as smooth as a trout though he is out after three miles, saying he must be off uptown. He is off uptown every day and in the evenings. When Pop asks him why, he will only say that he is the champ and the champ has got his public to think about. Pop says to me that if this public of his is giving him any booze, then he will break their neck. But it is not booze, as we watch very close for this and Barney is always back early and into bed.
We find that the champ has got. the swell head, but we are not surprised at this, expecting it anyway. To keep him working right we got to have people down to give him a hand when he goes into the water and again when he comes out. That is so Barney can say, “Thanks folks,” and it makes him feel very good. We also get newspaper writers and cameras to come around.
To the newspaper writers Barney says: “I expect to win this race because I wish to use the prize money to get on in the world, as I believe every man owes it to himself to get on in the world. Tell my public I train hard and swim every day.”
Then I explain as Pop tells me to explain: “The champ is in great condition. He swims faster and more powerful every time out. This is because you got such a great place to train here for all kinds of sport and amusement and a very healthy place. It is great country around here for man and beast.”
And Pop also says: “I never in all my years training swimmers find conditions so good for making persons fit and fine. I only wish we do not have so much business in other places that we cannot stay here all our life.”
This is because of deals which are generally understood when you go to swim at towns where they are trying to build up big resorts and so on, as they wish the public to know about themselves. But you do not know that this is the way it will read in the pajjers, as these newspaper writers, in my opinion, are hounds for putting stuff in the papers different from what you expect.
The trouble with Barney and the swell head shows mostly around the camp, where he will not swim with the gang, will not eat with the gang and will hardly talk with the gang. The champ claims they are not refined. Such remarks are not liked by swimmers. I have to stop Pete Witt, the sea-going policeman, as he claims that, champ or no champ, he will refine Barney so his own mother will not know him from hamburger. At another time I have to keep the eye on little Freddy McGonigle, the pocket walrus, for fear he will comb the champ’s hair with a boat hook. I am also afraid that if Joe Wyclinzcka, the Polish Johnny Weismuller, can understand the English better, he will carve into the champ with a knife, which is a way they have of showing lack of respect in Europe. Such things do not make for peace in a camp.
After Irene comes, as if it is not bad enough, it gets worse. I am sitting in front of Pop’s cottage at the camp one night when she walks up to ask if Barney is here. I say that I do not know as that is the right thing to say in such
cases. Then she says she does not wish to bother him, but merely hopes he is well and okay. She has brought him a blueberry pie which she will leave with me to give him and tell him that Irene was over. She is a small girl with very nice eyes and smooth hair. I think I had better tell Pop about this girl, as he has said to me there is ten chances you find a woman mixed up in it when a champ goes sour. Also I think I will tell Pop about this blueberry pie as he has a great interest in blueberry pies. He says he wishes to speak to this girl, and she goes in to see him.
SHE IS still there when I go in later, sitting at a table with Pop, who is eating up the blueberry pie. It seems she and Barney grow up together as kids. Before he is a big shot in the swimming game she has been helping him by rowing the boat and timing his strokes, also cooking things to build him up. She says she knows it is a big worry to the mind to be the champ and must keep a fella busy at all times. You can see she likes to talk about Barney but that she does not feel so good about things. Irene has come to Lake Mara, getting a job in a tea-room and bakery where she can be near the champ if there is something she can do. She does not try to kid us about this. Knowing Pop, I am then very surprised to hear him tell Irene she should drop into the camp whenever she likes, but I figure this is on account of the blueberry pie.
She comes around many times after this, very quiet and not getting in the way as she is by no means a bossy dame. She brings pies and other baking and is well liked by one and all. But she does not see the champ so much. Sometimes he will say “Hello kid” to her, stopping to talk but always acting as if he is too busy. Still, I notice if he sees her watching him in the water he will start showing off.
There is much talk about the way Barney treats Irene, the boys having seen her at other races where the story is she is engaged to Barney. Now he acts like she is trying to make him go to work or something. In the past Pop is a guy to be very nasty about dames mixing up in training business, but even Pop makes remarks to me regarding this matter, saying that it goes to show the champ has not the brains to lug honey to a bear.
But we do not have much time for this subject as we got plenty other worries on our hands. Barney is getting tougher to handle instead of easier, very often ducking out after he swims only one mile or a couple miles and rushing off in his car to see his public. We been handling the champ with the gloves, as the saying is, figuring to tighten up on him as the race gets near. It is now getting near.
