The Weather Prophet

A native Texan and a partner in the Houston law firm of Baker, Bolts, Andrews, and Parish, DILLON ANDERSONis establishing a fresh reputation as a writer of short stories. He is contributing to the Atlantic a series of adventures in the lives of two happy hobos who fortunately do not take themselves too seriously. The Editor captured the first story on his visit to Houston in 1948; this is the fifth, and there are more to come.


LISTEN, Claudie,” I said, “I’d about as soon be plumb out of money as to have only four or five dollars.”

“I druther have this here five dollars, Clint,” he answered.

“But what I’m trying to tell you is this,”I went on; “we’ve got to get our car fixed, and that five dollars won’t do it. You know what the man at the garage said; he won’t touch the burnt-out bearing for less than twenty dollars.”

Claudie just stood there on the docks looking at a battered-up old shrimper nudging its way in to the pier. It was late in the afternoon, the hot Texas sun was beginning to ease up on us a little, and the mosquitoes were moving in. We’d been watching the fishing boats for an hour or so as they came in from the Gulf of Mexico to unload their catch at the Rockport wharf.

“Remember, Claudie,” I said, “we’ve been here on the waterfront for three days now, and nobody has offered us any kind of a job at all. You know that. The only thing we’ve been asked to since we arrived here is the crap game on that big yacht tonight. Who worked up that invitation? Me or you?”

“Aou did,” Claudie admitted, “but you didn’t have to tell the man on the yatch that you was a friend of the Governor of Texas.”

“Anyway,”I said, “I can’t figure how I’m going to get even one roll with the dice if I haven’t got any money.”

“ You shoulda thought of that last night before you tried to break all them pinball machines,” he answered.

“Listen, Claudie, I went on, “do you know what happened to the man in the Bible with five talents?”

“No. What?”

“I’ll tell you,” I said. “He put the talents to work, that’s what; and in the long run he turned out better than the fellow that just sat on what he had.”

Claudie’s stubborn look was softening up.

“Another thing, Claudie,” I went on. “You might have noticed how I’ve been watching the birds in the sky all day.”

“What have they got to do with it?" Claudie wanted to know as he kicked against a rotten pile on the dock and watched the splinters fall among some jellyfish that were squooching around there in the water.

“Plenty,” I told him. “The sky is where a change in a man’s luck will always show up. You can notice it first in the flight of sea gulls and pelicans; then you begin to see it in other ways. Now I can feel it in my bones too. This is my lucky day with the dice.”

“Trouble is,” Claudie fussed, “you’ve felt this way before and been wrong.”

“Tell you what I’ll do, Claudie,” I said. “ You keep four dollars and let me have one. If I’m wrong, the whole five wouldn’t last long; but if I’m right, that’ll be enough to get me started. I’ll give you exactly half of what I win, and your dollar back to boot.”

That got him; he fished an old wrinkled dollar bill out of his pocket and turned it over to me. I said, “Thank you, Claudie. Now I want you to come along to the crap game with me. You might bring me even more luck.”

When we got down to the private docks about dusk we found the yacht we were looking for. The name was painted in gold letters on the rear end: The Pride of Texas, III. It was the biggest of the long, shiny boats tied up there. The lights were already burning inside, and we could see how fine it was fixed with big comfortable chairs and sofas, a radio, and pretty rugs on the floor.

The man that had asked me to the crap game stuck his head through a window and said, “Come aboard, men,” and we climbed on the boat’s rear end. It was made like a porch with a big awning over it.

I said to the man, “I didn’t get your name this morning, Captain.”

“Hinder,” he said, “but they call me Squatty,” and I could see why. He wasn’t much over five feet tall, and he was nearly square. His jaw set out a little like a bulldog’s, but he had nice, friendly little brown eyes. He was wearing a blue cap with some gold palms sewed on the front.

“Clint Hightower is the name,” I told him, “and this big guy here is my associate, Claudie Hughes. He came to bring me luck.” Claudie grinned, and we went inside.

While we waited for the other crapshooters to come along, Squatty explained that The Pride of Texas, III belonged to a rich oilman named Easley who lived in Fort Worth. Squatty said that Mr. Easley had gone to Canada on a vacation, so it was all right for us to shoot craps in the owner’s cabin.

