The Legend of Billy Ghol

Imagine a sailor. The year is 1907. He’s just finished up swabbing the deck.

You can see him there, resting up against his mop. He takes a whiff of that salty air. Seagulls fly overhead.

This sailor’s been out to sea for months. What beauty to behold as Grays Harbor and Aberdeen, Washington come into view.

As the sailor came into port, on one said of the Chehalis River he saw four canneries resting on the banks. On the other side was a spattering of lumber mills processing the old growth timber giants: cedar, spruce, and fir.

And the sailor noticed something else as he landed in what was then the largest ship building port in the world. The town was teaming with people.

Thousands of sailors like him, far flung men from all over the world, and loggers. His eyes could barely grasp the number of what looked to be mountain men still wearing their specialty boots that chewed through the wooden sidewalks after months in the wilderness.

With pay in their pockets they quenched their desires. They were available in abundance at the many saloons, gambling halls and brothels. Anything was available for a price.

But this sailor’s first stop was the Sailor’s Union and man named Billy Gohl.

Billy was short and stocky with a shaved head, a barrel chest and wide smile. He was known as a sailor’s sailor, which meant he had done the hard, often thankless work that was a sailor’s life and he had the tattoos to prove it.

A sailor arriving at the Sailor’s Union expected to get paid, and Billy was only too glad to oblige, counting out the bills for their months of toiling with an easy smile and charming bravado. That day as the sailor scooped up the cash, he thought he was in the company of a friend, not knowing the monster behind the mask…

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