“It is a bet that this question is very, very fishy at some point,” Pop decides, “otherwise Walter Grady would never kick no champ right out of his camp and glad to see him go. Generally, in such a case, there is another dame. But if there is such a dame, why do we not see her? Barney is not one to get into deep water with any dame unless she is one to stand around for hours, watching him swim and telling him he is a world-beater. That is what has got me stopped.” It turns out that Pop is right about this other dame angle, as he learns by trailing Barney when he goes to see his public. But that is not all.
“We are in the soup,” he says to me, “without a paddle, and no holds barred. This dumb champ has got art.”
“Art who?” I ask.
“Art nobody,” Pop comes back. “Art like you see painted in pictures.”
THIS IS something I do not previously hear of in the swimming game. It seems that, across the lake, there is a colony for art. As Pop was afraid, there is dames in this colony. These are people who draw pictures, play the piano by hand, speak different languages and do poetry out of their heads, but still and all get money somewhere. One of these persons is Miss Gwladys Maréchal.
She has got the champ dizzy. She is a very slinky dame, long in the body and black-haired, smoking cigarettes in a fancy holder which proves she must be the baloney. She has no form, and in a swim she would not go two miles if it was to pay the mortgage off the old homestead, because she has no build for it. I never understand why, when she raves so much about Barney’s swell physique, she does not put some beef on to herself if she thinks it is such a great thing.
When she is not talking about the art—and she is a very high-class talker—she is doing the art. Believe me or believe me not, she is making models of the champ for days at a time. She is copying his arms and legs, also making a big figure of him while he sits there like a stuffed monkey.
All the time, she is handing him a line, telling him he is a sample of the perfect man and he is beauty, poetry and practically everything in the line of art except flowers and little birds. Barney has swallowed all this and he has gone down for the third time before we are wise to it. She raves about his legs and chest with other people around to listen, which is okay in the marathon swim game since it is a matter of business there. But it does not sound decent to me in people’s houses, and certainly I would not say this was art. It turns out that she also tells Barney he is built like an old Greek, which is strictly the phoney in my opinion as 1 never heard of any Greek world champion at
long distance and particularly not about any old Greek.
“He is crazy about this lady high-hat.” Pop states, “and we must bust this up. We must put the bee on this queen good and proper or else we do not get anywhere with the champ in this big splash.”
But before we can do any fixing, the blow-off comes from some other direction altogether. I am in bed where I am asleep when somebody comes in and starts shaking me. It is Barney.
“Get up and into a boat,” he says. “I am doing a little work-out.”
“We do not do work-outs in the middle of the nights,” I tell him, being a little sore. “Beat it.”
“I am not taking back talk from any punk horse doctor,” is his next remark. “Iam telling you I am going to tear off a few miles, and either you are coming along or you are not and to heck with you, mister.”
There is no sense to argue with him, so I pull on clothes and we go to the lake. Barney is one hundred yards out before I get alongside and stroking like a sprinter. I then see he has got all his clothes on, which I was too sleepy to see before. I tell him this in case he does not know.
“You stick to rowing that boat and I will do the swimming that is done around here,” he yells. “When I need some guy to tell me have I got my clothes on or not on, I will write you a letter.”
He sprints one minute and floats the next, also he is twisting and turning. So I am having myself enough to worry about, keeping next to him in the dark. He carries on during some time till I figure we are a good half-mile off shore. All at once, he swims to the boat and hauls himself in.
“Okay,” he says.
“Okay, champ,” I remark, trying to be pleasant at all times. “Water nice and warm?”
He does not answer me.
“Looks like we will have a good day tomorrow, champ,” I state. He does not say anything and I figure maybe he would like to be cheered up. “Well, champ,” I speak up, “let us sing some song as we pull in, and that will make it more cheerful.”
“If you start to sing, I will drownd you,” is his reply. So we come into the dock very quiet, neither one saying anything.
Pop is waiting for us there. “Get them wet clothes off of you,” he tells Barney, “then pour some hot cocoa into yourself.”
The champ looks as if very tired and away he goes as quiet as you please.
“This boy has took it on the chin very bad about something,” Pop says to me or himself. “As he is an egg that can do only one thing which is swim, he tries to swim himself out of it. Maybe this is the pay-off for that dame and her art. He has had a big row with some person or persons, as I figure it. I think on this occasion I will say a few kind words to him and wait for some answers.
As it turns out, this is a very fine idea, as Barney is burning up inside and wishes to talk at last. I will give you his remarks just as I hear them.