Squatty told us he lived on the boat and kept it shipshape all the time, and as he spoke I could see that he was real proud of the way it looked. He should have been, too: all the brass was shining, the windows were clean, and you couldn’t see a speck of dust anywhere. The owner’s cabin was neat as a pin too. It had two big bunks, wide almost as beds, a dresser with real drawers and a mirror above it, and bright lights all around. A nice, smooth rug covered the floor, perfect for dice.


IT wasn’t long before the other crapshooters came along. I remember one was a San Antonio plumber that had a red mustache: then there was a fat shrimp-boat captain that they called Big Squall; there was a Mexican, and a Bible salesman with a peculiar motto tattooed on his arm that read, “Oh hell, what’s the use?” There was another one, too; a very grubby-looking character that came late, lost his money, and left early. I noticed they all called Squatty “Captain Squatty.”

We all got right down on the rug in the owner’s cabin and went to work with the dice. The first time I rolled I shot a half and ran it up to five or six dollars before I fell off. It looked like my lucky day, but Claudie just sat there on one of the bunks with a droopy look on his face. Then I faded some of the others, but the dice were right, so when it came my turn again, I was down to about where I had started. But I put down my dollar and made four passes before I fell off again. I almost didn’t drag in time, but I came out with three dollars.

It went along like this for three or four hours; several times I was up, but not much; other times I got down to nearly even. Along about midnight people started to gape and stretch, and it began to look like the game was about over. The luck had been pretty even all around, except I could tell from the ugly looks they were giving Big Squall that he had been stashing some money away.

I figured it was time for me to hit a big lick if I had one in my system, so the next time I got the dice I counted out and put down all I had — eight dollars and a half. They covered it, and I rolled two big, ugly sixes — boxcars. They gathered up my money and yelled, “Go ahead, Clint, you’ve still got the dice.”

I looked at Claudie, and he was sound asleep there on the bunk. “Wake up, Claudie,” I said. “I need another dollar.” Claudie woke up. I whispered to him that I still had the dice and told him it was the unluckiest thing in the world for a man to pass a roll he had coming to him, but Claudie just sat there blinking. Everybody was looking at me, and I had to do something right away. At such times a man may have his best ideas. The best I could do was to say, “Gents, my associate here, Claudie, will shoot for me. I’ve got a little cramp in my right arm.” Nobody said no, so I said, “Go ahead, Claudie, and shoot a dollar.”

He was still too drowsy to argue, so he put a dollar down. Somebody covered it, and Claudie rolled the dice out on the rug. He made a neat seven.

“Fade it, men,”I said; “we shoot the two dollars,”and the two got to be four. The four got to be eight; and when it was sixteen, Claudie said he wanted to drag it and quit. Those frogskins there on the rug were waking him up.

“Are you crazy?” I asked him. “I knew I’d seen luck for somebody in the sky today. It wasn’t me. It was you. Let it all ride!”

Claudie let it ride and passed again. Next he made two hard points: a nine and then a ten. We had sixty-four dollars won, and they had to dig deep to cover it, but they did. Claudie came out. with eight for a point, and on the very next roll he made it the hard way — two fours. His luck was in the light of the moon.

“Eighter,” I yelled, “from Decatur, the county seat of Wise,”and all I got was some black looks. Then I said, “We let it all ride. A hundred and twenty-eight dollars is begging.”

Captain Squatty went through a little door in the front of the owner’s cabin and came back with a roll of bills you could have wadded a cannon with. He counted them out, and with what Big Squall dug out of his jeans they finally got our pile of money covered. There on the cabin floor was two hundred and fifty-six dollars — half ours and half theirs — and one more pass was all we needed to break up the game. I looked at Claudie, and I could see he was ready. He was lightning ready to strike, and he did! He rolled a great big sparkling eleven, and it got so quiet we could hear the oysters clapping their shells together on the bottom of Rockport Bay.

Captain Squatty spoke up first; he said he was out of cash, but he had a government bond in the bank at Port Lavaca: he wondered if he could put in his I O U to cover the two hundred and fifty-six dollars.

