By Floyd Stormer
With Apologies to H. W. Longfellow.
From The Mackinaw Weekly Rag, February 16, 1956
Almost a half a century ago a large Coast Guard Icebreaker was homeported in Cheboygan, Michigan, before there were ever folks known as "Trolls," those who lived below THE Bridge that wasn't yet built. In 1956 Cheboygan was in the midst of hard times. The paper mills were closed, Mackinaw City, 18 miles away drew off the tourist trade, and little if any money came into the community. Only a little spill over from bridge being built and the payroll and local purchases from the Mackinaw kept some money infused into the local economy. Unfortunately, the ship supplied an excess of males to this small village for the available females. With a ratio of eligible bachelors of about 3:2 to the maidens, there was bound to be friction between crewmen and the town males. The sailors had money in their pockets, the locals didn't. Chief Stormer's poem written in the mid winter of 1956 reflects on this period in the history of the Mackinaw and the City of Cheboygan.
It is only fair to say that when the economy picked up, many of the local girls had married Mackinaw men who then became a part of the fabric of the city and in later years relations improved.
By the shores of old Lake Huron,
Farthest North of all the sand dunes,
Stood the hamlet of Cheboygan,
Far from life and civilization,
Stark behind it rose the sand dunes,
Rose the sand in all it's splendor,
Majestic, splendid, and ever shifting
Always filling mouth and nostrils
To the westward spreads the swampland
Filled with snakes and dangerous fevers
So that the air smells dank and musty
Thick and pungent with foul vapors.
Here lies moored the modern "ice pick"
The pride and glory of the Coast Guard
Completely filled with brave young seamen
The high and mighty ice breaker "Mackinaw"
A constant threat to pure young girlhood
Always there so cold and menacing
Dreaded alike by father and husband
The formidable, impregnable iron monster.
The darkness falls so cold and gloomy
O'er the pathways of the village
Mothers scurry through the households
Locking daughters in their bedrooms
Husbands cease their weary labors
Hurry home to lock up mothers
Sons and brothers charge their weapons
Bolt the doors and lock the windows
Prepare to meet the horde impending
When the town site teems with white hats
Lonely, blue, filled with frustration
Pockets stuffed with folding money
Faring forth for nights of pleasure
Before returning to the dungeons
Seeking fleshpots and vile spirits
Scaring witless the village marshal
Spreading terror among the people
Lest daughters slip away unnoticed
Lured away by sounds of laughter
And of dancing in the taverns .....
When the ship sails North in springtime
Setting forth to deeds of valor
All the town breaks forth in laughter
Save for tears in the eyes of maidens
Who sometimes bear the fruits of Winter
Nestled deep within their bosoms
This is the glory of Mackinaw men
Modern cousin of Hiawatha
Return to Coast Guard Stories
The Cutter Mackinaw In Her Younger Days