THE CHAMP naturally thinks this Gwladys falls very hard for him and that all this making hands and heads out of mud. also copying of figures, is her way of showing same. She says to him that he is the perfect man, so it is no
wonder he thinks what he does. It is a new gag to Bamey and he takes it very serious. He is in such a state that he will jump through hoops if asked. But when he tells her she should come and watch him train, she acts as if this is something very funny. She tells other art friends about this. They say he is a naive boy, which is an art term. The champ does not mention this matter any more at this time.
He does not like the way she pals around with other guys in this art colony, including one special shrimp of the name Lawrence D’Allaird. This one, according to Barney, is no more and no less than a wet smack and also acts very familiar around the place. The champ heats up at this, as he has come to believe this Gwladys is his girl even if she is an arty dame. As he does not wish her to be so free and easy with this bird, he tells her as much.
“Why, I do believe my big handsome hero is jealous,” she pipes, taking a squint through her green eyes.
Then she calls in Yvonne, who is another arty dame, and remarks to the champ: “Mr. D’Allaird is a very dear friend and I think he is a perfectly lovely person.”
Barney does not speak even though he is sore enough to spit, and this slinky Gwladys tells Yvonne: “See that
expression? Jealousy! It is marvellous, my dear. It is priceless. You must sketch him quick.”
The champ is liable to burst into flames any second, but he does not wish to start things while other persons are around. When this Yvonne is gone, he steps down very fast.
“Get back on that stand,” states this pearl of his dreams in a nasty way.
' i guess you forget I am the champ around here,” he reminds her.
“You are the what?” she enquires, too quiet to be good.
“I am the champ,” Barney goes on, “and I am telling you to keep that lizard, D’Allaird, out of here, for if I catch him pulling any more of his stuff I will pull his arms off him and beat him over the head with them.”
He sees she is getting very mad but in a funny way, turning white and not red in the face. But he is also getting mad himself.
“While I am on this subject,” he remarks, “I will tell you a thing or two for yourself, which is to lay off this playing around or I might so happen as to swing on you, and if I hand you a stiff one on the button it may be a lesson to you.”
You got to give this woman credit. She stands right up and rips into the champ. She has a tongue that cuts into you like a teamster’s whip. Barney says afterward he is surprised to see at this time how small and sharp her teeth are. She tells it to him with plenty to spare. According to her, he is no more to her than a horse or other animal. She
is only looking for something to work on for her art. As for falling for him personally, that is a laugh. So she laughs. She calls him many strange items such as a hulking pheasant, using terms which Bamey has not heard till this time though he has been around a great deal previously. Instead of making the champ more sore, he is very much cut up indeed to leam that this is really the way things are with her. He is so cut up that he walks out, dumb, drives off in a terrible state of his mind and goes right into the lake like I told you.
“Well it is plain to me, champ,” Pop is explaining to Bamey next day, “that this Gwladys is just been playing you for a sucker. These kind of dames is put into the world for goodness knows what reason and personally I would skin them alive, but that is neither here and neither there. Let us forget it and get down to training. Irene will be here tonight, and she will cook you a meal that will cut fifteen minutesoff your time for five miles.”
“Do not tell Irene,” Bamey begs Pop on hearing this. “Irene is like one of my own folks to me. I do not wish her to know about this, as I do not like to have her thinking I am the kind of a guy who goes around socking ladies on the jaw. Anyhow I did not hit her.”
“We will not tell nobody a whisper, champ,” Pop promises him.
But there is no use trying to kid Irene, who has got lots of sense and keeps it in condition with practice. Besides, we are now very fond of this girl in a nice way.
“Do not give me any of your stories about this, Pop,” she says that night but without any fuss. “He has had a row with this girl, whoever she is.”
“He has had a row, kid. and there is no sense telling you different,” Pop admits. “But he is all washed up with her
Continued on page 33
Continued from page 9
Starts on page 7
and the clothes is now hung up to dry. She is an arty dame from across the lake, and she is no good for him at any time. We are only lucky it breaks while we still got a chance to pull him into shape for the swim.”
As we figure it, the champ has had a case of the artistic temper, but as long as we can keep him away from this fancy heartbreaker, we will be able to give him a cure. At this point we find that we have the wrong answer, for what should come but a perfume letter from this Miss Gwladys Maréchal which gets to Barney before we can snatch it.
SHE HAS written in this letter that Barney puts a bad crimp into her art by walking out when she is doing her masterpiece which is her greatest work of her life. Because the champ runs out on her it will now never be finished up for people everywhere to see, which is a great loss for the whole world. Then she sticks in a dirty crack in this sweet-smelling letter, saying it is possibly only a matter of cash with Barney, him having no fine appreciation of the art. So she writes she will see he is paid so much per the hour for sitting around while she finishes copying him for this greatest work of her life. Then the whole world will not have to stand this loss through never seeing it.
