FICTION

Jib and Overalls

He was the best skipper on the lake but he had to capsize to find out which way the wind blew

HERBERT DALMAS August 15 1936
FICTION

Jib and Overalls

He was the best skipper on the lake but he had to capsize to find out which way the wind blew

HERBERT DALMAS August 15 1936

Jib and Overalls

FICTION

He was the best skipper on the lake but he had to capsize to find out which way the wind blew

By HERBERT DALMAS

I WOULD NOT care to say how many cockeyed deeds have been performed in the last three or four thousand years just because some guy was in love, but I will gladly state right now that the goofiest was when Wally Hamlin sold his boat. I do not have anything against love although personally I think the hours are a little long sometimes, and I can see how an otherwise normal citizen will be seized with a yearning to give up his arm or his life or something like that for a gal, but not a boat in a million like the Dipper. The Dipper is almost as as the Wall Flower, which is my boat.

This demented act of Wally’s is explained by the fact that he has been in love with Ann Carter ever since he was old enough to kick her in the shins at the dancing-school cotillions; and it seems if you love a girl from the time she wears cotton stockings which droop at the knees, it is real love. Of course Ann has changed no little since those days, and if she does «not make you think of warm, golden sunlight and blue skies, it is because you are an object of interest only to a geologist.

Furthermore, Ann is a very neat hand with a jib. In fact, she used to crew a good deal for Wally in the races, and if I had anybody who could make a jib mind the way Ann could, probably I would have beaten Wally more. But we split about even in the long run, and this may sound like boasting as Wally is the best sailor that has been on the lake since we started infesting it, but 1 am not really that good, winning a good many times when Wally takes too many chances. Because if Wally has one weakness, it is that he lays his boat too far over when on the wind, and this results in him being cast the waters like so much bread half the time, especially jibing around buoys, and this is why his boat is called the Dipper. Some of the oldtimers say Wally should not be so reckless and they are right, but Wally figures if he knows better and still wants

to take a chance on dunking, it is his calamity. Anyhow, turning a boat like the Dipper or Wall Flower over is not as serious as it might be with another kind, because they are these inland lake scows with not very much of them in the water, and in fact, they will practically sail on a light fall of dew if desired, so it is no job to put them right side up when they do go over. And one and all will admit that they go faster the farther you heel them over.

But I was saying how Wally was in love with Ann. I do not understand why it is always some mastodon like Wally, who is built like a movie super-spectacle, who disintegrates when in love. If you ever saw Wally lurking down the ice behind a puck, scattering opixments in his path like husks out of a shucking machine, you would say he has a comixiliing nature. But when he starts talking to Ann—or about her -his eyes get glassy and his voice low, like a torch singer with catarrh. The catch is that, as far as Ann is concerned. Wally is a great guy and the best skipper on the lake or anywhere else, but that is all. He does not seem to be the Dream Prince.

Well, such was the situation the summer after the three of us got out of college. Then c>ne day the local pump company a man from

the city to take charge, and Hoyt Blackwell was in our midst. 1 f you care to know what Hoyt was like, drop in at some girl’s college and get the girls to describe their vision of the ideal man. It will be something like this: He must be tall, with an attractive smile and a physique that looks equally well in a bathing suit, tweeds or tails. He must be able to talk, dance, and play bridge, and he must be interested in athletics. He must be a man’s man, but above all he must understand women.

TT DOES not make any difference to me if you believe it

or not, but whichever you do, this is a pretty accurate sketch of Hoyt Blackwell. Only he was a lot more too. Naturally you would not expect such a Mr. Universe as this to give much time to any but the smoothest girl in the town, so it took Hoyt about one week to make a thorough survey and start rushing Ann. She did not mind this at all, being the cynosure of every envious feminine eye, and everybody said what a lovely couple they were. I understand this is a sign the end is near.

Wally did not have a chance. He met some of the requirements stated above, and he probably could have made Hoyt look like a sucker on the hockey rink, but there is very little hockey on our lake during July and August. Hoyt trimmed the local golf and tennis champions within a week after he arrived, so athletically Wally was out. He could not compete at bridge, conversation and dancing, because the mere sight of a couple of aces started him thinking about slams, and he never could be bothered talking about anything except Ann and sailing. He was no belle of the ball either, having a habit of stepping on other revellers for yards around and muttering to himself in a heated way.