“Sure. Let’s have it,”I told him, so he wrote it out on the back of an envelope and put it on top of the pile of bills there on the cabin floor. By this time Claudie had a wild, rich look in his eyes, like a trapeze artist taking a bow. He was blowing on the dice and whispering soft words to them. Captain Squatty was pale as a ghost, and little beads of sweat were cropping out all over his face, but he said, “Go ahead, Claudie, and shoot; but you’d better roll them hard against the bulkhead.”

“Against the what?" Claudie asked.

“The door to the head, right there in front of you,” the Captain told him. He was almost fussy with Claudie, I thought.

As he came out with the dice, Claudie snorted like a mule colt. “Come seven,”he said in a hoarse voice. The bones bounced against the door and settled back on the soft rug — a six and an ace.

“Seven it is,” I said as I picked up the pile of bills and Captain Squatty’s I O U. “You can’t beat a shooter that is in tune with the sky.”

After all the others left, I and Claudie stayed on the boat a little while to speak with Captain Squatty alone about the I O U; but before we could, he went to the icebox and got out three bottles of cold beer. He swigged the beer and licked his lips where they’d been drying up after Claudie’s last pass; then he said, “Gents, I am worried about that I O U you’ve got there.”

“We’re not, Captain Squatty,” I told him. “You can get your I O U back in the morning when you cash the bond.”

He swallowed, and his face got the color of things that grow under rocks. “Trouble is,”he said, “the bond ain’t enough to do it. It’s only a twenty-fivedollar bond.”

Claudie began to count on his fingers, and I said, “Captain, I wouldn’t worry a minute about the difference. It ain’t but two hundred and thirty-one dollars.”

He fired up a cigarette and took a drag that burnt it about halfway down before he said, “That’s what I figure, but I haven’t got the money.”

“Think nothing of it, Captain,” I said. “I and Claudie can take it out in room and board on this yacht while Mr. Easley is in Canada. We’ll use this room right here and credit you with ten dollars every day we stay. Before long it’ll all be paid out.”

Captain Squally started, “But this is the owner’s cabin - “; then I went on, “And now I wonder if you could pass us another couple of bottles of that nice cold beer. We’re going to like it here fine.”


THE next morning it was cloudy and a little cooler, so I and Claudie slept late. As I was waking up, I thought what a shame and a waste it was for those lovely mattresses in the owner’s cabin not to be used every night of the world. When Captain Squatty came from the little room in the front of the boat where he had his bunk, I told him that I and Claudie had one weakness we hoped he could get used to.

“What’s that?" the Captain asked.

“We like our breakfast in bed. The other meals we get up and dress for.”

Without a word, Captain Squatty went into the kitchen and started pumping away on the alcohol stove.

“Claudie,”I said, “would you like a little coffee first, or with your breakfast?”

“I like coffee first thing, Clint,” Claudie answered.

“Hear that, Captain Squatty?” I yelled. “I and Claudie like coffee first; one lump for me and two for him. No cream, please; we like it hot and black.”

After breakfast we got dressed, and I sent Claudie up to the garage to get the burnt-out bearing on our car fixed. “See about a new battery, too, Claudie,”I told him as he left. “I like for a battery to turn the starter over fast. While you are at it, you might want to get a foxtail for the radiator cap and a bottle of medicine for your corns. Get the largest size.”

While Captain Squatty cleaned up the kitchen and washed the dishes, I went out on the rear end of the boat and stood under the awning to study the sky. Higher up it was solid gray, and dark clouds were rolling in low from the gulf. The gusty air had the feel of worse weather coming, and I called Captain Squatty out to speak with him about it.

“Tell me, Captain,”I said, “what do you make of this weather?”

“The glass is low, Clint,” he answered.

“The what?" asked.

“The barometer,” he said. “It’s below twentynine. There’s a hurricane somewhere out there in the Gulf.”

“Don’t tell Claudie,” I said. “He’s always been afraid of storms.”

But when Claudie came back to the yacht around noon, he had already heard about it. In fact, he said, the town was pretty full of hurricane talk. The storm was still way down in the Gulf of Mexico, close to Yucatan, they were saying, but it could blow in anywhere along the Gulf Coast. I kept a pretty close eye on the sky the rest of the day, and the Captain studied the glass.

The next morning the weather looked a lot better, and there was almost no wind at all. The talk along the waterfront was that the hurricane was about to peter out down around Mexico somewhere. Captain Squatty said the glass was higher, and I told him I liked the feel of the weather a little better. I said, “Couldn’t we fire up this here yacht, Captain, and go out there in the bay somewhere and catch ourselves a nice mess of fish?”

