Home  »  The World’s Wit and Humor  »  Tale of the Kennebec Mariner

The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Holman Francis Day (1865–1935)

Tale of the Kennebec Mariner

GUESS I’ve never told you, sonny, of the strandin’ and the wreck

Of the steamboat Ezry Johnson that run up the Kennebec.

That was ’fore the time of steam-cars, and the Johnson filled the bill

On the route between Augusty and the town of Waterville.

She was built old-fashioned model, with a bottom’s flat’s your palm,

With a paddle-wheel behind her, druv’ by one great churnin’ arm.

Couldn’t say that she was speedy—sploshed along and made a touse,

But she couldn’t go much faster than a man could tow a house.

Still, she skipped and skived tremendous, dodged the rocks and skun the shoals,

In a way the boats of these days couldn’t do to save their souls.

Didn’t draw no ’mount of water, went on top instead of through.

This is how there come to happen what I’m going to tell to you.

—Hain’t no need to keep you guessing, for I know you won’t suspect

How that thunderin’ old Ez. Johnson ever happened to get wrecked.

She was overdue one ev’nin’, fog come down most awful thick;

’Twas about like navigating round inside a feather tick.

Proper caper was to anchor, but she seemed to run all right,

And we humped her—though ’twas resky—kept her sloshing through the night.

Things went on all right till morning, but along ’bout half-past three

Ship went dizzy, blind, and crazy—waves seemed wust I ever see.

Up she went and down she scuttered; sometimes seemed to stand on end.

Then she’d wallopse, sideways, crossways, in a way, by gosh, to send

Shivers down your spine. She’d teeter, fetch a spring, and take a bounce,

Then squat down, sir, on her haunches with a most je-roosly jounce.

Folks got up and run a-screaming, forced the wheelhouse, grabbed at me,

—Thought we’d missed Augusty landin’ and had gone plum out to sea.

—Fairly shot me full of questions, but I said ’twas jest a blow.

Still, that didn’t seem to soothe ’em, for there warn’t no wind, you know!

Yas, sir, spite of all that churnin’, warn’t a whisper of a breeze,

—No excuse for all that upset and those strange and dretful seas.

Couldn’t spy a thing around us—every way ’twas pitchy black;

And I couldn’t seem to comfort them poor critters on my back.

Couldn’t give ’em information, for ’twas dark’s a cellar shelf;

—Couldn’t tell ’em nothing ’bout it—for I didn’t know myself.

So I gripped the Johnson’s tiller, kept the rudder riggin’ taut,

Kept a-praying, chawed tobacker, give her steam, and let her swat.

Now, my friend, jest listen stiddy: when the sun come out at four

We warn’t tossin’ in the breakers off no stern and rock-bound shore;

But I’d missed the gol-durned river, and I swow this ’ere is true,

I had sailed eight miles ’cross country in a heavy autumn dew.

There I was clear up in Sidney, and the tossings and the rolls

Simply happened ’cause we tackled sev’ral miles of cradle knolls.

Sun come out and dried the dew out; there she was a stranded wreck,

And they soaked me eighteen dollars’ cartage to the Kennebec.