Where Hoyt left Wally laboring in the ruck, though, was when it came to understanding women. Wally had heard rumors about how this other sex was slightly different, but that is all, because the only member of it he recognized was Ann, and she was more of a lovely blur to him than anything else. But not Hoyt. Hoyt had perfect control. He always seemed to know in advance which dress Ann was going to wear and to send just the right flowers to go with it. He also knew when not to send flowers. He knew when to talk and when to be silent and understanding; when to make Ann laugh and when to discuss subjects of a profound nature. He was Ann’s slave, but when she could not make up her mind about something, he was masterful and never guessed wrong. He never failed to notice a new hat, dress, or et cetera. He was terrific, and could Ann take it !

One day I was up at the Yacht Club dock getting ready to go out and try a new Genoa jib I had just got, and Wally sort of took form out of the distant haze and wandered down the wharf in a disconsolate manner.

He stood looking at me for a minute and then he said: ‘‘I’ve sold the Dipper, Bill.”

Wally is not much for concocting gags of a sour nature, so I did not even think he was ribbing me. I just stood there.

“I sold it to Hoyt,” he said.

“My lord,” I said, “does he sail too?”

Wally nodded, very gloomy. “It seems he has quite a few cups he’s won different places,” he said

“All right,” I said, “but there are a million boats he could have bought. Why did you have to let him have the Dipper?”

"I did it for Ann,” Wally said, uncovering as usual although he did not have a hat on. “She always loved the Dipper, you know, and now she is spending all her time with Hoyt and will very likely marry him, it should be where she can use it. It will make her happy.”

* f 'HERE IS nothing you can do with a guy who is unhinged in this way, but I did not feel like trying my Jenny after that, because what is the point of racing if Wally was not there to beat? I climbed out and sat on the wharf.

“You can’t be sure she is going to marry Hoyt.” I said. “He is just somebody new, and besides you know how

women change their minds. This is probably a passing phase.”

Wally shook his head.

“No,” he said. “That is what I thought. I sort of kept hoping there was a chance for me. But I had a long talk with her the other night. She says she will always feel a great affection for me, but it would be a mistake for us to marry. She says,” Wally went on, giving the lake a dirty look, “I am too devoted. I guess maybe it is too much like being followed around by a poodle -only a poodle can do tricks.”

I figured this last crack was just something Wally was piling on to make himself feel worse, so I did not notice it.

I said: “It does not seem very logical that Ann will be rushing off in all directions to marry somebody she has only just met.”

“She will get to know him all right.” Wally said, “and besides he is a very good egg. In fact, he is the only guy 1 ever saw who was worthy of her.”

Well, it appears it is ethical to speak in this manner about whoever is winning your girl aw^ay from you, and as far as that goes, Wally is merely echoing the general sentiment of the village. Because Hoyt is very popular indeed, and as time goes on he waxes instead of wanes, and 1 will say he is a very charming gent—honest, and the unobtrusive life of every party. But al! the time I cannot help a feeling that I would like him a lot more if I could find just one thing wrong with him. He is so perfect he is kind of a responsibility like your mother telling you that so-and-so is a regu-

lar little man and would not think of playing football with his best liants on. But I seem to be the only person in town who is not crazy about Hoyt, and therefore I keep my rosebud shut so I will not be misunderstood.

I said to Wally: “Well, come on out with me now and see how this new Jenny works. AÍ Crocker is coming over, and we’ll take a turn around the course You might as well get used to handling this jib now, because we will doubtless have to work pretty hard if we are going to defeat this Blackwell menace in the cup races next month.”

Wally shook his head again.

"Thanks, Bill.” he said, “but I am giving up sailing. After this I am going to play golf. 1 am afraid,” he says, “that in the past my interests have not been varied enough. 1 am becoming one-sided.”

I could see the Blackwell influence in that remark. Wally walked away. I did not feel as bad as I might have, because I did not believe for any part of a minute that Wally would give up sailing. Sailing is not like golf or tennis or any such superficial pastime. You can give up golf or something like that, but you cannot give up sailing.

because you do not take it up in the first place any more than you take up your right ear when you arc born. It is either a part of you or it isn’t, and if it is, no amount of cursing at a little white ball and a sack of funny looking sticks is going to drive it completely out of your system.

