Book Secrets and Extras

Leah DobkinDear Readers, Soul of a Port is jam packed with stories about the Port of Milwaukee, but there are so many more tales to tell and tidbits to share. Here are a few:

London Fog Saved Her Life
Eighty-six-year-old Captain Robert Priefer, the last captain of the passenger steamship Milwaukee Clipper, told me how he saved the life of the ship owner's dog, Raleigh McKee, a six-month-old boxer pup who got bored in the confines of the baggage room and jumped through an open porthole into the water. But Raleigh McKee was not the only living creature to jump overboard from the Milwaukee Clipper. Once, when Captain Priefer was at the helm, a woman jumped off the ship, but lucky for her loved ones, she forgot to take off her London Fog raincoat before her planned departure. Because the coat had water resistant qualities, it kept her afloat, and the crew was able to scoop her back into the boat to safety.

Not So Lucky
It's difficult to write about, and even more difficult to share, yet many people at the port have told me about the dead bodies found in the river and tidal basin, averaging about ten a year. Perhaps the most disturbing story was from a young deckhand, whose heart is as big as a house, according to a fellow worker.

One seemingly ordinary day, the deckhand was standing on his tugboat, moored to the dock, and a car flew over his head in a bold trajectory, right into the water. In less than a split second, the deckhand dove into the cold, muddy river basin, and frantically swam after the car, which was sinking quickly.

He reached the driver's side window, and as he approached, the determined older driver locked his car door with a fatal click, and shooed him away; a goodbye wave, that will haunt the deckhand forever.

Although in excellent shape, the deckhand could not hold his breath any longer. After a few desperate tries to break the window, he swam back to the surface. Despite the eight-foot walls rising from the water to the dock, the adrenalin-saturated deckhand scrambled up the wall to safety and despair. But the truth is, a man lost his life that day, and a young man discovered his courage.

Cover Quest
I was on a quest to find just the right book cover for Soul of a Port. The quest led me to a daylong excursion to the Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend, a small, charming museum in a small charming community.

It was well worth the trip. A few months prior to my visit, the Museum had an exhibition of paintings and photos of Milwaukee's Harbor and Jones Island, where the Port of Milwaukee is located. A few of the works belonged to the museum, and other works were owned by various individuals and institutions.

This little gem of a museum had a photo of an amazing painting from the exhibition. It was true love at first sight, and just perfect for the book cover of Soul of a Port! The title of the painting is Jones Island Slip, and it was painted by Wisconsin artist Helmut Summ.

I discovered the Museum of Wisconsin Art didn't own Mr. Summ's painting, but the Milwaukee Art Museum did, and they wanted 800 bucks to take another photo of the painting and for the rights to use it as a book cover.

Well, $800 was not in my budget, nor the Port's or the publisher's. Wondering whether I was crazy, I decided to raise the money from the port tenants to make this happen. Within 48 hours I was successful at raising the funds from three generous port tenants-Lake Express, Fusion Renewables and Kinder Morgan, a bulk terminal operator at the Port of Milwaukee.

Looking back, I think I actually am crazy, but not for raising $800 for rights to reproduce Mr. Summ's beautiful and soulful painting for the book's cover. Many have remarked that the book cover is gorgeous.

Can you tell a book by its cover? I sure hope so!

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