“I can’t do it,” he said.

“I don’t know why,”I said. “We’ll credit you an extra ten dollars on the IOU for every fishing trip we make.”

“Mr. Easley’s orders are not to move The Pride of Texas, III from this dock except for a hurricane.”

“What?” I asked him. “You mean you would go right out in a storm?”

“Sure,” he said. “In case of a big blow, The Pride of Texas, III would be bashed all to hell against this dock here if I left it tied up. Out in the bay you can anchor a boat and ride it out. That’s part of my job; to pull out in the bay if there’s a hurricane coming.”

The next morning our car was ready to run again, so we left Claudie to watch the boat and the weather while I drove Captain Squatty over to Port Lavaca to get our bond. We cashed it for twenty-five dollars, and I marked up the Captain’s payment on the IOU. I gave him credit for another twenty dollars to cover the two days we had lived on the boat and another five dollars on account of the Captain’s fine cooking. That cut it down to two hundred and six dollars.

On the way back from Port Lavaca the sun broke through the clouds, and Captain Squally said he believed that old hurricane must have blown itself out somewhere.

“Don’t be too sure,” I answered; “the sky don’t look too good, and the air don’t feel plumb right to me yet.”

The Captain grunted and said, “I just think you want to go fishing, Clint, but you wouldn’t get me in any more trouble with Mr. Easley than I’m already in, would you?”

“The last thing I’d want to do,” I told him, “would be to get you in trouble with Mr. Easley.”


THE next morning there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, the water was clear and blue, and the air felt fresh and clean. A lot of fishing boats shoved off early. I and Claudie got up, dressed for breakfast, and Captain Squatty served it to us on the rear end of the boat under the awning. While he was bringing us toothpicks, I credited him with ten dollars for another day; then, while I was at it, I wrote up another ten dollars for the next day and said, “Captain, from here on we’re going to pay in advance every day. See here, this IOU is down now to a hundred and eighty-six dollars.”

Captain Squatty only nodded his head and chewed awhile on one of his thumbnails.

After breakfast Claudie went to get us some cards and cigars and bring Captain Squatty’s mail back from the post office. We smoked and played pitch all morning on the deck while the Captain freshened up the boat. He wiped all the windows with a chamois skin; he swept the boat out from one end to the other and waxed the floors and the wood inside; then he hosed and mopped the outside of the boat and polished all the brass on it. By noon there wasn’t anything about the boat that wasn’t shining, except our cigarette trays, and Captain Squatty emptied them and wiped the ashes out inside. Then he went to get our provisions for the day at the store in Rockport where Mr. Easley had a charge account.

When Captain Squatty came back with a big basket full of groceries and things, I asked him how the glass was, and he said, “Rising; the hurricane must be gone.”

“That’s what I want to speak to you about, Captain,” I told him. “I have a troubled feeling about the weather.”

“The glass is good enough for me,” he answered as he went down to the kitchen with the food. I followed him down there and left Claudie at the card table.

“Captain Hinder,” I said, and I was very firm, “suppose you got warned that a hurricane was coming and you didn’t take The Pride of Texas, III out in the bay to ride it out. Then if a hurricane did come, you’d really be in trouble with Mr. Easley, wouldn’t you?”

“I’ll say I would,”he answered without even looking up.

“Well,” I said, “I’m warning you now, Captain; there may be a hurricane. Don’t tell Claudie; he’s scared of storms, but I figure we’d better get this yacht out in the bay.”

The Captain’s jaw tightened up, and his eyes seemed to get smaller, but he didn’t say a word.

“Of course,” I went on, “we can fish until it comes up. We’ll give you an extra sixteen dollars’ credit for the trip. That’ll cut the I O U down to a hundred and seventy dollars. I’ll bet you never thought you’d work it off so fast!”

“I’ll do it if you credit me with twenty-six dollars for the trip,” he answered, and I took him up in a hurry.

I pulled out the I O U, wrote the credit on the back and showed it to him. “See?” I said. “Paid in advance.”

Captain Squatty fired up the motors while Claudie untied us from the docks, and we took off. As we hummed along through the water with the motors singing together, I and Claudie sat back in the deck chairs on the rear end smoking cigars and feeding bread crumbs to the gulls.