As I figure it and as Pop figures it, this is just the old oil and she is this way and that way about the champ like any other dame. But she thinks she is covering this up by using the old oil. She dopes it that he will come running back when he gets this perfume letter. It only goes to show that such a dame may be very smart about this art but very dumb about a world champion at long distance, not knowing how bullheaded a world champion at long distance will very often be.
Barney has been wondering in his mind, and the more he wonders the more he is sure she will tell him she is sorry if he gives her a chance, especially about forgetting his dignity of which he is very proud. After all, there is only one world champion at long distance in the world at any one time, which is a way the marathon swimming game is different from the wrestling game and certain other games. So he is all set to let loose a loud halloo on getting this perfume letter when he strikes this dirty crack and goes up like some balloon. For her to tell a guy who wins $25,000 in one classic race that she will pay him so much per the hour is to make him feel he has been put in the grease and fried plenty. After that Barney will not go to see his Gwladys if it is to save her old mother’s life, but a lot of good he is to us at the same time.
What does he do but sulk. He sits in his cabin. He will not swim. Then when he does go into the water he is all haywire, and it is a very bad time for the champ not to be doing his stuff as these newspaper writers are around and about. It is my opinion these newspaper writers are born with too many eyes and too many ears in their heads, if you ask me.
“The champ is not so hot, I notice,” one of them remarks.
“I tell him to play around and kick the kinks out of his system,” Pop tells them.
“Well, all I will say,” this same guy states out loud after some hours of this, “is that the champ has got enough kinks in his system to cripple any ordinary mugg, and it is a wonder to me he is not in a wheel chair for the rest of his life.”
We read in the papers that Pop has tried to change the champ’s style and this has ruined him. We also read that the champ is not in condition for any crawl, and then we read that he will not even start in this great marine classic. This is very bad, but he does not care. W’e get Irene to see if she can do anything with him.
“You know I can swim all these other bums unconscious, don’t you, kid?” he says to her. “You know I win the title by plenty.”
“Sure, Barney,” Irene states. “I know that.”
“Well, then,” is his come-back, “what do you care if the papers is all wet? They tell me the papers is wrong about most things anyway.”
HE IS gone, that is all. He does not | care if he is beaten forty ways from | the gun by a mud turtle. On this occasion two of the promoters which is staging this big splash come to visit Pop, not looking pleased. When they go away, Pop calls me in for some bad news.
“Well, doc, we are on the spot,” he explains. “Those birds are such persons as to argue this stuff about the champ not starting is putting their big classic race on the bum. This is very sad for all good people, as I am figuring from the start the champ does not cop this race. So I thought I would stick these promoters for appearance money, asking one grand on the line before I will let the champ swim. That way we are sure of a slice of dough even if he pops on us in the first lap.
“But now we could not shake down any promoter for enough appearance money to butter a bun. On top of that, if we do not get this dumb champ swimming as if going places we will get the old razzoo from all directions, but what will be worse, we will get the credit cut off on our vegetables and groceries. So unless you have got some rich uncle you can knock off quick, you can write the folks you are as good as in the jail for non-support at this minute.
“I wish to tell you,” Pop finishes, “that this matter is strictly up to you, so if you will come into my private office down to that old log behind the boathouse, I will whisper to you what has got to be done or else consider yourself on the town and walking the streets thereof.”
“I am only the horse doctor with this stable,” I remind him. “I never pretend I am on the master-mind end of this game. I do not have any idea of trying to handle the headwork at such a time as this.”
“You stick to that idea, doc,” Pop says, “and we will leave this town with dough in our overalls. Tell me what you do when you get a nervous race horse.”
“I do not know, Pop,” I remark. “I do not have experience in my life with nervous or other race horses or, for that matter, with horses of all kinds.”
“You get a stablemate for them that is a good companion such as a dog and eases their mind,” he relates to me.
Personally, I have a great liking for dogs, which comes natural to me. I do not think it will be right to make any dog take what it will have to take from Barney, the way he is acting. Also I never hear tell of training swimmers for long distance by means of dogs. But I find out Pop does not mean a dog in the regular sense.
“I am sending you on the old ivory hunt, doc,” he makes it clearer. “Tonight you will beat it to pick up a clown of a swimmer with plenty good temper but not the artistic kind. He will be an easy guy to get along with. He will be a pleasant bum, happy all day long like a duck on a horse pond, merry and bright and full of the old good cheer. We will bunk this clown in with Barney. Barney is all alone now, which gives him too much time to think or what would you call it in his case. Even if you got to pay him dough, get me such a guy,” Pop insists.