"D UT APTER a couple of weeks I did not feel so certain any more. I was on the lake every day tuning the Wall Flower up for the cup regatta, but Wally did not appear even once. Finally one night I ran into him at a gathering.

“I will state in advance,” I said to him, “that 1 do not care what you did on the dog-leg fourth hole this afternoon, so do not tell me.”

Wally smiled a sad, sweet smile, showing that he did not mind the empty prattling of such kiddies as I. although more adversity w'as, as like as not, just around the corner. He looked older than when I last saw him, and I guess golf does that to you.

“All right,” he said. “Let us talk about, something.you are interested in. How are the boats shaping up for the races?”

“Hoyt has put a revolving stick in the Dipper,” I said, “and a plank boom and a six-edometer.”

I thought this would stir him up. because he does not approve of revolving masts and such, calling them gadgets.

“Sounds fine,” he said. “How does he sail?”

"He knows his stuff,” I had to admit. “Personally, I am afraid it will be very surprising if anybody else gets a part of that cup this year.”

“I am glad to hear that,” Wally said. “I certainly would hate to think anybody had the Dipper who did not know how to handle her.”

At this point one of the lady golfers of the vicinity came up and grabbed Wally's arm, hauling him away to show somebody how he got out of the trap on the eighth that day and I felt pretty sad. I thought some of seeing Ann and asking her it she would not do something, but it did not take me long to dojx' out from the way she and Hoyt were looking at each other while dancing that she would not recall the name. In fact, at that moment I would not be astonished to hear the engagement announced any time now. It turns out I was only about three weeks behind the rest of the town on this point, informed public opinion favoring right after the cup races as the time when Ann would break the story. Because when Hoyt has lifted that cup. Ann will be about the only prize in town which he has not won. and it might as well lx' a clean sweep. 1 did not like the way everybody took it for granted that Hoyt would win this cup any more than I liked the way it was supposed to be in the bag that Ann would marry him instead of

Wally, but all the same 1 could not avoid being swdrled in with the general feeling. Especially after the first day of the regatta.

I won that race, but the Dipper was not in it. There was one of those mixed foursome orgies or something at the golf club, and Hoyt did not bother to come out. The second day he came out though, and, boy, even if I did only get a rear view of it, it was something to watch. These inland lake scows are about twenty-eight feet long, you know, with plenty of sail, and with so little of the hull in the water you have to lx: very careful about blinking your eyes and such for fear of throwing them out of trim. But Hoyt did not go a hair on the wrong side of perfect all afternoon, and as far as tactics went, if you got within fighting distance of him, he forced you to do something wrong.

VITELL, HOYT was the white-haired boy around the VV club that day, and by the time the annual Regatta Ball got under way that night, he was practically an albino. There was a gixxl deal of cracking here and there at supper about where was he going to keep all the cups he had won and wasn’t he going to leave any for the local lads to shoot at. You might think this would make anybody a bit chesty, but it seems modesty is just one more of Hoyt Blackwell’s virtues, and he spends all his time kidding back with exactly the right touch. Of course, Ann was pretty stairveyed and proud about it all, and who can blame her?

While the guests w'ere chonking their supper, I saw Wally

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Jib and Overalls

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on the outskirts, observing this bacchanal in a wan manner. He looked at me as if it was too much effort to focus his eyes and said: "Did Ann hold the jib for Hoyt?”

1 said she did.

“And probably pretty darn well too,” Wally said. “You’d think he could toss her a slight scrap of glory for that.”

At this juncture somebody proposed a toast to the Dipper and her champion skipper, and there were cries of speech! speech ! 1 loyt sttxxl up and said he did not mind taking all the responsibility when he won a tennis or golf match, but this time he had had only a very little to do with the victory. Most of the credit, he said, went to Ann for holding a perfect jib, because, as all sailors know, jibs are very important, and if they are not trimmed exactly right, all is lost.

There was cheering, and I looked at Wally. He resembled a tomato surprise, and as he blushed out into the night 1 wondered if his deep affection for Hoyt was as vivid as of yore. From the set of his jaw and something in his eyes l thought not. I am such a dog 1 could not help feeling pleased.