“Claudie,”I said, “this is the way a man should live every day of his life. A lot of people get themselves so tangled up in work and bother that they never take time to pleasure themselves; they get old before they learn to enjoy the liner things in this great big world. Take Mr. Easley; I’11 bet he’s up there in Canada right now worrying about expenses and taxes and the government.”

“I shore feel sorry for Mr. Easley,”Claudie said.

When we got out in the middle of Copano Bay, we saw a big bunch of gulls working above the water close to a little green island, and the Captain said that was a very good sign; the gulls were eating mullet that had been driven to the top of the water by a school of bigger fish. We circled the island and found that the gulls were working above a long, narrow reef where the water was light green and so shallow that the waves broke and splashed in a line along the surface. Captain Hinder said it was an oyster reef where the fishing was sometimes good. He eased the boat across the blue channel that lay between the island and the reel and hacked us up to the edge of the green water. He showed Claudie how to throw the anchor over, and we settled down to fish from the rear end of the boat.

Mr. Easley had the fanciest hooks and lines and winding reels I ever saw anywhere. Captain Squatty rigged our tackle and baited our hooks with shrimp, and from the first the fishing was fine. We caught trout, gaff-top catfish, croakers, whiting, and a few little sharks that we threw back. Claudie caught a sting ray about the size of a catcher’s mitt, and that long stinger whipping around scared Claudie aplenty. I stepped inside the boat and watched Claudie dodge and dance away from his catch until Captain Squatty finally managed to get it off the hook and back in the water.

The sun was slipping behind a big blue cloud bank in the west, and we had the fish box half full when Captain Squatty said, “We better get back to Rockport, Clint; it’ll take us an hour or more.”

“You must be forgetting my warning, Captain Hinder,” I said, looking him straight in the eye. He looked down.

“What warning?” Claudie wanted in know.

“Never mind,’Claudie,”I said. “We’ll be on the reef at daylight, and that’s when fishing is always best.”

The Captain pulled the boat away from the edge of the reef into the deeper water, and Claudie’s handling of the anchor on the move made me downright proud of him. Then Captain Squatty fried us a mess of fresh fish in corn meal, and we had a big supper on the yacht. We washed it down with cold beer. The slap, slap of the water against the sides and the easy sway of the boat back and forth made us sleepy on top of all that food and beer, so we turned in early.


WHEN a man has got himself used to the finer things in life, it jolts him to be roused in the middle of a deep sleep. This thought bruised my mind way in the middle of the night when I felt the boat take a big sway that batted my face up against the magazine rack next to my bunk. I wondered why they couldn’t put shock absorbers around the owner’s cabin to save him from such rough movements of a fine yacht like that. Then Claudie said, “What the hell was that we hit?”

Captain Squatty came in and turned on the lights. He said that a big wave had hit the boat.

“It ain’t gonna sink, is it?" Claudie wanted to know as he got up and started buttoning his shirt.

“No, Claudie,” I told him, “it ain’t gonna sink.” but I wasn’t too sure, since by this time the yacht, was rolling and swaying around more than ever. About this time another wave hit us, and a lot of water flew in the porthole by my bunk and sprinkled me all over. It tasted crawfishy and salty.

“Captain Hinder,”I said, “take a look at the glass.” He did and said it was low and falling.

“Here’s your hurricane,”I told him. “I’m glad your God-damned glass has found out about it. at last.”

Then another wave hit and slammed us all down on one side of the owner’s cabin. It broke loose the pots and kettles below, and you couldn’t have matched the racket if you’d beaten a tow sack full of tin cans against the bottom of a washtub.

We went out on the rear end, and, sure enough, it was blowing hard, and the rain was coming down in sheets. The awning was flapping around, popping in the wind like a buggy whip, until Captain Squatty finally got it down and brought it inside. Then the hurricane really got into high gear.

I’ve seen the wind blow the wash right off a clothesline, and I’ve seen it blow knotholes out of pine fences, but that was on dry land. It’s worse on the water. The wind was coming in gusts; hard, howling gusts, each one stronger and longer and louder, until I had a feeling deep in my insides that something had to give somewhere. Then it would ease up a little before il came again, harder each time than the time before, until The Pride of Texas, III was bobbing around like a dead fly in a churn.

