The year was 1842 when we arrived at Boston Harbor. I was only 18 years old and had boarded a ship with my friend Bobby McTeague who was all of 17 ruffian years old. My birth name given to me was T.J. McTavish, but was raised in a foster home until Bobby and I escaped after taking enough money from the house funds to pay our way to get to the Americas.
Hefting our limited plunder of what little we did have on our backs, with belted straps over our shoulders, we started down the gang planks to settle our feet on new and wondrous soil.
The air smelled of salt water and fish, with some coal and wood smoke in the misty cool late-winter air. We were going to need money to survive, so McTeague and I decided to canvas the fisheries for work.
“I’ll head down the board walks, McTeague, and you go up the wharf. If you find work for both of us, it’d be better, but if only one of us gets work, we’ll have to take it for now.”
“Aye,” McTeague replied, “and we’ll meet back here this evening to reckon our findings.”
We both agreed and mingled our way through the crowds.
I started down to the first merchants business and entered the dark room with its musty smell of old boarded shelves filled with items of soaps, ironworks, dried vegetables, whale oil, black powder and ball, and every thing imaginable to dried smoked meats and fresh ocean fish of various orders. A tinge of burning whale oil also filled the room with its memorable odor as the lanterns lit every nook and cranny of the store in dense dimness.
I saw in a jar what looked to be a sweet candy and entered my fist to check my curiosity when a huge hand grasped my wrist and jerked it out. Then a bold stern voice nearly shattered my ears!
“Have you the coin, lad?” barked the stranger.
“Yes, sir,” I said, as I gazed up at his face to see the man. He wore a patch on one eye and carried a scar along the right side of his face that ran from his ear to his lower jaw. The sight of him nearly made me shudder.
“It’ll be a penny each, lad,” said the stranger.
“Yes sir,” I said, as I pulled a handful of change from my pouch.
Purchasing a piece of sugar candy, an apple, and a short hank of dried meat, I inquired of the man, “Have you a job, sir?”
“No lad, but you can work for room and board.”