Search This Blog

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Nearer My Banjo to Thee (Going Down With The Ship)

It seemed like a good idea at the time...

An acousitic jam session on a pontoon boat in the middle of Lake Tyler sounded like fun, so we all picked up guitars, fiddles, banjos and other implements of destruction and climbed aboard Naomi's leaky pontoon boat and struck out across the lake. Two of the musicians were Gordon and Christy McLeod of the Celtic Group Beyond the Pale. There was a bank president with a guitar, a nonprofit director and guitar, her husband (an unarmed architect), Naomi who was driving the boat, me with my banjo, guitar and assortment of harmonicas and a couple of innocent bystanders. We banged our way through bluegrass, Irish songs, country, western and an assortment of other nondescript tunes, serenading the rich folks sitting out on their very expensive porches in their very expensive houses that lined this exclusive lakefront. We were having a good time.

Gordon got out his fiddle and he and I did a fiddle & banjo rendition of the Jimi Hendrix version of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower". Gordon can play just about anything and I did my best to follow. During the set, a couple of our heavier passengers moved forward in the pontoon boat (probably in an effort to distance themselves from the band in the back and any projectiles that might be launched or fired in their direction by irate East Texans along the shore.

As about 400 pounds of ballast moved toward the bow, however, the lead edge of the pontoons caught a wave and drove under the water. Naomi panicked and shoved the throttle forward, pushing the bow even further beneath the waves. As a low wall of water came rushing over the bow, everyone on the boat grabbed their instruments and held them over their heads, wondering how they were going to swim a half mile to the nearest shore while holding their guitars out of the water. Someone grabbed my guitar and held it to her chest like a flotation device. I tried to get it back, but unfortunately, nothing that would float was safe from the panicked nonswimmers aboard who were preparing to abandon ship with anything that looked remotely buoyant.

Fortunately, before my guitar became a canoe, I managed to convince Naomi that speeding up would probably not be helpful and as the propellers came out of the water she backed off the throttle. Since the boat appeared to be beginning its death dive, someone wiseacre with remarkable presence of mind began playing "Nearer My God to Thee" and the rest of us (not to be out smart-alecked) quickly joined in.

The nice thing about having the props out of the water, was that we stopped accelerating toward the bottom almost immediately and the boat lost momentum and settled back by the stern with a thumping great splash. We got the engine shut down and her bow popped back up streaming water from the decks.

Without pause we launched into "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" and Naomi turned us toward home.

Since then, we've held our hootenannies on the dock or someplace where we don't need lifejackets. Some who have attended them, hoping to hear music have offered to take us all out again on various leaky boats, rafts and other potential submersibles.

As my grandpa used to say, "Some people got no sense of humor...."


No comments: