HIAWATHA'S COUSIN

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

 

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