I told Claudie how the yacht was better off where we were, and he tried his best to believe me, but all he could say was “ I’ve allus been scared of storms.” He began to gulp and swallow like an old tomcat with a fishbone in his throat, a light skim came over his eyes, and he turned scum-green around his mouth and chin. He said he might be a Little sick if the wind didn’t die down pretty soon. It didn’t, but as it went on and on, howling and screaming and whining out there, we got down on the floor of the boat and tried to get used to it — as used to it, that is, as a man can get to that much wind. For a long time nothing happened except a whole lot more of the same thing, and Captain Squatty told us that was about all there’d be to riding out the hurricane. Claudie said he figured that was enough.

When daylight came it made us feel better to see that we were still where we’d been the night before and not away off somewhere in the middle of a stormy ocean. The little island was right where it had been, and on the other side the waves were still piling up and breaking over the reef, but the water wasn’t green any more; it was muddy gray. The gusts were getting easier by the time it was broadopen day, and the rain was pouring almost straight down in between them. In an hour it was dead calm, and Claudie was looking more like himself. He said his liver was still bothering him some, though, and he believed he’d go back to bed.

“I wouldn’t,” Captain Squatty told him. “It’s only half over. The center is passing us now. In a little while we’ll have the other half.”

He was a man who knew his hurricanes all right, and pretty soon the wind started to blow again — but from the other direction. The yacht swung around on the anchor rope so that the rear end was pointed toward the reef, and the island was up ahead. We drank some coffee while we could, and by the time we were through, the hurricane was up to full steam again — and then some. It was raining harder again, and it was raining plumb sideways — that’s how hard the wind was blowing.

“Two halves of a hurricane is all they is, ain’t they?” Claudie asked once between gusts.

“Certainly, Claudie,” I told him. “You got that far in arithmetic, I know.”

I don’t know what made me glance out in front of the boat as it swung back and forth against the anchor and rolled in the wind, but when I did I saw that something awful had happened to the island. It was a long way off. First I thought it had moved, and then I knew it must have been the yacht moving. Captain Squatty saw it at almost the same time that I did; then we looked back of us, and there were the waves piling up on the reef not fifty feet away. The Captain’s little eyes got big, and he said, “Good God, we’re dragging anchor!”

“How’s that?” Claudie asked.

“We’re dragging anchor,”he said. “If we pile up on that oyster reef, there won’t be a piece of this here yacht big enough to pick your teeth with. Get up on the bow and get ready to raise the anchor. I’ll start the motors.”

I said, “Who? Me?” as Squatty ran to start the motors and yelled, “Both of you, or it’ll be too late.”

I looked at Claudie, and Claudie looked ready. We went through Captain Squatty’s cubbyhole to the lid that opened on the front of the boat where the anchor rope was tied.

“Go on, Claudie,” I said. “I’m coming behind you.” He opened the lid, and when he did a gust of wet wind swept through it and slapped us down on the floor.

“Go ahead,” I urged him, “we haven’t got much time,” and somehow Claudie got his six and a half foot bulk through the hatch. Then I got out, and we both held on to the little stob on the front of the boat where the anchor rope was tied. We were in a long, high gust that got harder and stronger until I felt like it would buckle-in my eardrums if it got. any worse.

Finally we both got a good hold on the anchor rope. It was tight, and I could feel a quiver in it as the anchor would give and drag a little. I knew that anchor was plowing a furrow there on the bottom of the bay. I looked back once and saw that on one of our long swings against the anchor the rear end of the yacht was nearly even with the breakers on the reef. I figured we might clear it once more, but I figured if we did, it would be the last time. When the wind slacked between gusts, I knew it was our time to get her away before all hell broke loose on the rear end. By this time the motors were whining and groaning, and we could feel the whole boat throb as they fought against the wind. We eased forward a little, and I and Claudie pulled the rope in and kept it tight, coiling up the slack behind us. Finally, we were right over the anchor, and the rope went straight down from the front of the boat.

“It’s now or never, Claudie,” I yelled, and we heisted hard on it, but the anchor wouldn’t budge.