“But I do not know of any guy such as you mention around any of these swim camps,” I argue.
“If there was any such guy, doc, he would be here now,” Pop states. "Go dig him up. I do not care where and how, short of murder.”
SO I GO on the hunt. I go to Bradburg, Atlas Beach, Dentown and other places. I do not find anybody. Every night I wire to Pop as follows: “I do not find anybody here.”
I call upon many swimmers, but they do not fit the bill in my opinion as they are all punks in many respects. They are as good as the champ, to hear them tell it, which is what they do. If they will get the breaks, they will take the title themself. If they will get good coaching, they will go out and beat the world if only they have a good day. I do not want a stablemate of this kind, as far as I can see. I decide I will go over to Wilton, where I bave a friend of the name of Bill who is in the building game as a boss. He is glad to see me.
“Well, you old horse doctor,” he states, “this is a surprise and calls for a beer, which I know you will buy. I was thinking about you today when I read in the papers about your swimmers, but I suppose of course you are up to Lake Mara with them.”
“I will tell you something if you do not repeat this,” I explain. “I am now doing some work on the master-mind end of this game which calls for gumshoeing in different parts. That is why I am here.”
When be remarks about the papers, I am worried. I ask how it sounds in the papers.
“It sounds nutty to me, doc,” Bill mentions, “as I do not understand why a champ should be trained in the middle of the night and kept locked up in the day where nobody can see him. I do not understand how that will help his swimming, even is he the champ. I suppose you know your business, but it sounds nutty to me.”
It seems the papers say the Old Fox, meaning Pop, has pulled another fast one on the people as he is training Barney only in pitch dark and he is also training him with a mysterious mermaid. I figure this will be Irene. It also says how the champ’s food is being cooked in secret as it is a special diet, with this mysterious mermaid doing the cooking as a mysterious cook.
When I hear this, I ask myself what kind of a crazy business it may be. If they only sw im Barney in the dark, then it is likely he is so bad they must not let the sharp eyes so much as peek at him in daytime.
“I will now tell you something else, nutty,” Bill is explaining to me as I am asking myself various questions. “It is something in the swimming line, and if you can make sense out of mysterious mermaids maybe you will make sense out of this.”
Bill’s gang is doing a job of work right beside the river, according to his story, and a plasterer of the name of Dutch Hill falls off the scaffold and into the drink. He is a big lad of 230 pounds and yellow hair. As he does not swim at all, they say to each other: “It is too bad. He was a nice
But he does not drownd, being very fat. He floats. So they yell at him : “Swim to the shore.” He splashes and he splashes, but he does not get anywhere. He is still splashing and still not getting anywhere when some guys come out in a boat and tow him to the shore. After Dutch Hill falls into the river this one time and does not drownd when all hands are expecting him to drownd, they then make a game of pushing him in at all times. Such monkey business is no good for the building game, where people are getting paid per the hour.
In such a case the work is slowed up. which is liable to cost money and troubles. Bill remarks that he w’ould fire this Dutch Hill except he hires him due to the wishes of his own wife, who is related to him. It would not do for Bill to go home, explaining to his wife that he has fired her relative because guys are pushing him into the river as a joke through no fault of his. That would put Bill in the doghouse with his wife, and make his life a burden for him. He also tells me he does not wish to give this plasterer the walking ticket as he is not like wife's relatives at all but a nice fella, pleasant at all times and okay to have
around. At this last remark, I am beginning to wonder.
“Now that I am doing master-minding on the under-cover end of this marathon game,” I tell Bill, “it so happens that I can sometimes use different persons for a purpose. This Dutchman is cheerful, so you tell me. Would he be a guy such as would be happy all day like a duck on a horse pond?”
“If you find a person such as will get tossed into the drink all the time without hurting his good nature,” Bill replies in answer, “I would say that he is that kind.” “Would this Dutch Hill be a guy to listen to persons talking about themself and let such persons talk without horning in?” I ask next.
“Are you also going nutty on me?” Bill says. “Sure, he would listen to a guy talk himself green to the gills and only grin at him. But if that has got anything to do with anything, then I am the man on the flying trapeze, ooh la la.”
