Sound Ideas: John and the Evinrude

by Carl Strang

I promised a new winter series for this season, and today is the first installment of Sound Ideas. These posts will include sound recordings of various sorts. Some will be more informational, while others, like today’s, are intended more in fun. They often will tie to previous winter series or other earlier posts.

“John and the Evinrude” is a song, and it seems to be my Greatest Hit among adults. It tells a true story from my days as a graduate student in western Alaska. One way we paid back our host, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, was to conduct goose banding roundups. These take advantage of the brief period of time when waterfowl lose all their flight feathers at once. They then can be herded into a trap and banded.

A banding session. I am holding a cackling goose in the foreground, as Dave Eisenhauer (whose thesis work was on emperor geese) looks on. In the background is Dr. Cal Lensink, then refuge manager for the Fish and Wildlife Service.

A banding session. I am holding a cackling goose in the foreground, as Dave Eisenhauer (whose thesis work was on emperor geese) looks on. In the background is Dr. Cal Lensink, then refuge manager for the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Inevitably the end of that season comes, as the geese discover they can fly again. This story begins after one such futile trip upriver. We had a bit of a challenge getting back to camp.

The other characters in the story. John Eisenhauer pulls the boat, Dave Frasier is next, and Dave Eisenhauer pushes from behind. For simplicity’s sake I combined the two Daves in the song. This Grumman was how we got out to the bigger boat when we had to anchor it far offshore, as here when we returned at low tide.

The other characters in the story. John Eisenhauer pulls the boat, Dave Frasier is next, and Dave Eisenhauer pushes from behind. For simplicity’s sake I combined the two Daves in the song. This Grumman was how we got out to the bigger boat when we had to anchor it far offshore, as here when we returned at low tide.

Here are the lyrics, so you can follow along:

John and the Evinrude

by Carl Strang © 2000

It was the last banding trip of the season. The geese all got away.

We shrugged, ate lunch, loaded up the trap for our return to Kokechik Bay.

It was my turn to steer down the river, my turn to be the fool.

My turn to start the Evinrude that was stubborn as a mule.

(Chorus:)

And it took 10 pulls, 20 pulls, 30 or more to get that thing to go.

40, 50, 60, sometimes, let’s give up and row!

But if we get this motor started we’ll improve our attitude.

This open flywheel, nail-handle pull rope gears exposed and 40 horsepower

Ancient rear-mount outboard puts the rude in Evinrude.

(Verse:)

The wind forced us onto the shoreline as I got the motor set

Dave pushed from shore with our only oar. I gave a pull, but nothing, yet.

With the wind and machine both against us the process was so slow:

10 minutes, only 20 pulls were all I had to show.

(Chorus)

Then we said, “Let us throw out the anchor to hold us from the shore.”

Now my pulls went much quicker as Dave put away the oar.

So I kept pulling hard, pulling harder, my arm sore as could be.

Up spoke John and announced to all he’d get it going in just 3.

He’d get it going in just 3.

(Bridge 1:)

Now John, a Canadian student, always had a lie to tell.

His stories and tall tales entertained.

But now his reputation was on the line as well.

His first pull did nothing, nothing gained.

John tried again and failed again. We were prepared to gloat.

He tried to motivate it with a speech:

“For mother, God and country.” All was quiet in the boat.

We hoped, this time, he’d gone beyond his reach.

(Verse:)

Well, the motor gave a cough on the third pull, then sputtered, roared alive!

He’d done it, John had done it and he settled back to drive.

With our backs to the wind we all faced him and his smug forward gaze.

He had beat the Evinrude, he’d be insufferable for days.

(Chorus)

But as we faced to the stern we could see it a-rising from below:

We had forgot our anchor and we had it now in tow.

It skipped all along on the surface, a demented water skier.

John saw our look and turned around, and forgot he had to steer.

(Chorus)

Now, the anchor danced along as we watched it. The sight was so bizarre

That no one thought to look ahead. We ran up on a bar.

(Bridge 2:)

And the Evinrude, it saw its chance, it sputtered and it died.

We couldn’t help but laugh at all the fun.

We pushed off from the shore and brought the anchor back inside

As John prepared the motor for pull one.

(Chorus)

Dave, Dave and John in the big boat. John is tending the Evinrude of the story.

Dave, Dave and John in the big boat. John is tending the Evinrude of the story.

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1 Comment

  1. Linda Padera said,

    November 14, 2013 at 11:29 am

    Fantastic, Carl! Absolutely hilarious yet profound. Rings so true with anyone who’s ever been out on the water and at the mercy of an outboard motor.


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