Ellery's Reminiscences continue with Come Aboard the Draggers
Ellery decided to continue his life story without the benefit of professional editing. The new book, published 1958 and printed by The Stonington Publishing Company, has a rather different character: more Ellery and less Robert Ballou, at times unvarnished, with more of the real Ellery leaping off its pages. If the writer from Kansas found Ellery's people "real in your clothing of words," Come Aboard the Draggers shows them even more real. Some of the same ground is covered, but Come Aboard complements Haul and one should read both.
For Connecticut readers one of the delights of Ellery's narratives is the vignettes of places where he lived: Quiambaug, Groton, New London, and Stonington, as well as his Mystic birthplace where he lived again after giving up fishing.
From Come Aboard the Draggers:
"When this starboard-listed fisherman-author visited Stonington as a youngster in 1913, long after the Stonington Line had stopped running their New York steamboats, the local fleet of drag-boats was pitifully small. In fact, the entire fishing scene...didn't impress me nearly as much as the big out-of-commission paddlewheelers Puritan and Pilgrim, tied up at the old steamboat pier, now the site of Longo's Fish Packing Station." (p. 9)
"It seems rather strange to me that my father was about to give birth to dragging off eastern Connecticut in waters that have seen launched the steamers Minnesota and Dakota, once (around 1903) the largest freighters ever built in America...
From Draggerman's Haul:
"I could see the beam from a Sound steamer's searchlight playing about on low-hanging clouds. A tugboat was blowing a series of short snappy toots, signaling barges to stand by with hawsers. A Sound fog had cleared, and another shipment of coal was to continue along the coast. Morgan's yacht Corsair could be seen silhouetted against the well-lit New London waterfront."
Ellery sent a copy of Come Aboard the Draggers to Capt. Edward L. Beach (who would later publish books of his own), receiving a letter of thanks and a certificate commemorating the first submerged circumnavigation of the world by U.S.S. Triton in 1960. Launched at Groton's Electric Boat Company in 1959 in view of Ellery's former home, Triton was then the largest submarine in the Navy.
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Near the end of Come Aboard the Draggers Ellery assumes a somewhat valedictory tone:
"Our Thompson way of life was partially exposed in Draggerman's Haul, now out of print, but my book didn't tell all by a long shot and letters since ask questions which encouraged me to overhaul my fishy affairs as if I were an old ship with some ship-worms in the keel that must come out to the light of day. (p. 115)
"I have had letters from and been the guest of such nice people as the famous radio Fitzgeralds, Ed and Pegeen, Henry Fonda and Daniel Merriman...One "Islander" in particular, Henry Beetle Hough, editor of the Vineyard Gazette on Martha's Vineyard, has encouraged me to write further about our life along our coast, "at whatever cost." (p. 115)
"But now the overall picture of dragging for a living has changed, and though the sky seems clear far overhead, there is fog closing in, over sea and valley, perhaps as nature intended." (p. 118)
Below: A letter from a literary agent in 1956 regrets that a manuscript submitted to Life on Ellery's behalf had come back "with many regrets and apologies," even though all agreed there was "so much good substance." This was almost certainly some of the material included two years later in Come Aboard the Draggers.