Well, the long and short of it is that I think it will be better to do something no matter how crazy it may be, than it will be to do nothing no matter how good that may be. So I offer this Dutch Hill a proposition, telling him I am a scout for certain interests in the marathon swim game, seeking naturals at swimming who wish to become rich and famous, winning big classic races and $25,000 prizes. I tell him we are willing to train him without charge right in the same stable with Barney Long, world champion at long distance. This will be a great opportunity for him which comes once in a lifetime, as he will win big dough when he gets into shape, of which he will get the half. I tip him off he must get himself in solid with the champ, listening to everything the champ may say and watching with great care so he will thus learn the little tricks he needs to know in becoming rich and famous. The long and the short of it is that this Dutch Hill just grins and says it is okay by him. So I wire to Pop as follows: “I find somebody here.”
When I bring in this 230-pound Dutchman, Pop says: “So you have come back, stranger? How is things in the Far East, where you must of been? I blame myself I did not tip you off that they already find Dr. Livingston in darkest Africa when I am a kid, so it would have saved you all that time looking round in those jungles.”
THIS DOES not make much sense that I can see, but I figure maybe Pop is sore, thinking I have been a long time. Also he says that I did not have to wait till I raise this Dutchman to such a big size before bringing him in. I leave this guy with Pop as I do not wish to be hearing things in case Pop should not feel about this matter the same as I do. Irene is sitting down by the boathouse, and I would say from looking at her that she is tired. But this is a game gut
“Well I am glad to see you back, doc,” she tells me with a smile, “as we miss you around here very much.”
Persons do not often mention to me personally that they miss me when I am not around, so I am very pleased to hear such a nice girl make a remark of this kind. I ask her about the champ. They been having terrible trouble with him, but they been stalling along and hoping.
“Sometimes I wish Barney never took the title, doc,” she states at last. “It makes such changes in him. Maybe titles are not good things for boys like Barney.” At this point Pop calls me, and as Irene does not mention this matter again I do not know what was her idea. Pop is rubbing his hands, which is a good sign with him.
“Remind me some time in a couple years to give you a raise,” he says. “I figure this one right. I figure you are so dumb you will do something so crazy it is perfect. I expect anything, but I certainly never expect you will lug in a floating plasterer who cannot swim his own length in a bathtub.”
Pop has told Barney that this Dutch
Hill is a great admirer of his from away back, also crazy about the marathon swimming game. Barney thinks the Dutchman gives up his job on hearing about the champ being in training at Lake Mara for the big classic grind, and that he comes all the way up to the camp, asking if he can talk to the champ and shake him by the hand as that is the one great thing he wishes in his life.
This goes very good with the champ indeed, and he is sitting around and talking with the plasterer. Afterward he tells Pop this punk already knows more about the swimming game at long distance than most of the bums we got training from our camp. This is a great surprise to me and I listen very careful after this, but all I ever hear Dutch say, is: “Okay, champ. Yes, champ. You are right, champ.”
There is another surprise for me at this time. We put Dutch in the water to see how he goes, also taking Barney along in the boat. Well, the Dutchman is a human cork and that is all. He does not make two feet in fifty strokes.
After some minutes this floater grins up at Barney, shaking that yellow hair out of his eyes and saying: “How’m I doing,
That is where I get my surprise. The champ dives in, looking very serious. “Listen, kid,” he says, “watch me. I will show you the stuff.”
We sit in that boat for two hours by the watch and that is no mistake, with the champ swimming sweet and pretty and the Dutchman trying to watch him very close. But it is plain to me if this plasterer is going to win a race even two years later, he had better start right away as a 24month lead will not be any too much.
“Gee, champ,” he keeps telling Barney, “I never see any guy swim so good before. Before this time, I do not think anybody in the world can swim like that.”
“Sure, kid, you are right about that,” the champ explains. “Nobody else can turn it on like this and hold a pace for eight to ten hours like I can. But do not let that worry you none. Keep an eye on me and I will learn you enough to beat the head off half the swimmers that ever was bom.”
I look at Pop during this time and he says to me: “Have a cigar, doc.”
I know this is just a manner of speaking with him as he does not have any cigars when making this remark. “Yes, doc, have two cigars,” he says to me later. “Do I call them right at all times or do I call them right? If it is not that I never like the water and am afraid I may fall in, I will stand up in the boat at this point and take several bows.”
WELL, there is the honest true story of how we get the champ into such great condition for this big classic race at Lake Mara, and personally it is enough for me that this gag is working without making remarks about it. Every day they are swimming, with the champ coaching the Dutchman. But he would get along just as fast, in my opinion, coaching an empty keg. This plasterer can float till he is waterlogged, but as for making distance, he can go about as far as I can throw a whale up the wind. But Barney is forgetting Gwladys, the high-brow doll, and he is really training, also telling Dutch how he wins this and that big classic, which is a good sign with a champ.