'T'HE NEXT DAY was the third in a row of good strong, steady wind out of the northeast. The barometer fell a little in the morning, but there was not any doubt about everything holding lovely until after the race. The start was at two, and at one-thirty I was on the Wall Flower with AÍ Crocker and George Carringer, who were my crew, fussing around and getting ready to hoist sail. All of a sudden I looked up, and there was Wally standing on the wharf looking down at me.

“Hello.” I said. “I thought you had a golf match on today.”

“I have,” he said, “but it is not till halfpast two. I thought I would come out and watch the start.”

“Fine,” I said. “How does the old tug look to you? See anything that might have been holding us back yesterday?”

“She looks all right to me,” Wally said. “She looks fine.”

That seemed to close that, so I went on working for a couple of minutes and nothing was said.

“Well.” Wally said finally, “it certainly is a nice breeze.”

“It certainly is,” I said.

“Out of the northeast,” he said. “Good and steady.”

I agreed with that.

“Yes, sir,” Wally said, “it certainly is.

A nice breeze. In fact,” he said, going further, “I never saw a better.”

"It’s pretty good,” I said.

“Of course,” Wally pointed out, “it may shift a little later on. It looks as if those clouds in the northwest might shape up in time, and I see the glass is falling a bit, but it ought to hold till the race is over.”

“I would think so,” I said.

“Mm-hm.” Wally said, watching us run the mainsail out along the boom.

Nobody said anything for a couple more minutes, and then we started to hoist the main. Wally followed the head of it up the mast with his eyes.

"Well,” he said, “she certainly looks lit. Good luck. I hope you take him today.” “Thanks,” I said. Then I said: “Look here, I wish you’d come along.”

"Oh, no,” he said. “Thanks just the same, Bill, but there’s this golf game, you know. Besides, I’ve kind of lost my feeling for it. I imagine. Don’t seem to care much for it any more, as a matter of fact.”

All this time there was a look in his eye like a man saying he has lost his taste for steak and onions after living on lettuce for a month or so. But when a big clown like Wally decides he will stick to his story, what can you do? The race committee was coming out to its boat with their watches and cannon, and the boats in the ileet were casting off one by one and going out to warm up.

At this point I had an idea. I wanted to beat Hoyt that day, but there wasn’t any use trying to kid myself out of a feeling that 1 was half licked before the gun went otf.

I could not get the memory of Hoyt Blackwell’s perfect sailing the day before out of my mind, and it was beating me down. Besides, Wally was a better sailor than I was, and he had no mental hazard. So I jerked on a halliard and said: “Ow!” “What’s wrong?” Wally said.

“I threw my wrist out yesterday,” I said “and it’s gone again. Well, there’s the race, darn it. Haul down that main,” I said to Al and George.

Wally swarmed on to the boat like a shower of sandbags.

“Hey!” he yelled. “Wait! Don’t do that !”

“Why not?” I said. “I’ll never be able to hold the tiller for ten miles. Not in this wind.”

“Well !” Wally said, looking wild, “you can’t let Hoyt take this race without giving him a battle. You can’t do that. Listen. Can you hold the jib?”

I said I thought I probably could.

“Well, let me sail her then.” Wally said. “How about it?”

“All right,” 1 said, not too eager. “But there’s that golf match of yours.”

Wally settled down next to the tiller with the first smile 1 had seen on his homely pan in a month. I le looked as if he had seen the old homestead snatched right out of the villain’s hands.

“Golf match?” he said. “I will tell you. Bill, and you may quote me. I will not give you a surly nod for allthe golf matches between here and any place else you care to mention. Now take up on that main halliard a little more and let’s get going.”

AS WE WENT out into the lake, you could almost feel the rest of the world being shut out of Wally’s mind. He took in the whole boat with one glance and smiled again.

Just to check up, I said, "Ann seems pretty excited. I guess she feels as if about her whole world depended on this race.” The first gun went then, and Wally did not even answer. He was not the same sacrificing sweetness-and-lighc merchant who had given up all for a woman’s happiness a little while ago.

