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And there was, too. At 12:30 p.m. a courier arrived and breathlessly whispered. Mr. Johnson's face lit up like a neon sign, and he announced: "Two more stripers have just been taken. We are dispatching a fishing boat to pick them up, and the tagging will proceed according to plan. Davy Jones cocktails are now being served in the dining room."
The guests filed into the dining room, took their Davy Jones cocktails from two girls costumed as mermaids (the guests remarking, to a man, that they would like to tag them) and then sat down to an all-fish luncheon which led off with a serving of baked striper. Mr. Johnson took a seat with the mermaids (who had taken off their mermaid tails), and at the head table Toastmaster Earle R. Poorbaugh started introducing speakers. R. Leiter Fitzsimmons, head of the brewery, said the contest was intended to promote Maryland as a great fishing state. Dr. Eugene Cronin, a biologist, said the striper was "the king wherever he is found." Miss Joanne Bayes, the tall, red-haired leading lady of the Crunch and Des television show, said she intended to whisper "Look before you eat!" to the tagged striper just before tossing him back in the bay—a purpose for which Miss Bayes had flown down from New York.
At 2:55 p.m. the guests made their way to the boats. Three were standing by: the Holiday, the Timm D and the Diamond Jim. Mr. Johnson announced that these boats would rendezvous with a fourth boat named Three Sisters off Love Point. With that, he grabbed one of the bartenders and leaped into the Diamond Jim, waving for the other craft to follow.
From then on, there was a whole series of disquieting bulletins by radiotelephone, some to the effect that there were plenty of live stripers now, others reporting that all had died. Meanwhile, Mr. Johnson kept racing from boat to boat in the Diamond Jim, a runabout, shouting, "Are the refreshments holding out?"
A little after 5 p.m. came a solid news bulletin. The Three Sisters had reached Rock Hall, picked up the two stripers and was now heading for the rendezvous. Advised of this, Mr. Johnson pulled alongside the Holiday and leaped aboard. He checked with a state biologist who would do the actual tagging with a pair of $50 custom-made pliers and then suggested to Miss Bayes that she take off her high-heel shoes and prepare to leap from the Holiday to the Three Sisters. By the time he had designated the photographers and others who would go aboard the tagging boat, the Three Sisters was alongside. Mr. Johnson's man aboard the latter yelled over that one striper had now passed away, but that the other was alive and well. Barking orders like a ship's captain, Mr. Johnson dispatched his boarding crew while Captain Harvey Avery of the Three Sisters kept bellowing, "No more, no more! This boat will capsize! Distribute the weight, shift the weight there, some of you come up front here!"
Nobody paid him any mind. Instead, all hands gathered around the tank in the stern and, as cameras rolled, the live striper (a nine-pounder) was placed in the hands of Miss Bayes while the biologist worked feverishly with his pliers and tag.
In the very nick of time the biologist got the tag firmly in place, Miss Bayes uttered her prepared line, "Look before you eat!" and the striper was tossed, squirming and beautifully alive, out in the bay.
The striper—now officially Diamond Jim—vanished into the depths with the chances of his recapture standing at several hundred thousand to one in his favor. Conceivably, the biologists in the party said, he might decide to swim out to sea and up the coast. Or he might stay right in the neighborhood and spend the rest of his days trying to rub off the tag against a rock. He would surely, in the way that stripers have, make up his own mind.
As the Three Sisters, the tagging boat, turned around and headed back for Annapolis (it was now 6:40 p.m.), there was only one tragic note to mar the happy triumph. It was the catastrophe Mr. Johnson had feared all afternoon. In the excitement of transferring the tagging personnel, somebody had forgotten to transfer the refreshments.
THE ROAD BACK