“I win this great Boston classic going away,” I hear him tell Dutch and Irene one time. “I am so far in front that I eat two steaks and have a snooze before the second guy is in sight of the finish barge. I always eat heavy after a big classic race. Eating is very important in this marathon swim game.”
The champ asks Irene to keep an eye on the Dutchman’s diet as he is taking a personal interest in making this plasterer an ace swimmer. Irene says she will do this, but she is not kidded about the kind of a human fish which this Dutchman is ever going to be. She tells me she feels sorry for Dutch sometimes and that it is a
shame to fool him. When the day comes to post the entries for the big splash, Irene goes straight to Pop.
“What are you doing about the Dutchman?” she asks him.
“As soon as we win this race with Barney, 1 will write him a reference stating that he is reliable and honest,” Pop comes back.
“You do not have to be dirty,” Irene tells Pop straight from her shoulder. “You could give this boy a break. You could put him in with your other entries.”
“I could also dive off a tall building into a pile of bricks,” Pop says, “but either way I would be a sucker. That hod carrier would make a life job of swimming ten miles, even was he Methuselah. If I should enter him as one of my boys they would laugh me out of the country, and I would draw the old wahoo in every bathhouse from here to the Atlantic Ocean.”
But Irene argues it will be a nice thing to do even if Dutch does not swim a city block. He can still start and get his picture taken with the champ for the papers. He can then get some clippings out of these papers showing he is a starter in a big classic race, and this will make pleasant memories for him when he is an old man.
“I do not see why you should be so stuck on looking after this floating plasterer’s beautiful thoughts when he is an old man,” Pop puts in, “but if it means so much to you, then you enter him yourself.
I will put up his entry fee and also give you a boat to handle him from. But if any person should suggest I am having anything to do with him at all, I will cause such a person loss of his memory and lumps on his head.”
“Okay,” says Irene, walking away. “I will enter him. I will do just that.”
That is the true and honest story of how this famous non-swimming swimmer gets into one of the big classic crawls of all time. It was all due to kindness of the heart, everybody figuring he would be one thousand yards shorts of a mile if he had a record day. But when I see how pleased this overgrown Dutchman is on learning he is going to be started, I am glad Irene gives him this chance. Barney is also pleased, thinking Irene does it due to his own interest in this plasterer.
IT IS NOW getting close to the day of the long grind. Things are tightening up. You can feel it in the air. Also the town is filling up with punks who wish to compete. These are big guys and little guys and also the bugs. These bugs are people who do not know a hill of beans from a hole in the ground but who enter every big splash. One bug hopes to win this twenty-five grand so he may buy airplanes and fly across a leading ocean. Another is working on inventions for filling bottles, which is a kind of business calling for much dough. Another has got some special pills which will make a ]>erson very strong, and he is going to crack this race wide open so that he will sell these special pills at great prices.
I do not understand these bugs, but they tell me if you should offer to give away twenty-five thousand in money for any purpose at all you would then find yourself with a lot of funny people around you and maybe these same bugs.
In our camp, the boys are getting set. Our boys are mostly old-time battlers in these crawls who do not get the jumps in their nerves. We do not have this worry in our camp. The champ himself is going very good. I am afraid I do not give you an idea of what a swimmer Barney can be, because of telling you about all the trouble we have with him and his lady friend with the flossy life, this Gwladys Maréchal. Barney is a great performer in these classic crawls. He is powerful. He strokes easy and beautiful, slipping along mile after mile without seeming to work at it. His arms come up and drop in without hardly a splash. When any of these swimmers starts to splash in a gruelling grind, then you know he is going to pieces and he is soon going to be hauled out.
W’hen he is in one of these big mara-
thons, the champ is never a guy to worry about the speed swimmers who go to the front at the start and set a terrible pace. He knows they will always swim themself dizzy and be on the beach long before there is any finish. But when he comes across a money swimmer that is figured to be in the dough, that is when he shows the real stuff which makes a world champion at long distance. He will cut in close on such a swimmer and match him, stroke for stroke. Bamey has a terrific drive in his legs and he will pull away, not too fast but only inch by inch. If this other mug who is slipping behind then sprints to come level with Barney, the champ will wait and then untrack himself a little, matching stroke for stroke again and pulling away just like he did before. This way he will break their hearts, and they will fold up or maybe sink and be pulled out.