"Give me the seconds to go after the next gun.” he said to AÍ. “All of you keep your eyes inside the boat at the start. I’ll

take care of the rest of them. And don’t answer any hails.”

It was a windward start, and practically the whole fleet came down on the line on the starboard tack, with Hoyt and the Dipper well in the lead. That was the difference between Hoyt and an ordinary sailor. Most of them hit the line a second or so late to be safe, but he went out to ¡ smack it right on the nose with the gun.

We were the only ones on the ixrrt tack. This gave the others the right of way. of course, but it also gave us plenty of room.

As the Dipper and Wall Flower converged on each other. Hoyt stuck his head down under the boom and hailed us.

“WallFlower, ahoy!” he yelled. “We’re claiming right of way.”

“Quiet,” Wally warned us. “Don't up.”

We didn't, and the next moment I heard ; Ann scream in a small voice that we were | going to hit. Probably nine out of ten I skippers .ould have been bluffed into comJ ing atout or at least lulling enough to j avoid hitting, which would have meant losing headway, but not Hoyt. He had toen in too many races. He yelled again and kept right on coming. Just when 1 began to wonder myself, Wally muttered to himself and gave the order to stand by. We came about very smoothly indeed at exactly the right place to gain headway and give the Dipper a dose of backwind off our mainsail as we crossed the line with the gun.

Naturally the Dipper fell behind, and Hoyt tacked just over the line and set out for free wind. We covered him. When we i were well clear of the other boats, Hoyt tacked again, and we covered. That began a dog fight that lasted all the first leg. but I guess maybe there is something in this revolving mast and plank boom after all. Because the Dipper was about ten seconds faster on that leg, and we rounded the first mark together. We broke out our spinnakers side by side, and there wasn’t an inch between us at the bottom of the course.

The third leg was a fairly broad reach, and I half expected the Dipper to draw away from us right after we rounded the second buoy. But she didn’t.

“Nice going, toy,” I said to Wally. “You’re holding him.”

Wally tcxik a quick glance at the other boat. Then his jaw set.

“Hoyt!” he yelled.

“Hello,” the answer came back.

“Don’t bother to give us the race,” Wally said in a sarcastic voice. “Watch your jib.”

I could not see Hoyt’s face, and probably it was nothingtfor the kiddies to dream about, but I heard his voice when he sjxike to Ann.

“Your jib’s backing the mainsail, Ann,” he said in a level tone. “Ease off. This is no time for memories.”

I could not tell if Wally heard this or not, but anyway the Dipper began to draw away, and she had atout fifteen seconds on us as we went around the home buoy for the second lap.

I figured that was the race right there. Hoyt picked up ten more seconds or so on the windward leg, and we were trailing badly on the run.

THERE WAS nothing Wally could do.

The Dipper was a shade faster, that was all, and Hoyt was making no errors. But Wally took it hard. 1 only had to ltxjk at his face to see how much he wanted to take that race I guess he had come to the point where winning it was the only way lie had of proving to himself that he was not the wash-out lhat losing everything to Hoyt made him look to be. He had his teeth clamped on his lower lip. and his face was twisted as if something was hurting him; you could almost see him trying to push the Wall Flower ahead with his mind.

We got down near the leeward mark, and Wally told Al and George to take in the spinnaker. His voice was very sad.

Then all of a sudden he went tense. “Bill!” he whispered to me. “Look!”

“Where?” I said.

“Don’t let anylxxly in the fleet see you,” Wally said, “but look up on that hill behind the clubhouse.”

1 did, and it was a very pleasant hill, quite green, with a farmhouse on top of it. I asked what about it.

“There’s a pair of overalls or something on the clothesline,” Wally said.

This was correct, and I began to get it. “They’ve been blowing like the devil all afternoon,” Wally said. “And now they’re stopping. The wind’s going to shift. It’s dying up there; it’ll begin to die down here pretty soon. Those clouds in the northwest,” Wally said. “If it shifts, they ought to mean a storm. If they do, we’ll get a blow and it’ll lxout of the northwest. The last leg’ll be a dead lx*at to windward.” “Right,” I said.

“When we round this mark,” Wally said, “we’ll take one long tack up the lake. We’ll wave bye-bye to the Dipper as it we were digusted and were quitting. If that wind does shift, we’ll get it right where we can reach home and drive her all the way while Hoyt’s tacking.”