Claudie reached down and got another hold on the rope; I got one just behind him, and we pulled with everything we had. I could see the big veins standing out on his neck like chicken guts, and it seemed that new muscles rose up around his eyes and ears as he strained to lift it. But the anchor was stuck solid in the bottom of Copano Bay. Captain Squatty was yelling something at us, but it wasn’t any use. You couldn’t hear anything above the roar of another gust that was building up, and by that time we were pulling as hard as we knew how, just to hold our own. Then we weren’t holding our own; we had to pay out some rope or go over with it, and I yelled, “Latch it onto the stob, Claudie, or we’ll be back where we started.”

Claudie wrapped the anchor rope several times around the stob there, as the gust blew out, and then the boat was pitching and rolling hard against the tight rope. That was what broke the anchor out, and as soon as it gave way, we pulled the rope in until the anchor was out of the water. I could see we were moving forward, away from the reef, with both motors screaming and straining down in the heart of The Pride of Texas, III.

In a few minutes we were clear out in the deep water, a hundred yards or more away from the reef, and Captain Squatty was yelling and motioning for us to drop the anchor again. We did, and this time it held. We got back down into the boat and closed the lid as another gust came and grew into full flow. Then Claudie was sick — very sick — but Captain Squatty said it was all right, since he’d cleaned up after seasick people before.

The hurricane petered out almost as fast as it had come. In an hour or so the yacht settled down to an easy roll, and the rain slacked up, but none of this cured Claudie. He was stretched out on the floor of the owner’s cabin, blinking his eyes and swallowing.

Around noon we pulled up the anchor and started back. As we left Copano Bay and headed south for Rockport, the water was plumb smooth again. I got out Captain Squatty’s I O U, gave him credit for another day’s room and board, and showed him how this cut it down to a hundred and fifty dollars.

Then I went down to the owner’s cabin to check up on Claudie. He was still on the floor, and he had laid beside him some things out of his pockets — wet matches, cigars, a deck of cards, and a letter. When I saw the letter was addressed to Captain Earl Hinder and postmarked Fort Worth, I said, “Where the hell did you get that, Claudie?”

“At the post office, whenever it was I went to get the mail,” he answered and rolled over on his stomach. “I must have forgot to give it to Captain Squatty.”

I took it up to the Captain, and as he read it, the muscles started working and quivering around his jawbones. He said, “It’s from Mr. Easley. He will be here Tuesday night with two guests.”

“Tuesday night was last night,” I reminded him.

“Oh, my God!” he yelled. “I’m ruined.”

“Ruined?” I said. “What do you mean ruined? Suppose you hadn’t taken The Pride of Texas, III out on Tuesday?”

By this time we were getting close to Rockport, and we could see what an awful mess the hurricane had made there. Tree limbs and chunks of wood were floating all around in the water. Four of the other yachts were partly sunk, and the back end of another one was battered and busted plumb out. There wasn’t a one of them that wasn’t bashed in one way or the other. One yacht, a blue one nearly as big as ours, was turned over and half sunk. There was a hole in the bottom a horse could have walked through.

A crowd of people stood there on the docks looking at all the damage, and as we eased up to the place where The Pride of Texas, III belonged, they all came over toward us. They grabbed our ropes and helped us tie up, and we climbed back onto dry land.

Mr. Easley was there to meet us. He was a nice little gray-haired man, all macked out in sport clothes. He shook hands with Captain Squatty and shook hands with us.

“Any damage to The Pride of Texas, III?” he asked.

“None, sir,” Captain Squatty said, standing straight and looking Mr. Easley in the eye.

“Hinder,” he said, “you are a real skipper. I knew you could smell out a blow if anybody could.”

Squally said, “Mr. Easley, I couldn’t have done it without the help of these two fine seamen here, Clint and Claudie.”

Mr. Easley beamed on us and took out a big green roll. He peeled off a hundred-dollar bill and handed it to me. He gave Claudie one, too, and said he wondered if it was a big enough tip at that.

“Mr. Easley,” I stated, “this is your change,” and I gave him fifty dollars out of the roll we’d won in the crap game.

“I don’t get it, fellows,” he said.

“I and my associate, Claudie, are professional men,” I said. “We do not work for tips. A hundred and fifty is all we are due, and that is all we will take. If you feel like it, you might want to give that extra fifty to Captain Squatty, though. He’s a fine skipper.”