Both Pop and I look Bamey over like a pawnbroker checking up on a watch before lending five bucks. He is very okay. We ask Irene how she thinks he shapes. She says he is very okay and she is glad. We are also pleased about the other boys as we may get one or two in the money along with Bamey. This grind pays the first ten to finish. Pete Witt, the seagoing cop, is better than I see him at any previous time, and also Freddy McGonigle, the pocket walrus, is coming along nice. About the Polish Johnny Weismuller, I do not care to say as he is a guy who may double up on us after twenty minutes or he may go like a seal and beat the field by miles. He is one of these marathon dark horses who is figured to have one great race in his system but you do not know when this great race will come out or if it will ever come out.
On the day before the race, the town is jammed with persons and great excitement. The list shows there will be three to four hundred starters in this crawl, but the list does not say how many of these will be finishers. We take Bamey into town so it will give the folks a chance to stop him on the street and tell him they are pulling for him to win. They do this, and the champ feels great. He has Irene and Dutch with him, and I see the Dutchman is so proud he is liable to burst but I do not worry about this. I test Bamey out by saying to him that Walter Grady has a Europe boy entered and figures this Europe boy will beat him.
“I hear such remarks before this,” says the champ. “Let us wait till we are all in the water and I will go out and take this boy any time you say. I will go past him and kick water into his face, eh, kid?” he remarks to Irene.
I dope it out from this that the champ is right and in shape. That afternoon we keep him and the boys in the camp to rest, while Pop goes down to learn any final instructions on this race.
“I wish this was tomorrow night and we had all this dough safe in our sock,” Pop remarks on leaving. “If anything happens now, I will never forgive you. Let us hope for your sake, doc, that we get all these fish into the water with the gun and nothing backfires on us.”
After he is gone, we are all sitting around wishing it is night and wondering what is keeping the sunset. I am thinking to myself that I will make some statements to Pop regarding a matter of a few dollars when he gets his cut of the prize dough. The boys are getting grease ready to plaster on before the race. Bamey is with Irene and Dutch, telling her how she should handle Dutch in the grind and how she should get this plasterer into the money, if not this year, then some other year. Then I see a big car drive up and out comes a number of persons from it, including women. I know that is bad.
There is six of these persons and they trail right over to Bamey. In the lead there is a runt in ice-cream pants who has a dame hanging on his arm and acting as if she rans the show. I hear this dame laugh, and it is too fancy a laugh to be good. It is the kind of a laugh that you would have to practise at. I have a dirty hunch it may
be this Gwladys and some people from her arty mob. I am shocked to think of such an idea, and that is why I do not jump up and give them the bum’s rush. I am very surprised. It is this Gwladys and some people from her arty mob.
rpHE CHAMP is very pleased and T grinning on seeing this Gwladys, figuring she trots these persons over from the art colony for purposes of apologies regarding the way she treats a world champion at long distance. Barney is wrong by ten miles or any other stretch you mention.
Personally, I do not like this grin which the champ has on his face, having seen such grins on other faces before this time, these other faces belonging to people who believe they guess under which shell is the little pea hidden. Irene takes one look at this grin and one look at this mob and one special look at this arty dame. Then she takes Dutch by his arm and walks him off and she does not look back.
“Iam sorry you do not get here at some other time when you can see me in the water,” Barney states to his friends from the art game, “as I am going great. I will take this race tomorrow, and then I will invite you all on a party to show you I got no hard feelings because of the past. That is a champ’s way of acting,” he explains to these persons.
Well, I w'ill certainly remark that this art crowd is very funny performers, in my experience. They do not talk to Barney at all, only making statements to each other regarding him and staring at him.
“Quaint, what?” says the ice-cream pants, these pants turning out to be this Lawrence D’Allaird who causes all the trouble before, and he is a peanut if ever I see a peanut.
As regards this Gwladys who is the champ’s dear friend in his dreams, personally I would not wish to have her cooking my dinner supposing there was any rat poison in the kitchen. They are towing a woman with them who looks somewhat stale due to age, and she is giving Barney a very fishy eye indeed. I am sorry for him myself, the way they are all handing him the business. But it is when I hear certain remarks about the race that I have the chills and the fever.
“Gw'ladys and I would not have you miss this for the worlds,” pipes the pants to the fishy-eyed dame.
“Delicious.” states fishy eyes.
Gw’ladys then explains she hires a boat so they can trail Barney every foot of the race and be with him every minute.
“Delicious,” states fishy eyes.
She then remarks is not the champ a magnificent animal.
“And you say this incredible man is in love with you?” w'arbles the eyes. “Delicious.”
“Absolutely madly, my dear.” cackles this Gw'ladys, pulling one of her trick laughs. “Is not that excruciating?”
I do not know what the champ will do, as this grin has froze right on his pan. But he turns and beats it into his cabin, slamming the door. At this point, I hear a yell behind me. It is Pop.
To be Concluded