That’s what we did. We sUxxl off up the lake as if we were through, waving to the Dipper. \ could see the smile on Hoyt’s face. It was quite a pitying smile with more than a dash of scorn in it. But Ann was not smiling at all.

By the time we got to the middle of the lake, the wind started to sink fast. It shifted a bit, and I could see Hoyt trimming his sails. Then it shifted more, and lie had to fall away from the mark. I guess he saw then why we had gone up the lake, because he came about. But it was loo late. The wind gathered force by the second and came right down the line from the finish. It got darker behind the hill, and a lady came out of the farmhouse and took the overalls off the clothesline.

We had farther to go than the Dipper. but we were on a close reach and would not have to change sails, while Hoyt had to keep tacking all the way. We were plowing down there like a team of runaways, and we could have stood a reef. But there was no time for that, and we had to hike up on the weather rail—the whole crew.

“Why don’t you start the main a little,”

I said to Wally. “We can trim the jib flatter without losing much headway, and we won’t go over.”

“We’ll drive her this way,” Wally said, without moving his lips.

“You’ll put her over,” I said, thinking how he used to do that sometimes even in an ordinary wind.

“Probably,” Wally said.

Well, it was my boat, but Wally was boss at the moment, so all I did was climb up with Al and George and keep quiet.

Then 1 saw that Hoyt had come about for the last time and was bearing up on the same point of the line we were. The wind was getting stronger every second, singing through the shrouds and making the sheets something to hold. Wally looixxi a rope around the tiller and held it from the rail with one hand, and took the main sheet in the other. He ordered the jib sheeted down, and the rest of us hung over the side, bracing our feet against the

bottom. It was a case of holding her out of the water by main strength.

It couldn’t go on for long. I knew we were going over any minute, but we all hung on and pulled with everything we had. 1 could hear the crowd on the club wharf yelling.

Then out of nowhere the Dipper loomed up—from where I was I couldn’t see her till she was right on top of us. We were Ixnv to bow ten yards from the line. The next breath, Wally dived forward and rammed the helm down. The Wall Flower shot up into the wind and gathered just enough extra speed to push our mast across the line half a heart-beat in front of the Dipper's.

At this point we went over.

MAYBE the old-timers would say it was not the way to win a race, but we won it. We were busy for a few minutes getting the Wall Flower on her feet again, and pretty soon a power boat came out to help. We got no end of a reception as we came in.

Hoyt had got his sails off. He and Ann sUxxl in the boat, watching us. They were not saying anything. Hoyt got out and walked along the wharf to where we were.

“If you care to have the Dipper back,” he said to Wally, “I’d be glad to sell it to you. I don’t mind taking a loss. Nice race.”

He walked on, and then I knew what it was 1 had not liked about Hoyt Blackwell all this time. He couldn’t lose. I do not mean any guy ought to like losing just to show what a sterling sportsman he is, hut he ought to think about the next time. Hoyt didn’t. When he lost, that was the end.

We climbed out to take the sails in where we could spread them out to dry. Wally and 1 were the last off the boat. Ann met us on the lawn. It was getting darker. “That was a nice race, Wally,” Ann said. “Thanks,” Wally said, beaming. “1 am going to get the Dipper back.”

She nodded.

She said: “Wally, do you know why

I wasn’t trimming the jib right on the first lap that time?”

“A tough job, handling a jib,” Wally said. “It’s easy to make mistakes.”

“You don’t know, do you?” she said. “Well,” Wally said, “anybody can make a mistake. It wasn’t trimmed so bad.” “I’m glad you don’t know,” she said. “But Hoyt did. Hoyt understands women.”

Wally nodded and got a little red.

“You know,” Ann said in a reflective voice, “I learned something in that race.” It started to rain.

“It’s starting to rain,” I said.

“I learned,” Ann said, looking at Wally, “that what a woman wants—this woman anyway—is not to be understood particularly—but loved.”

At that moment there was a rip of thunder as if somehxxly had torn the roof off of heaven, and all the rain in the world came down right on that spot. They were not noticing me, and there did not seem much chance that they would be noticing anybody else for some time, so I went inside.